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How to Open a Door Lock with a Pinhole

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

Learn how to open a door lock with a pinhole. This is a great way to get into your home if you’ve lost your keys or are locked out.


It is possible to open a door lock without a key by using a pinhole. This method does not require any expensive tools or special training and has long been used by locksmiths and other professionals. Pinholes allow you to access the internal mechanism of the lock, which can then be adjusted with minor adjustments to unlock the door. This step-by-step guide will explain how to open a door lock with a pinhole.

Identifying the Pinhole Lock

Pinhole locks are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer a level of security that standard locks do not. However, knowing how to open a door lock with a pinhole can be a difficult task. To be able to unlock the door, you need to first identify the pinhole lock, since not all locks are the same. We will discuss the different types of pinhole locks and how to identify them.

Types of Pinhole Locks

Pinhole locks are an invaluable invention that offer ultimate convenience and security. These are usually found on residential doors, but they can also be used in commercial and industrial settings. There are three main types of pinhole locks: knob skewers, knob biters, and plunger locks. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Knob Skewers
This type of lock is the most common pinhole lock because it allows for easy installation as well as compatibility with existing hardware. It features two diagonally-opposed cuts in the faceplate instead of a keyway. To operate the lock, a pin must be inserted into one or both of the cuts to unlock the door.

Knob Biters
This type of lock is less common than a knob skewer because it requires more effort on behalf of the user to open it. Instead of two cuts in the faceplate, it features four triangularly-arranged drilled holes in which small pins can be inserted to unlock it such as with basic tweezers or tools for electronics repair.

Plunger Lock
This type is generally found on heavy-duty gates and doors due to its robust locking mechanism. It has a cylinder with several small hardened pins inside which must be pressed out before unlocking is possible by inserting either a key into a keyway or picking pins from its depths with specialized tools such as borescopes or benders like pocket ones used for model padlocks .

Identifying the Lock

Identifying the lock you’re dealing with is an important first step in opening a door lock with a pinhole. In general, locks that use pinholes are separate from more complex Master Key systems, and are usually found on residential doors and cabinets. They can sometimes be identified by the presence of a small round hole next to the keyhole. Pinhole locks vary in design and construction, but typically have two elements: an outside cylinder and an inside mechanism.

The outside cylinder is typically constructed of brass and can be seen from the exterior of the door or cabinet. It is identified by its keyway and contains pins which interact with the key when unlocked; when unlocked, this cylinder rotates freely allowing the lock to open.

The inside mechanism of a pinhole lock consists of several metal discs stacked one on top of another; when unlocked, these discs rotate freely allowing both cylinders to turn simultaneously permitting entry. A small pin rotates through each disc; it is inserted into corresponding holes on each disc at different depths which control how far each disc will be allowed to rotate in relation to its adjacent plate. The number of pins corresponds with how many total combinations can unlock the door – usually four or five.

Knowing what type of lock you’re dealing with will help you figure out what type of pinhole unlocking procedure will be necessary for your situation – that’s why identifying it correctly up front is so important!

Preparing to Pick the Lock

One way to open a door lock without a key is by picking the lock. To do this, you will need the proper tools and know how. Before beginning, it is important to understand the type of lock you are attempting to open. There are different varieties of locks, and each requires a different technique to pick the lock . Also, you should prepare the materials that you will need for the task. This includes a pinhole, a tension wrench, and some picks. Once the materials are ready, you can begin the process of picking the lock.

Gathering the Necessary Tools

Securing any door with a lock involves more than just picking the right hardware. Whether provided by a professional locksmith with specific tools or gathered by a determined amateur, the right items need to be in place before starting.

At a minimum, you will need the following items:
-Pinhole tool
-Hairpin/pick set
-Tension wrench
-Lubrication (optional)
-Flashlight (optional but highly recommended)

A pinhole tool is required to open most locks and appears to be an elongated metal tube similar to an eye dropper or syringe. It works by reaching inside and pushing up all of the pins at once allowing the lock door to open. A stethoscope can be used in lieu of a pinhole tool but requires more skill and experience. Additionally, hairpins, picks or other similar tools are often required for leverage into and around the keyway area and should be bent at different angles for optimum performance. A tension wrench is also required and is inserted into the top of the hole once everything else is in place so that it can turn while keeping tension on each pin. Optional components include lubrication products like graphite spray which help reduce friction between parts as well as a flashlight which comes in handy especially when dealing with difficult locks in dark settings.

