No More Broken Keys for Your Pin Tumbler Locks
Updated: Jun 12
The last thing anyone needs is to have their key break off in the lock. By keeping an eye on your keys and locks, you can avoid the awful situation where your key breaks off in your lock. The old style pin tumbler locks, when combined with a cheap quality (think aluminium style) key, can cause issues where the key breaks off and is hard to remove from the key hold.
Strongest Metals for New Keys
Nickel silver is considered one of the strongest materials for keys. Cheap aluminium blanks that are available at shopping centre type key cutters, may last a short time, break off in locks and might not work. There is nothing more frustrating than driving to your local key cutting place only to return home and still not gain access. This can happen particularly if the key is not cut from an original.
Rental homes, offices and apartments can often have this issue as keys are regularly changed and cut. If a real estate agent or landlord has not kept a copy of the original keys, your copies can end up being less than perfect.
Always try to use an original key or a qualified locksmith who will cut and test a key while at your premises.
Other materials keys can be cut from include brass, bronze, carbon steel and stainless steel.
Causes of Keys Breaking in Locks
Regardless of the quality of the metal, most keys will eventually wear out. This is particularly the case where you have a lot of use or less robust metals. The following will make the process more likely:
Deep cuts in the key which can cause weaknesses along the key. It can be very difficult to deal with if the cut is near the top. You also need to check the centre of the key for any issues.
If a key is made of a lower grade metal it might not be the best option if it's used for heavy, daily operation. Aluminium blanks for keys are an excellent example of lighter weight keys. These can break easily.
You'll often see small fractures near the cut that is about to open up. Check your keys regularly. Especially keep an eye on the keys that you rely on all the time. Checking your keys for faults or cuts might help you to avoid having to call a locksmith to remove it from your lock.
If you see a small fracture being formed along the cuts or if the key is misshapen or bent at all, go to your nearby locksmith or key cutting shop and get more made. And simply to be safe, do not carelessly toss the old one away. Thieves and professional burglars know how to patch up key bits to gain entry to a home, office or garage.
Tools for Removing Keys from Locks
Professional locksmiths carry a range of tools for getting damaged keys out of locks. Among the more typical tools we use is an extractor tool. A barb at one end sticks into the broken key so the bits of key can be extracted.
You don't need to buy a locksmith extractor tool for a DIY removal. Just be sure whatever you do use is made from durable metal, is narrow enough to enter the keyway, and has something on the end that is able to grab on to the broken bits.
OPTION # 1
- When Just a Bit of the Key is Left in Lock
Keys usually need replacing when you see a cut anywhere along the length. The worst feeling is when you push your key into the lock and feel it break only to have the round, end part come out and the rest left deep in the hole.
Use a lubricant to ensure the smooth motion of the key through the hole. It's not easy to remove any object if the surface is too dry. Once it is lubricated, insert your removal tool into the key hole and grab the broken key part for extraction. To ensure all of the broken bits of key can be completely removed, try pulling quickly. Broken bits should come out easily. Now it's time to replace the broken key. Make sure to get several sets cut in a high quality metal for longevity. Don't just throw the broken pieces away.
OPTION # 2
- All But the Key's Head is Broken Off In the Lock.
That is, everything that is required to operate the lock is left inside (if you are truly lucky, a bit of the key will be sticking out so small pliers or even tweezers might be all you require to eliminate the broken piece). The lock cylinder must be back in the proper position before the key can be removed. If the cylinder isn't in the normal removal position you will be wasting your time trying to get rid of the damaged piece.
When trying to remove a key it's always a good idea to use, as with Option #1, an industrial lubricant (like WD40) to ease the process.
Place the removal tool into the lock so that the end can grab the bits of the key piece you need to get out. You don't need to push the tool in too far - just enough for it to reach the very first or second cut in the key.
If the cut is next to the head of the key, it can be genuinely difficult to remove. But a deep cut in the middle of the key can also trigger huge issues.
Of course, if you can't remove the key and need professional help, we have your back. Just give Danny a call on: 02 9344 9628