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How to Break a Door Lock in an Emergency

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Muhammad Baballe Ahmad, Mehmet Cavas, Sudhir Chitnis, and Zhen-ya Liu.

✓ Verified & Tested Information

If you’re ever in an emergency situation and need to get into a locked door, you can use this technique to break the lock.


Preparation is essential in any successful lock-breaking situation. You will need to gather the appropriate tools and have a plan of action. Ensure you have a light source, protective gear such as impact-resistant gloves, and something that can breach the lock such as a pry bar. Additionally, do a visual inspection of the door lock and surrounding area so that you know what you are dealing with. Now let’s look at some of the best strategies for breaking a door lock in an emergency.

Gather the necessary tools

Before attempting to break a door lock, you must ensure that you have the right tools. First of all, put on protective eyewear and gloves. This will help protect you from any debris that could fly during your attempt and keep your hands safe from possible cuts caused by the tools.

Next, locate a hard, flat surface to use as an anchor point for your tool and purchase or gather the following tools:
-A hammer
-A heavy screwdriver – works best if it has at least a 4 inch blade.
-A flat-head screwdriver (smaller is better)
-A pair of pliers
-An oversized adjustable wrench (can also be used for replacing the lock after breaking)
Finally, make sure to have a few screwdrivers with interchangeable heads so you won’t need to waste time looking for another tool when faced with a different situation.

Familiarize yourself with the lock

Before attempting to break a door lock, take some time to familiarize yourself with the lock. Knowing the brand, type and model of the lock can help you choose the appropriate tool and method for breaking it. Many door locks are held in place with screws in the frame, which you will need to remove first before attempting to break the lock itself. Once you have removed all of the screws securing the lock, you should be able to pull off any trim or metal plate around it; this will make breaking it much easier. Additionally, using an instrument such as a flashlight can give you better visibility around grooves and pins so that you can identify weak points or access points on the lock. After becoming familiar with the layout of a single unit of your particular type and make of door locks, practice trying out different combinations on other similar locks. This will help build your muscle memory and give you more familiarity with how different lever or pin spring systems work.

Applying Force

When you need to break a door lock in an emergency, the act of applying force is often the most effective way. There are several different tools that can be used to apply force to a door lock, such as a hammer, a screwdriver, a pry bar, or a door stop. In this article, we will explore the different methods of applying force to a door lock in an emergency.

Use a hammer to strike the lock

When faced with an emergency situation that requires breaking a door lock, it can be helpful to have the right technique and tools on hand. One of the most commonly used methods for breaking a door lock is to use a hammer. Many hammers have flat, rectangular faces, which are perfect for smashing into and damaging the locking mechanism of a door.

Start by positioning the hammer at approximately a 45-degree angle from the lock casing. Use short, firm swings that strike close to 90 degrees from the face of your lock. Be sure to keep your grip strong on the hammer handle and avoid striking with too much force as this can cause breakage or injury. After two or three strikes, you may be able to hear or feel that you’ve damaged enough of the interior components to break your lock open.

If after several attempts, your lock has not broken open, try using a heavier hammer or one with smaller corners on its surface. Additionally, using lubricant such as graphite spray can help loosen components within the locking mechanism and make it easier to break open your lock with minimal damage

Use a screwdriver to pry open the lock

In extreme emergencies, you may need to break open a door, such as in the cases of home fires or medical emergencies. Some locks can be opened using minimal force and basic tools while others require more specialized equipment. If you are dealing with a regular, non-secured door lock, use a screwdriver to pry open the lock.

You will likely need to wedge the space between the lock mechanism and frame wide enough that it disengages the latch. This can be difficult but with patience, dedication and an appropriate tool it can be accomplished. You may need something thin enough to fit between the metal of the locking mechanism and thicker than your average screwdriver tip. Use quick jabs at first and then steady pressure if that doesn’t seem to work. Be careful not to exert too much force as this could damage both the door frame and locking mechanism beyond repair if not done properly.

Use a saw to cut through the lock

If none of the above methods have been successful and access is required quickly, sawing may be the only option. Using a hacksaw or a hand saw, carefully cut through the entire cylinder of the lock. Make sure to use safety glasses as bits of broken metal can fly off during this type of sawing and could injure nearby bystanders or yourself. Be careful not to harm other parts of the door with your sawing such as door hinges or door frames. Once done, you will be able to smoothly open the locked door without any further coercion.

Drilling the Lock

Drilling the lock is one of the most common methods of breaking a door lock in an emergency. It involves using a drill bit to drill into the core of the lock in order to break through its internals. This method can be quite effective and can be used in a variety of different emergency scenarios. However, it can also be dangerous and destructive if not done properly. Let’s explore how to safely and effectively drill a lock in an emergency.

