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A key snapped out of a door lock with half still in there.

Believe it or not, broken keys are a common occurrence. So if your keys always break for some reason, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one with this problem. Locksmiths get a call at least once a day because of a broken key.

Before we get to determine what you should do in such a situation, you may want to know first why keys break. This way, you will know how to prevent them from happening again in the future. When you are running late, the last thing you want to deal with is a broken key.

Here are some of the reasons why keys often snap into two:

  1. Lack of Lubrication

    Dryness and rustiness are not good signs of a key in good shape.  Proper lubrication will put less pressure on the keys, particularly when you insert them into the keyhole.

    Putting more force will only increase the chances of breaking the key.

    But what lubricant should you use, though?

    Use a lubricant spray, such as WD-40. Coat the key with the product but do so lightly. Before spraying, however, be sure that the key is clean by soaking it in water first. Wipe it afterwards and spray the product.

  2. Improper Use

    Are you guilty of using your keys to pry a can open? Perhaps you also cut through plastic packaging with your keys. While some people think that their keys are a part of their multipurpose tool collection, they are not – unfortunately.

    Keys are only meant to unlock and lock your door. And while we are at it, you should not use the key to grab the door so that you can shut it. Some people insert the key into the hole and use it to pull the door towards them. This practice will only lead to a broken key in the near future.

    A bent car key as a result of improper use.

  3. Incompatibility

    How many times have you tried to put in a key into the keyhole without looking? If you think you are saving time, think again. You will end up repeating the process, although this time, you will need to look.

    It is time to stop fumbling in your bag or pocket and reaching for the wrong key. You can save more time and effort by making sure you have the right one in the first place. Then, slowly but securely turn the lock.

    Next time it does not turn, do not force it. Inspect and guarantee you have the right key in your hand.

  4. Old Key

    Just like with any other product, your keys have an expiration date, too. It may not be explicitly stated, but they can get weaker over time. Their durability is not for a lifetime, especially if you do not take care and use them properly.

    If your keys are old, it is time to get a replacement. Signs to look out for are cracking and other forms of damage. A locksmith will help you get a new key, so you do not have to install new locks.

Misconceptions about Keys and Locks

A few myths surround the replacement of old or damaged keys. If you have these beliefs, you should start facing reality and change them. Here are some false impressions about keys, locks, and even locksmiths:

Keys Are Extremely Durable

While keys do not get damaged right away, they are actually made of soft metals, such as nickel and silver. These metals may withstand some beating, but they will not last forever. Some keys come in different colours while others stick to brown or silver. Even so, they are mostly plated, which means that this colouring will wear as time passes.

How you handle your keys also affect their lifespan. If you often play with them or use them to open a can of paint, for instance, you can expect them to give up quicker than average.

Replicating Keys With the “do Not Copy” Mark, is Breaking the Law

If your newly bought set of keys tells you that you should not copy the keys inside, what do you do? If you just made a copy, you can breathe a sigh of relief now. There are no legal implications for duplicating such keys. In reality, many hardware stores replicate these keys and locksmiths will even do it for you.

If you just lost your house key, this warning should not scare you away from making copies. As much as possible, you should have a copy of your keys made every year. It will help avoid any problems, including wearing from repeated use.

The Locksmith You Hire Will Keep a Copy of Your Key

Having such doubts should not be laughed at; it is normal. After all, you are entrusting the safety of your home and other possessions to a person you barely know.

If you are hesitant to work with a locksmith, you are free to watch the professional do the job. When you give the locksmith the key you wish to duplicate, you will get your old key back, along with the new one. You will also see that there are no other duplicates made. Rest assured that your security is safe in the hands of a professional locksmith.

You Can Use Pins or Other Similar Objects in Place of Your Keys to Pick Locks

If you get locked out of your house, you may think about using a pin to try opening the locked door. In movies, it looks so simple. In real life, however, it is another story. Of course, it does not mean that it cannot be done. You have to be skilled and experienced to perform this trick though.

Additionally, locks are now programmed to be more resistant from lock picking plots. If you have older locks, it may still be possible. It is why you should change locks, especially if someone broke in or damaged the door.

Warning Signs That Your Keys and Locks Need Replacement

Many times, keys will try to tell you that you should replace them. If you listen, you can easily avoid having an unusable key. However, many of us tend to dismiss these signs or at least delay getting a new one.

