It’s something that we all dread: turning the key in the lock, only for it to snap. A broken key is never convenient, but the way that you deal with the situation is all-important.
Your next move very much depends on your circumstances:
Got a spare key?
Follow the advice below to try to remove the broken key without damaging the lock.
In a rush?
If the door is locked, leave it as it is and either get a spare key and try to remove the broken one later when you have more time, or call a locksmith to come when you are free.
No spare key?
If you don’t have a spare key and the door is locked, call a locksmith; they will come out, retrieve the broken key and either be able to make you a new one, or change your locks for you.
Whatever your situation, it is never a good idea to reinsert your end of the broken key and desperately hope that, by luck or magic, the key will work. By doing this, you could cause more damage by pushing the key further into the mechanism.
If you have a spare key… somewhere
If you do have a spare key, and you are not in a rush, then one of these methods may well help you to retrieve the broken piece so that you can get in using the spare key.
Before you start, get a pair of needle-nose pliers and add a lubricant to the lock. While not essential, these will definitely help you to retrieve your broken key more easily. Then, give these methods a try, one at a time.
Tweezers: if there is a bit of key protruding from the lock, use tweezers or your needle-nose pliers to carefully ease the key out. Be very careful not to push the key in further, as this could exacerbate the problem.
Jigsaw blade: if you have a jigsaw to hand, a spare blade or mini hacksaw blade could well be of use. Basically, you are looking for a piece of metal that is thin enough that it will slide into the lock alongside the broken key. Try to catch the teeth of the blade in the grooves of the key; once you feel it catch, slowly turn and pull and the key may come out. Be patient; it may require a few attempts. If this fails, you could use two blades to sandwich the flat sides of the key and gently pull it out; again, this may take a few attempts.
Superglue: if all else fails, you could try super glue. This will only work if you can clearly see some of the broken key. Take a match or a thin piece of wire (pin, safety pin, needle, cocktail stick, hair grip) and add a small amount of glue to the end. Carefully stick the stick or wire to the broken key, and wait for it to set, being careful not to push the key in further. Once it’s set, withdraw the key – voila!
Retrieving a broken key from the lock requires time, patience and some equipment at a time when you are probably already stressed. If in doubt, call a local locksmith; most have reasonable callout rates and will be able to help quickly and easily. For more advice, follow Trust A Trader on Facebook or Twitter.