Practice with a Practice Lock

Once you have procured a pinhole tool, it is important to practice with an inexpensive practice lock before attempting to pick a real door lock. Practice locks are not expensive and are the perfect way to learn and develop confidence in your pick-locking skills. To start, carefully observe the mechanism of your practice lock before inserting the pinhole tool. Visualize what happens when you insert the tool and how it differs from when you use a conventional key.

Next, slowly insert your pinhole tool into the lock and turn it clockwise as if you were using a key. Keep turning until you feel small bumps inside the cylinder housing of the door lock. Those bumps are called pin stacks; they will act as obstructions that can block or allow access to its core depending on their alignment with the barrel of your pinhole tool.

With some patience, feel for these obstacles so that eventually some of them give way, allowing the plug (or core) gate to open up just enough so that you can open the practice lock by turning it completely anti-clockwise (counter-clockwise). As you move along in this way, pay attention to where each obstacle is located within the pin stacks; remember them as they will be helpful when opening your actual lock later on.

Picking the Lock

One of the most common ways to open a door lock with a pinhole is to pick the lock. This requires patience and practice, as you have to find the correct pins and tension wrench to secure the locking mechanism. Picking a door lock is a skill that can be learned if you have the right tools, the patience, and the willingness to learn it. Let’s look at some of the tools, techniques, and preparations needed for picking a lock with a pinhole.

Inserting the Pick

Once you’ve located the pinhole on your door lock and identified which direction to turn the tool, you can begin to insert the pick. Depending on the type of pick you have, this could be a standard tension wrench or a specially-designed composite pick. With either tool, take time to ensure that your hand position is comfortable and allows for a firm grip of the item.

Using constant but gentle pressure so as to not damage any internal components of the lock, slowly guide your tension wrench (or composite pick) into the pinhole. You should encounter resistance initially but this should diminish as you progress further into the lock.

Once your tension wrench (or composite pick) has been inserted as far as possible without coming up against additional resistance, stop and take a few moments to assess how much further it can be pushed in. If it becomes stuck at any point during insertion, don’t panic – pause and adjust your hand position before trying again.

Turning the Pick

Once the tension wrench and pick have been placed inside the lock and all of the pins are set, it is time to begin turning the pick. To do this, simply turn the key counterclockwise until it won’t turn any farther. This will create a low-level tension on the pins within the plug that is necessary for disengaging them.

Do not apply too much pressure when turning; excessive force can cause accidental damage to components or warp certain pins in a way that they won’t reset properly. Additionally, if you feel resistance or “bumping”, stop immediately-this will help ensure that all of the pins are fully set and prevent them from slipping out of place.

Once you have achieved a low level of tension on the components, keep your grip steady and hold it as you turn your pick counterclockwise until you hear an audible “click”. If successful, some or all of your pins should now be free of tension and should be easy to remove. As long as none of them require additional turning, adjusting or repositioning, you should now have successfully opened your pinhole door lock.

Opening the Lock

When the pinhole for a door lock is visible, it is possible to open the lock without a key. To open a door lock with a pinhole, you will need an item such as an extended paper clip or key extractor to force open the lock.

To begin opening the lock, use one end of your tool to press and hold in the small metal pin inside the hole. Apply steady pressure directly on this pin while slowly turning the tool clockwise with your other hand. As you turn your tool, you should also feel and/or hear each cylinder engaging as it falls into place until all five pins are released. Continue turning until you can turn the knob with ease and twist open the finish side of the lock. If successful, your door should now be opened!

If not all pins released simultaneously, you’ll need to repeat this process on any stuck pins before continuing with opening to prevent further damage to your tools or lockset. It is important that you do not apply excessive force when trying to pick these locks, as over time this may cause irreparable damage and result in needing a new lockset installed.


Regardless of what type of door lock you have, using a pinhole is generally a safe way to try and open it. Of course, opening any kind of door lock without the key is illegal and could lead to serious consequences for those who choose to attempt it. It is always best practice to call a professional if you have lost your keys or are otherwise unable to open your door lock.

In any case, if you’ve followed the instructions in this guide and are still uncertain on how to open your particular door lock with a pinhole, then calling a qualified professional technician is always the best option. With experienced guidance, anyone can safely and effectively unlock their lost or inaccessible door locks using a pinhole.

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