After years of wear and tear, a key may finally weaken to the point that it breaks off in the lock. Before you reach for your cell phone to dial a local locksmith, there are a few DIY tips you can try.
Resist reinserting the key
You may think that if only you could get the two pieces of your key to fit back together, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, you'd be able to unlock the door. Unfortunately, all that tends to do is push the broken piece of the key deeper into the lock where it will be difficult to retrieve. Put the broken piece of your key in a safe part of your purse or pocket.
Lubricate the lock
Apply lubricant like WD-40 or graphite if you've got it. Graphite is ideal because it won't gum up the inner workings of the lock like WD-40 and other oil-based lubricants can do.
If you have fairly thin, fine tweezers and the broken piece of the key isn't pushed too far into the keyway, you may be able to grab the broken blade of the key with them.
Use thin pieces of metal
Removing a broken key with tweezers can be an impossible mission if the broken key parts are too far inside of the keyway. If that's the case, locate two thin pieces of metal for an attempt at the probe and pull method. Some household items you can use as tools include:
- Paper clips
- Bobby pins
- Safety pins
- Swiss army knife
Use one piece of metal to probe the lock and the other piece of metal to draw out the piece of the key. The thin pieces of metal only have to go in far enough to reach the end of the broken key. With patience, you may be able to guide the key out bit by bit.
Glue and a matchstick
If the key isn't too far inside of the keyway, you can try a variation on the classic chewing-gum-on-a-string technique. You'll need super glue and a small wire, like a paper clip, or a match. Glue the match or paper clip to the piece of key. Once the glue has bonded, gently pull the key out of the lock. Beware of using too much glue. Less is more when it comes to super glue.
Locksmiths commonly use a tool that's specially made for this sort of mishap: A broken key extractor. If you're unable to remove the piece of broken key yourself, a locksmith like one from LI Locksmiths Inc should be able to complete the task for you in no time.