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What To Do If You Have A Snapped key

13th June 2020

Hi there. After twelve  weeks of lockdown it looks as if there may be light at the end of the tunnel as the quarantine restrictions are lifted a little and we take a few tentative steps towards normality. Speaking of normality, I’ll try and avoid the elephant in the room as much as possible today and return to the subject of regular lock problems. And you’ll need a sturdy lock if you want to keep that elephant safely in the room. The elephant we’re not mentioning, that is. Although it’s quite difficult to ignore the elephant – why the heck did you think it would be a good idea to keep an elephant there? I’ve never said the word “elephant” more in my life than in the last 30 seconds. Terrible job of ignoring the elephant.

Moving on from my misunderstanding about how figures of speech work, let’s move on to a different kind of lockdown – the “lockdown” you shout when you realise your lock no longer works. Admittedly you probably don’t shout that, but for today’s purposes, and in order to quickly get from the abstract introduction to the reality of the contents of this blog, let’s assume you do shout “Lockdown”. 

A lock being down can occur for a multitude of reasons but today I’ll concentrate on those dreaded occasions when you’ve put the key in the lock, tried to turn it, and the key has snapped in half. You end up staring, confused, at your hand, still grasping the useless end of the key before realising the other half is stuck in the lock and you have no way of retrieving it. You are left with a temporarily useless lock. 

This is not the time to be discouraged though. We can get through this. We’ve got through worse. One thing you don’t want to do, however, is to escalate the situation. This normally occurs when a householder attempts to get the key out themselves with whatever tools they ‘ve got lying about the house. Nine times out of ten this serves to make the situation worse and to push the broken key further into the lock, raising the possibility of breaking the entire lock, meaning that when a professional is finally called, it could be a more expensive job than if they’d been called in the first place. 

Happily, a skilled locksmith should be able to remedy the issue with the minimum of fuss. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, their equipment, and I’m not being rude here! Given locks are a locksmith’s bread and butter, we generally have all the right tools for the job (I’m STILL not being rude) .These are often expensive tools that it would make no economic sense for a householder to buy for a once in a decade task, but when used every day as part of a locksmith’s tool kit, they become more economical to buy. Secondly, and without blowing my own trumpet too much, I’m pretty good at what I do and have experience of all kinds of locks. I’m well qualified to be able to work out the quickest, most efficient way to deal with the problem, depending on the lock and key combination in situ. 

Snapped keys usually occur in locks that use a pin tumbler mechanism – this means Yale and Euro Cylinder locks in the main. They can occur in window locks, padlocks and car doors too, but these are less frequent. I’ve dealt with literally hundreds of snapped keys in pin tumbler locks over the years and, although the technique may vary depending on the idiosyncrasies of the particular model, I am usually able to resolve the issue in a matter of minutes. Add in a cup of coffee and you’re still talking no more than half an hour… though the coffee is obviously optional. 

Given the frequency with which I deal with this issue, you’d be forgiven for asking why on earth keys snapping in locks is such a regular occurrence. Well, I’ll answer that question, whether you like it or not. Often the problem occurs because an impatient householder has tried to turn the key before it has been properly inserted in the lock. Any weakness in the key will be severely tested in this situation and it could easily snap. Trying to force a jammed lock can also cause a key to break – if the key doesn’t easily turn, you know there’s a problem that needs rectifying, and the way to do this is NOT to keep forcing the key, hoping to somehow solve the issue through brute force. Using the wrong key is also a common reason for a key snapping in a lock  - every lock has its key, and all that, and they sometimes don’t take kindly to suddenly having a new partner forced upon them. A damaged key would also be as bad, so please don’t use your key for cleaning out your ears, opening cans of paint or doing some impromptu gardening on the cricket pitch. Keys are more delicate than you think and can easily bend out of shape – they have one purpose and one purpose only which is locking and unlocking doors. 

I’m hoping you do have spare keys for each lock in your house (and if not, why not?) but if not it will usually be possible to get a new key cut from an old one, even if this has been snapped in two. Obviously, you’ll need all the parts of the key, but as long as you do, it should still be able to be copied. It’ll be important to ask your locksmith what caused the key to snap though – if it was a fault in the lock you may want to consider having a new, stronger lock fitted to the door and a brand new set of keys. 

That was almost a bit of normality, going back to talking about the day to day lock issues and still avoiding eye contact with the elephant that still appears to be in the room. As we start to get back to normal, remember I am still working, and still taking all health and safety precautions when visiting properties in order to keep me and my customers safe. 

If you have any security issues you need help with, whether it be a snapped key stuck in your lock or otherwise, please call on 07990573857 for a Barnsley locksmith and I’ll be only too happy to help. Stay safe.

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