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How to Open a Jammed Door Lock from the Outside

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 a situation where your door lock is jammed and you can’t get in, don’t panic! This blog post will show you how to open a jammed door lock from the outside.

Identify the Type of Lock

In order to open a jammed door lock from the outside, you first need to identify the type of lock you’re dealing with. Depending on the type of lock, you may need different tools and methods to get the job done. While some locks are easy to pick, others can be more tricky and require more specialized tools. Let’s take a closer look at the various types of locks that can be encountered.

Examine the lock

When analyzing a jammed door lock from the outside of your home or other structure, you must first recognize the type of lock you’re dealing with. More often than not, homes are fitted with pin and tumbler locks. These locks consist of a cylinder with two or more small pins in it that are lined up to align a locking mechanism. The two main types of pin and tumbling locks are mortise locks and cylinder locks.

Mortise locks are installed into wood doors and were very common before modern times. They generally feature a metal plate on the outside edge of the door along with a locking mechanism inside the door’s edge. The lock is usually cylindrical in shape and once rotated, will open an internal locking mechanism and allow access to the handle or latch on the other side of the door.

Cylinder locks, more commonly referred to as “doorknobs” have been popular for many years and can be found on both interior and exterior doors in most houses today. Cylinder knobs feature two handles or plates connected by an internal cylinder that rotates when twisted to open. What most people don’t realize is that this type of knob usually contains small pins which can fall out if jostled too much, causing them to jam even when unlocked.

Determine if it is a knob or lever lock

Before you attempt to open a jammed door lock from the outside, it’s important to identify what type of lock is installed. Different locks require different approaches, and some locks are more difficult than others to open. Most residential doors have either knob or lever locks, so determining which one you have is your first step.

Knob locks have square faces that typically stick out from the side of the door and move in and out when locked or unlocked. A key must be inserted into a small slot in the middle of the knob to turn it open. Lever locks function similarly but usually involve a long narrow handle on the interior side of the door that can be pushed up or down in order to open or close it. These handles often do not require an actual key for operation, but if your lever lock does include a key slot, simply insert your key and turn it as normal.

Once you’ve identified which type of lock you have, you’re ready to try opening it from outside. Refer to our guide on how to unlock knob or lever locks for further instructions on unlocking your particular door lock.

Gather Supplies

Opening a jammed door lock from the outside can be a tricky task, but it can be done. Before you get started, you need to gather the necessary supplies like a lubricant, a thin piece of metal, and a screwdriver. Make sure to use a lubricant that won’t damage the lock, such as WD-40. Once you have all the supplies, you’re ready to start.

Gather a tension wrench and a pick

Before you start, you need to make sure that you have all the necessary tools for the job. You will require a tension wrench and a pick. A tension wrench allows you to apply rotational force on the lock and is used to finetune your picking technique.

When selecting a tension wrench, a thin metal tool with an L-shaped end is best for most locks. A tension wrench should have just enough play at the tip when it is inserted into the lock cylinder to allow it to move slightly up or down, but it should not be too loose.

The pick is usually made of metal and has a needle-like end which needs to be inserted into the lock cylinder in order to manipulate and turn the tumblers inside. To create further lever action in tight spaces, select small picks with smaller loop handles rather than larger ones. Once you have selected your tools, you are ready to move onto opening up your jammed door lock from the outside.

If needed, gather a lubricant

Depending on what kind of lock you have, you may need to use a light lubricant to make unlocking your jammed door easier and smoother. If this is the case, be sure to choose a product only designed for use on locks. Regular lubricants can harm the lock and it won’t work as effectively afterwards. Ideally, use an aerosol spray such as WD-40 or Lock Ease that is easily applied and able to penetrate small spaces. Be sure to avoid using oil or petroleum based products. After applying the lubricant into the keyhole with short bursts, let it sit for at least five minutes before trying to unlock it again.

Insert the Tension Wrench

Unlocking a jammed door lock from the outside is a delicate task that requires careful handling. The first step is to insert a tension wrench into the keyway on the face of the lock. The tension wrench serves to turn the cylinder and allows for the pins inside of the lock to be bumped into the correct position. But it’s important to remember that too much pressure can cause damage to the lock and its components.

Insert the tension wrench into the keyhole

Once you have the right tools, opening a jammed door lock is fairly easy. Begin by inserting the tension wrench into the keyhole of the door lock. It should fit into the bottom of the keyhole, with its pointed tip facing downwards and its wider end facing upwards. Make sure that the tension wrench is pushed all the way in so that it fully engaging with pins inside the lock.

Next, rotate the tension wrench clockwise until you feel slight resistance or hear a clicking noise. This indicates that you have found an internal pin stack and are making contact with several pins at once. To avoid damage to your lockset, it’s important to slowly increase pressure on your tool until you reach this point- if you used too much force from the start, you could crash a pin inside and cause further complications.

Once contact is made, maintain light pressure on your tension wrench while attempting to insert your pick or other suitable unlocking tool into the keyhole and manipulate individual pins in an uphill direction (this means raising them up towards their respective chambers). Work slowly and carefully, using small movements along either side in order to gradually move each pin until they are all flush with their respective chambers – use visual inspection if needed to ensure proper alignment – then turn your tension wrench again clockwise as if turning a regular key in order to open your lock.

