Most people haven’t had their car keys break off in the car door lock. Those who have, though, know that when it happens nothing is more important in that moment than getting that little piece of key out of the lock so that their car is back to working like it should.
How do you remove a broken key from a car door lock? We have some DIY tips you can try, but ultimately you may need the help of an experienced car locksmith, who will have an assortment of tools at their disposal that you likely don’t have lying around. Once the locksmith has pulled out the key fragment, they will be able to make you a new car key, as fixing a broken key, while possible, is not recommended.
How to Remove a Broken Key from a Car Door Lock
If it looks like there’s any possibility that you could reach the broken part of the key yourself, it’s usually worth a shot to try to get it out on your own. Proceed carefully, however, especially if you’re using tools like pliers that could damage the lock. Keep in mind that if your DIY attempts to retrieve the key damage the lock, you may need to get the car door lock replaced, which will add additional locksmith costs and hassle to the situation. It’s generally also a good idea to lubricate the lock with WD-40 or Ballistol Oil before trying any of these methods. It is not recommended to use graphite as this can cause the internal lock parts to seize.
DIY Methods for Removing a Broken Key
- Needle nose pliers or tweezers: A basic pair of needle nose pliers or a sturdy pair of tweezers could be your best friend in removing a car key stuck in a lock. First, if the lock is turned at all, use your pliers to carefully turn the lock cylinder back to the normal starting position. Pliers work well for pulling out a key fragment that is sticking out of the lock slightly. If there isn’t anything to grab onto, tweezers may fit in between the key and the side of the lock so that you can pull it out. Again, be careful not to force anything, or you may end up damaging the lock cylinder or pushing the key fragment further into the lock, which will make it much more difficult to retrieve.
- Glue technique: This method is sometimes used by locksmiths when other techniques aren’t doing the trick. You’ll need to be able to see and access at least the end of the broken key to use this trick. Next, you’ll need something long and narrow, like a thin drill bit or piece of wire, to put the glue on. Use a small amount of super glue (or another quick-drying glue) placed on the end of the drill bit, making sure not to use so much that it clogs the lock, and place the glued end of the bit against the broken edge of the key. Make sure to hold the bit in place until the glue has dried, and only then pull the key straight out–don’t turn it. You likely won’t be able to get the key all the way out of the lock this way, but you may be able to pull it out far enough to then grab it using pliers.
- Using two probes: This method can work in situations when the broken part of the key is too far back in the lock to grab using pliers or tweezers. It involves using two narrow pieces of metal, like paper clips, small pocketknives, or tiny screwdrivers, to grab the key from either side using a pincer motion. You’ll want to slip one tool into the lock on either side of the key and carefully bring them together while pulling toward you.
When to Call a Car Locksmith
If none of these methods work, or–in a worst case scenario–you’ve made the problem worse by trying to fix it yourself, the smartest move is to call a locksmith. Even your locksmith may need to use some creativity and ingenuity to get a broken car key out of a lock, but they will have a greater variety of tools and tricks to help them, as well as experience working with all kinds of locks.
One tool locksmiths use to remove broken keys from locks is a key extractor tool, which looks a little like a slim spiral drill bit. This design enables the extractor to cut slightly into the metal of the key fragment so that it grabs onto the fragment, enabling it to be pulled out. This tool works better on house keys than it does on car keys, but is still one of the go-to methods for locksmiths retrieving car key fragments.
A locksmith for cars will have other tricks up their sleeve as well. In serious cases, they may have to take the door lock out entirely and remove the key by pushing it out from behind. This is an involved process and shouldn’t be attempted as part of a DIY fix.
Another benefit of calling in a professional locksmith is that they will be able to diagnose and fix any underlying problems that may have caused the key to break off in the car lock in the first place, such as existing damage to the lock.
Lastly, if needed, the locksmith will be able to generate a new car key for you right onsite.
Finding a Locksmith to Remove Your Broken Key from the Car Door
Removing a broken key from a car door lock can be a delicate business. To ensure that you’re on your way quickly with minimal disruption to your life and without damage to your car, it’s a good idea to hire a professional locksmith. Instead of rolling the dice on a locksmith from a Google search, use 1-800-Unlocks’ directory of licensed, insured, verified locksmiths. Search using your ZIP code in the search field on this page or call 1-800-865-6257.
Call A Verified Locksmith Today
1-800-Unlocks is a peer-reviewed directory of professional locksmiths. When you call, you’ll be connected with a vetted locksmith in your area.