Use a drill to make a hole in the lock

In an emergency where you need to gain access to a building, one way of breaking a door lock is by using a drill. Depending on the type and size of the lock, you may be able to create a small hole in it so you can reach the latch with other tools.

This method is particularly useful when dealing with locks that are too large to pick or open using a tension wrench and torque wrench, as typically seen on deadbolt locks.

To use this method, start by first drilling into the back of the lock or the keyhole itself. Use bits that are slightly larger than the head of your cylindrical lock – for instance, if it is 1/4″ wide, use either a 7mm or 5/16″ bit. When drilling into the center of your cylinder, be careful not to damage or destroy any internal components such as springs or pins in order for it to function properly afterwards. You will also want to make sure you are controlling your speed and pressure so that you do not cause any excessive damage.

Next insert your tool into the hole created from drilling and rotate it either clockwise or counterclockwise until there is a gap between the door frame and the cylinder head which will allow you to release the latch inside; usually with some force using pliers or screw drivers so that it unlocks successfully. Then simply remove all remnants of broken pieces from inside before installing an entirely new lock system if necessary.

Insert a flat head screwdriver into the hole

Inserting a flat head screwdriver into the hole at the center of the lock is one of the best methods to break a door lock in an emergency. To start, make sure that you carefully insert the screwdriver all the way into the hole. The goal is to press against both sides of the tumbler inside and force it open, so push hard enough for this to happen. If needed, use pliers or another pair of as leverage and slowly wiggle the screwdriver back and forth until you hear a click sound signaling that it has opened up. Be careful though; too much force can damage the entire mechanism, making it impossible to unlock doors with conventional methods afterward.

Turn the screwdriver to open the lock

When drilling the lock, you need to place the drill bit of the screwdriver at the center of the lock cylinder and turn it in a clockwise direction. This will force the pins that keep the lock secure inside to move outwards and create an opening for you. If done correctly, you should hear a clicking sound. Keep turning until all of these pins move and fit securely back into their proper positions. The last pin should take a lot more pressure to push it back, this is normal and expected as it is usually bigger than most of the others. You may want to use some lubricant, such as WD-40, on all sides of the mechanism in order to get better results and make sure that no debris gets inside. After making sure that all pins are in position, pull out your screwdriver gently yet firmly – this should open up your lock successfully!

Other Techniques

When you have exhausted all other methods of unlocking a door, there are a few other techniques you can use. You can use a hammer and chisel to try to break the lock, or you can use a pick set to try to pick the lock. Both of these techniques can be dangerous and should only be attempted as a last resort. In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of using these methods.

Use a bump key

Using a bump key is a slightly more advanced technique to break a door lock than using something like a credit card or screwdriver. Bump keys are specially designed keys that can be inserted into the keyway of a lock and then tapped, or bumped, with a hammer or other object to move the pins in the cylinder of the lock. This causes them to jump up, allowing for a quick turn of the cylinder in either direction.

Although any regular key can be converted into a bump key, pre-mastered versions are available for purchase and can save time. To convert an existing key yourself, it’s important to ensure that all of the cuts on the blade match those on your target door lock exactly so that you’ll be able to insert it properly. The more accurate your cut is, the better your chances of making a successful bump. When using this technique it’s important to remain patient as bumping may require several attempts before successful entry is achieved.

Use a lock-picking tool

Using a lock-picking tool is a common method used to open lock and door systems. Lock-picking tools can come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. While there are specific tools made for the purpose of lock picking, some items that can be fashioned together have also been used for this purpose as well. These can include everything from paper clips to thin wires.

When using this method, one must pay attention to how the device works so that no damage is caused to the lock nor your hand when using it. This will usually involve inserting the tool into the keyhole and feeling for each internal pin of the tumblers. In some cases you may need to gently twist each one until they reach their aligned position allowing you to open the lock or door system successfully and safely.

Use a magnetic key

Using a magnetic key is a tried-and-true method that can be used in times of emergency when you need to open a locked door. Most locks respond to magnetic keys, as long as they are strong enough, and if you come across one, it’s worth giving it a try – after all, any type of success can be beneficial if you’re stuck in an urgent situation.

To use a magnetic key, hold it up to the faceplate of the lock while gently pushing forward. You don’t need to push on the key with force or use any twisting motions; just keep trying until you feel an audible click or the tumblers move inside. At this point, your door should be unlocked and ready to open. Make sure that after use, you store the magnetic key away from humid areas so that it keeps its potency for future attempts.

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