Turn the wrench in the direction the key would turn

Insert the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole. It’s important to make sure your wrench fits snugly into the keyhole at the bottom. Make sure that any ridges line up with how you would turn a key in this lock, and apply just enough torque on the wrench that that it holds steady while you are inserting your picks. Start to carefully turn the wrench in the direction that a key would turn if it were locked from outside, usually in a counter clockwise direction for most locks in North America. Monitor feedback from other tension wrenches and pick tools as you turn. If successful, you should start to feel some give as you continue turning. Keep an eye out for any physical resistance or lock jamming that might occur and adjust your picking technique as needed.

Insert the Pick

Opening a jammed door lock isn’t as complicated as it may seem. One way to do it is by using a pick. A pick is a slender, curved tool used to manipulate lock parts and their mechanisms to unlock a door. It’s important to note that this method only works on certain types of locks and requires a certain level of skill in order to be successful. Let’s take a look at how to use a pick to open a jammed door lock from the outside.

Insert the pick into the keyhole

Insert the pick into the keyhole and get a feel of the inside mechanisms. You will notice that there will be a couple of pins inside the lock that need to be set in order for it to open. Depending on the age and type of lock, these pins may be either single or multiple in number. With some patience, practice and skill you should be able to manipulate them all individually with the pick.

Begin by inserting the pick into the bottom pin first and lifting it up so that it is slightly above its original height. Move on to each pin above in turn, pushing slightly until you reach top pin. This is known as raking or scrubbing, depending on how delicately – or not – you use your pick! Once all pins are set, find a place where they are relatively even and apply gentle pressure as if turning a key. The doorlock should unlock if done correctly.

Manipulate the pick to move the pins

Once the pick is in place, carefully and slowly attempt to manipulate it to align the pins. As each pin moves into place, the tension from your pick should become more loose. If you feel like you’re struggling against too much resistance, back off and try a different angle. Inserting a second pick can also help by providing more leverage to move multiple pins at once.

Slide your picks gently and smoothly away from the plug of the lock, but do not lift them above the pins as you want to keep your picks in contact with all of the pins at once so that you avoid having them jump out of their correctly aligned positions while manipulating other pins. Once all of the pins have moved out of alignment with their corresponding slots in the cylinder, you should be able to turn and unlock your door without any further issues.

Test the Lock

Forcing a jammed door lock from the outside can be a tricky task, but it is possible if you take the right steps. The first thing to do is to test the lock by inserting a key and turning it. If you can turn the key, then the problem is likely to be a broken key, and you will need to remove it and have a new one cut. If the key refuses to turn, then the problem likely lies within the locking mechanism and it is time to move onto the next step.

Turn the tension wrench to test the lock

Testing the lock requires a tension wrench and picking tool. Start by inserting the tension wrench into the keyhole, turning it counterclockwise until it stops. This will give you an idea of how much force you need to apply while picking. If it feels too loose or too tight, make adjustments as necessary until you find what works best for your specific situation.

Once you have a comfortable amount of tension, insert your pick tool into the lock and start gently probing and rotating it back and forth. You are looking to rotate pins inside of the cylinder until they become aligned with one another and eventually reach a point where they can leave the cylinder completely allowing the lock to be opened. Be sure to adjust your tension while using your pick tool as well; too much pressure can create resistance that makes Lock Bumpers more difficult. As long as the pick tool is sliding in and out with relative ease, you should be able to open even the most jammed of locks without too much trouble.

If the lock does not open, repeat steps 3-5

If the lock still won’t open, repeat Steps 3-5, using a different key. Make sure that the key is aligned with the lower half of the lock cylinder, so the keyway is kept away from any debris that might be lodged in the inner mechanism. Flashlight or magnifying glass may be useful to check for any tiny object blocking the locking mechanism, such as a piece of bark or gravel from outside. Be sure to check both sides of the keyway for anything blocking it.

If none of these methods work and all keys have been tried and tested, it may be necessary to remove any remaining objects manually. This should be done cautiously and by someone with experience in lock repair. Depending on where you purchased your door lock or how old it is, manufacturers may provide customer assistance service or spare parts to help fix your jammed lock from outside.


When dealing with a jammed door lock from the outside, it’s important to troubleshoot the problem so that you can determine the best course of action. In this section, we will go over some of the most common causes and solutions to a jammed door lock from the outside. From finding out why it’s jammed to how to open it, we’ll cover all the bases.

If the lock still does not open, try a different pick

If the lock still does not open, try a different pick. The pick you are using may not be the correct size or shape for the lock. Many door locks come with a variety of locking mechanisms and it can be difficult for a novice to determine the type of lock that is being used. If you are unsure of which pick to use, consult an experienced locksmith who can suggest the right pick for your particular door.

In some cases, the pins in the lock may have become stuck or jammed due to dirt or debris inside it. If this is the case, you may need to carefully remove debris from inside the lock with tweezers or small forceps. Additionally, gently tapping or using lubrication on the tumbler inside of your door could help free up any jams that have occurred over time.

If you are unable to open your door lock after trying these methods and having consulted an expert locksmith, consider calling in a professional locksmith who has experience opening jammed door locks from outside of buildings. Locksmiths usually carry specialized tools that can more easily open virtually any kind of lock quickly and safely.

If the lock still does not open, try lubricating the lock

If the lock still does not open after trying the above methods, then at this point it’s a good idea to try lubricating the lock. Fit a tube of graphite spray into the keyway and spray the entirety of the lock, including the bolt. Wipe away any excess spray with a clean cloth and then replace your key into the door lock and try opening it once again. Use another object such as an Allen key, screwdriver or knife to attempt to “worm” your way into pushing in any pins that may be preventing you from unlocking it. If this does not work either, then you may need to call a locksmith or purchase a new door lock altogether.

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