How to remove a stuck key from inside a lock easily

Usually, the main problem concerns inserting the key. But sometimes, it is the other way round: the key is difficult or impossible to remove from the lock. It is a very annoying problem especially if you need to leave your home in a hurry: the last thing you want is to leave your key on your door and your house open… So you need a quick fix for this.

How can I remove my key from my lock? 1. The most common reason is you haven’t finished the turn and the key is not in the right position. 2. Often enough, a pin is stuck and you need some lubricant. 3. Sometimes the key is bent. Try to check if it is straight. 4. Lastly, the barrel of the lock is loose: push the barrel.

It is important to understand how a lock works in order to visualize what to do to finally extract a key. The more you know, the better chance you have to remove the key from your lock and leave your home lightheartedly.

1. The turn is not complete

The single most common reason a key can’t be removed is it is not in the right position. A key can be inserted in a single position and, as you can guess, can be removed in that exact position again.
The problem is, when someone is in a hurry, he or she doesn’t operate the lock properly and try hard to pull the key when the lock is in the wrong position (usually vertical but opposite). Breathe slowly and check both vertical positions: the key should go out in one.
Alternatively, when a lock is new, with sharp angles and no wear and tear, the position to remove the key needs to be exact. Try to look for the perfect vertical position on which you can remove the key.

  • Put the key in the perfect vertical position without pulling (to release pressure on the pins), and then pull;
  • Or try to jiggle around that position while pulling the key.

If you try to look for the right position of the lock with care, the key should go out easily.

2. The lock needs some lubricant

The barrel of the lock is outside. It has to survive harsh weather: rain, cold, snow, heat, dust, wind, and so on. When the lock is new, it is put together with grease in the mechanism and lubricant in the barrel. Over time, lubricant eventually dries out.
When you insert your key, the pins slide inside small chambers inside the barrel and against small springs. This small mechanism can be stuck if there is no lubricant: when you pull the key, the pins have to move up again. If the can’t slide, the go up at an angle against wear striations and can’t move enough for the key to be released.
Long story short: you need to apply some spray lubricant in the lock (for example WD40). The fizzy quality of it will help it make its way around the key and inside the barrel of the lock to the stuck pin. Jiggle the key a bit and you will eventually be able to remove the key.

3. Loose barrel

If the screws holding the barrel are loose, then several problems might occur.

a) The barrel turns as a whole (that is to say stator and rotor). You think the key is in the right position to be removed but it isn’t because you are fooled by the position or the stator (turned as well).
For the key to go out (see point #1) it has to be in the right position but above all in the right position relatively to the stator.
In that case, you need first to put the stator (that is to say the whole barrel) in the right position before you attempt anything with the rotor.
Then, and only then, with one hand holding the barrel in place firmly, try to find the exact vertical position of the key (in the rotor as seen in point #1) in which the key will be free to go out.
So it is a two-step process: first, hold the barrel firmly in the right place, then extract the key with a vertical position relative to the stator (barrel).

b) The rotor is loose relative to the stator. Again, when you remove a key, the teeth slide against the pins, making them go up against their springs in their chambers. But you apply a lateral force when you pull the key. If the rotor is loose, it slides slightly with the key. As a result, the pins can’t go up anymore because they are not in line with the chambers. A really small misalignment is enough to prevent the pins to slide in their location, and as a result, for the key to go out.
If you push the rotor (what turns with the key) inside the lock while pulling the key, it will freely go out.
This is counter-intuitive: you need to push while pulling; if you don’t do so, there is no way you can take the key out.
Again, it is a two-step process: first push the rotor in which the key is, then at the same time pull the key.

4. Bent Key

Usually, you notice when the key is bent. It is hard to insert in the lock. We have covered this extensively on the reasons a key can’t get inside a lock.
But imagine you insert the key in your lock, open the door, and collide it with your hip, shoulder or with a box you hold. You are lucky enough not to have broken your key but you wait for the pain to dry down, breathing slowly.
Now, you might not have noticed it, but the key is bent inside the lock. A bent key doesn’t slide easily in a straight barrel.

  • Try to straighten the key as much as you can (without breaking it). Do not go too hard, try to do it gently.
  • Spray some lubricant inside the lock, it will help a lot in the process.
  • Pull hard on the key, possibly with a tool if you can have one. It is the only case when brute force is needed to extract a key, but only if you are sure that any other reason above is not why the key is stuck.

5. Some other reasons why the key might be stuck.

  • Extreme cold. In some rare cases, in the event of extreme cold, the lock might be frozen, with frozen humidity inside preventing again the key to slide. Pins are stuck because of frozen humidity. The cure is, of course, to heat up the lock as much as you can. If you can’t have a hear dryer or heat gun at hand, which are not always easy to find in a hurry, try to heat up the lock with the palm of your hand. Blow hot air I side as much as you can. Heat up the key as well in your hand or pocket. But it will take time.
  • Glue. if there is fresh glue inside the lock, for one reason or another, the key might be difficult to take out or impossible. There is almost no chance to remove it, even with tools and a lot of force. Till the glue is not dry, maybe. Otherwise, the key is stuck and the lock dead. It is a rare case though.
  • Extreme heat. To be fair, I have read it but not seen or experienced it myself firsthand. When the lock and/or the key is in direct sunlight especially in a hot climate, heat can build up a lot. Dilatation can play a role, with different parts dilated to different degrees: the mechanism is then stuck. Other than the usual spray of lubricant which is always of good help, try to cool down the lock and key with ice cubes inside a bag. You should remove your key now. It is a rare case.


I have been passionate about locks and safes for so long; it is a family speciality since 1898. I hope I can share with you all the simple tips that can make the difference for your security. And that you'll buy the right products for your needs.

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