Sometimes, you can have a new key but still require a replacement.

Here are some signs that show you need to change your current keys:

  1. You Just Moved to a New House

    If the property had a previous owner, it is prudent to change both your keys and locks to ensure your security. You can never know if there are any duplicates of the old keys to the door locks. Even if the former owners swear that they do not have duplicates, it may still be possible that they have given a copy to their friends or relatives. Key and lock replacement will give you the peace of mind you need to prevent break-ins.

  2. You No Longer Have Your Original Keys

    When you lose your keys, you probably think the best solution is to make copies of the original keys. While it is practical, it is not a safe option at all. Someone out there can have the real key, which gives that person access to your home. The right approach is to hire a locksmith to replace your locks completely. If your keys were stolen, you should change your locks as quickly as you can. You should not wait for a home invasion to serve as your wake up call to install new locks.

  3. You Just Experienced a Break-in

    Burglaries are traumatising. You have to be more alert from now on, especially if the break-in was successful. The last thing you want is for it to happen again. Now is an excellent time to change your locks, along with the keys. In some keys, these burglars will damage the bolts as they force their way into your property. In some cases, however, they use a lock picking method that proves that your locks were not safe.

    If you have a recent break-in, you should never delay getting new locks and keys. If the robbers used blunt force trauma on your door locks, they might already be broken. There is no reason for you to keep using them. You must get a better lock this time, especially ones that are more burglar-resistant. Some examples include adding security pins and using deadbolts.

    A residential street close to Perth.

  4. There Have Been Recent Changes in Your Neighbourhood

    Australia is a safe country. Many neighbourhoods and suburbs are low in the crime rate – even the busiest and most populated ones. The number of crimes is on a continuous decline with the lowest in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

    When it comes to burglaries, the number of victims has decreased by five per cent across the country in 2018. It is the lowest that has been recorded. These facts are all good news for those who live in Australia.

    However, if one of your neighbours has experienced forced entry or burglary, it does not mean you are safe. You could become the next target, which is why you should always be vigilant. Despite living in a place that was once known for its safety, it always pays to be extra careful. Do not risk your security by keeping your old locks and keys.

  5. Your Locks Have Been Tampered With

    If the break-in attempt was unsuccessful, you are safe – for now. It is a warning that you should up your security by changing the locks and keys. This time, go for a formidable lock that burglars cannot easily break.

    If you suspect lock tampering, look for evidence. Here are some ways to tell that someone messed with your locks:

    Something is smashed or deformed, such as a door frame, lock, or window.

    There is abnormal wear of locks that shows a twisted metal, splintered wood, or other signs someone applied brute force on the door. It may be possible that the person tried to bash in the lock or drill through your deadbolt.

    You see fresh nicks all over the keyhole, which is a sign that another key was entered forcefully.

    There are tiny scratch marks from another piece of metal fitted in the keyhole. It is a classic sign of lock picking.

    If your lock does not function properly all of a sudden, it often means someone attempted to break in. Never hesitate when it comes to your security. Change your locks and keys right away!

  6. Keys Can Get Stuck Because of Dry and Worn Out Cylinders in Your Door Locks

    Both your locks and keys can get rusty over time. After all, you use these pieces daily, which quicken their wearing.

    Keys and locks are designed to work effectively. You can have them repaired and maintained on a regular basis. However, they eventually get old, losing their efficiency. If not replaced, they can become a security threat to your home.

    Worn out keys will make it difficult for you to unlock your home. Meanwhile, having old, malfunctioning locks will be easy to open, especially for those who have ill intentions to your property.

    Keys can get stuck because of rusty door locks. Have both your keys and locks replaced to avoid breaking your keys.

    A key snapped off in a door lock.

How to Remove Keys Stuck in the Door Lock

Speaking of keys that got stuck, it can quickly lead to breakage. It often happens in the winter when the locks are frozen or cold, and you find it difficult to remove your keys. When you are running late, the last thing you should do is to leave your keys in the keyhole. Call a locksmith to give you emergency assistance.
Meanwhile, if you just got home and you tried unlocking your front door only to have your keys stuck, what should you do? Once again, your best bet is to have a locksmith solve this problem. You do not want to stay outside in the cold weather.

