There are so many things that can go wrong with a lock and key combination. You can lose your lock yourself out of your home, car, or office. Even worse, your key can break off while inside a lock preventing you from using a duplicate. While losing a key can easily be resolved, the latter issue is quite complicated.

Why Do Keys Break Off Inside Locks?

A key breaking inside a lock has been a problem since the first locks and keys were invented thousands of years ago. After all, a key is meant to fit snugly into its corresponding lock. If you use just a little too much force or if the material has become a little bit brittle, a broken key is inevitable.

Standard keys are not exactly made of reinforced material. They need to be relatively malleable for the engraving pattern to be accurate. Duplicated keys are often made of much softer materials and are much more likely to break off inside a lock.

The lock itself can be a problem, too. If it is jammed or its interior has rusted over, it will resist any movement by the key, leading to a problem that’s difficult to solve.

What to Do If Your Key Breaks Off Inside a Lock

As mentioned above, different circumstances and issues can lead to a key breaking inside a lock. Whatever the problem, it needs to be dealt with immediately. If the key breaks while the door is open, there’s no way for you to lock a door, compromising your security. On the other hand, if the key breaks while the door is closed, you will not be able to reopen it. The longer the broken key remains inside the lock, the more it can inconvenience you..

Here is a guide on what to do if your key breaks inside a lock:

1. Use Your Fingers or Pliers

If a small portion of the key is sticking out of the lock, you should take a second to celebrate your luck. You may be able to get the key out by pinching it between your fingers. If you can’t quite get a hold of it, you can use a pair of pliers or even a strong magnet.

Use your judgment whether or not the effort is worth it. Poking and prodding the broken key can push it further into the lock and cause more damage. If you don’t trust your dexterity or your tools to pull it out, it’s best to leave it alone.

2. Use a Screwdriver

If the entire broken part of the key is embedded into the lock, you can try using a small flathead screwdriver to loosen and pull it out of the keyhole. Moving the broken piece just a few millimeters outward can be very helpful. 

Again, if you decide to do this, you need to be very careful. Pushing further into the lock can cause further damage, and you may end up needing to replace it altogether. When in doubt, call in a professional to help.

3. Call a Professional Locksmith

If you have a key or lock problem that you can’t solve, nothing beats calling in professional help. Locksmiths can remove a broken key from a lock within a few minutes. They can also make a new key and open your locked door.


There are many reasons why a key blade can snap off while inside a lock. It can be due to its material or the friction inside the lock. If this happens to you, there are a few DIY options you can try. But to prevent any damage to your lock, it’s best to call a local locksmith to solve your problem quickly and efficiently.

Allied Lock and Door is a full-service locksmith shop serving the Cincinnati area. Our bonded and insured locksmiths are highly qualified in emergency locksmith services, lock change services, lock out services, door repair, service of safes, access control, and automotive locksmith services. Call us at (513) 251-8103 if you need help!