If you are a DIYer though and you want to try a few things first before calling a professional, here are some tips that can help solve your key-stuck-in-the-lock problem:

A snapped off key in a lock which is still easy to get.

  1. The Key Sticks Out of Your Door Lock

    When you have an old brass key, it can easily break even when it is not cold. Such material is not as durable as nickel silver, especially under pressure. However, it does not mean that newer keys do not break. With continuous use, you can find yourself with just the key handle after inserting it into the lock. In this situation, you can use electrical pliers. They have strong jaws that are small enough to apply the grip needed to pull the key out of the lock. A pair of tweezers may also work. However, if you do not have these tools with you, it is best to wait for the locksmith.

  2. The Key is Completely Inside the Lock

    When your key snapped into two, the other fragment is left inside the lock. There is nothing for you to hold on to, so you cannot use the tools mentioned above. You can use a screwdriver and a steel wire to poke and remove the key.

    If you do not have a wire with you, get a metal paper clip and straighten it. Get a lubricant and squirt it into the lock, which will make the next steps easier. Unscrew the door lock, including its decorative plate and thumb turn. When they are out of the way, you can then access the rear of the barrel. Use the wire or paper clip by sliding it into the back of the cylinder. Finally, you can push the key out.

    This method is only applicable if the barrel is not hard to disassemble. If it does not let you access the cylinder from the back, you cannot accomplish this task at all.

  3. Your Door is Stuck Because of the Heat or Humidity

    If you cannot seem to open the lock and a sign of this is if the lock works, but the door is still stuck because of the extreme hot or humid weather. Australian wooden doors swell with winter humidity and then with our hot summers they shrink. This movement in the doors often moves the latch away from the strike hole in your frame, causing it to catch or sometimes not to lock closed at all.

    Often the best to enter is to try pulling the door toward the hinge side or lifting the door. Best solution is often to file out the strike hole to allow for this movement.

What About Car Keys?

If you want to fix a broken key that has snapped into the ignition, the best solution is to have a complete car key replacement. Even when you get the old key back, you should not try to bind the pieces together. The replacement will let you enjoy better and more secure keying, such as through a transponder key programming service.

For DIYers who already have an experience taking the key out of the car ignition, you can gently pull the key out while wiggling the steering wheel back and forth. This method will work only if the key did not break in the ignition and is just stuck.

You can also use a dry lube in the ignition as you attempt to get rid of the stuck key. Use a dental pick that will help free the key.

Keys getting cut at diamond lock and security Osborne Park.

Getting the Right Keys Cut

Aside from these problems with locks and keys, you may find the keys failing to get properly inserted into the locks. If it is your case, you may want to make sure that you have the right keys for the door lock.

Many locksmiths experience getting calls from homeowners complaining about their keys not working in the dead of night. They later find that they are using the wrong keys to open their door lock. If you have a locksmith over and you have this problem often, you can ask for ideas on how to organise your keys.

Sometimes, it is not your fault, though. If it is a new key, it may be incorrectly cut. It is why you should only trust real and credible locksmiths when it comes to cutting new keys.

If you need new keys cut, you should only go to a reputable locksmith. Avoid those that offer unbelievably low prices so that you can save money. Cutting keys does not have to take a long time. In fact, standard or smaller keys (the Yale type) only take a few seconds to a minute to cut.

If you have lever keys that are much larger than standard keys, it can take up to five minutes. Machines are required to cut these keys, and it can be challenging to find the right blank. Safe keys take longer – usually about 30 minutes.

What if You Have a Damaged Key?

The good news is that you can still get a duplicate from your broken key – as long as you have all the parts. These parts should not be too damaged, either. If it is barely recognisable, you can have a locksmith to your house to create a model for the key from your lock.

What if You Do Not Have the Key Anymore, Yet You Have a Picture of It?

A locksmith may be able to reproduce a copy of the original key even if it is just a photo.

To make things much easier for you and the locksmith, bring your original key – even if it is broken. A key duplicator is a machine that will cut the key for you and sometimes we can cut a key to factory specifications. It will take less than an hour, depending on the complexity of your key. Finally, you can take home a new key that you can use safely and securely.

Author:

Rod Croot

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