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How to Pick a Door Lock When You’re Locked Out

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.

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How to Pick a Door Lock When You’re Locked Out- A quick and easy guide to getting back into your home when you’re locked out.


If you find yourself locked out of your home or office and need to pick the lock to gain access, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Proper preparation is key to ensuring that the process is completed safely and successfully. Make sure that you have the the right tools and knowledge to pick the lock correctly and efficiently. Be aware of the type of lock you are dealing with and what techniques may work best.

Gather the right tools

If you’re locked out of your house or car and don’t have a spare key handy, picking the lock might be your only recourse. For the job, you will require some special tools and knowledge. Gather a tension wrench, lock pick(s), flashlight, and tweezers if available. A tension wrench is a small slender L-shaped tool used to turn the plug of the lock while one of more picks are tools that are inserted into the keyway of the lock to manipulate each individual pin o

Familiarize yourself with the lock

Before attempting to pick a door lock, it is important to familiarize yourself with the hardware. Most door locks employ one of two basic mechanisms-wafer locks or pin and tumbler locks. Wafer locks are usually found on cabinet doors, bus doors, and interior doors. Pin and tumbler locks are more common on exterior doors. Knowing which type of lock is on the door can help you decide which picking technique is best for opening the lock.

It is also important to get a good look at your specific lock before attempting to pick it. Visually inspect the outside of the lock to determine how many wafers or pins are inside and how deep the cuts in the wafers are, as this will affect your chance of success when picking the lock. Make sure you have all of the necessary tools handy – this includes a pick tool (an uncompressed paperclip works well in a pinch), a tension wrench (such as an L-shaped hex key) or a special wrench kit specifically designed for picking locks.

Finally, if you’re having trouble with one particular picking technique, try different approaches until you find one that works best for your situation.

Lockpicking Techniques

Mastering the art of lockpicking can be a difficult but rewarding skill. It’s a great way to get back into your house if you’ve been locked out and you don’t have a spare key. There’s a few different techniques to lockpicking, from the more primitive methods to more advanced methods. Let’s explore the various lockpicking techniques and how they can be used to open a locked door.

Understand the anatomy of a lock

It’s important to understand the anatomy of a typical lock before trying to pick it. There are four main components to a lock: the plug, the cylinder walls, the pins, and the key.

The plug is the large cylinder piece that rests inside of the lock itself. This is where you insert your key when unlocking it. The cylinder walls is what holds everything together when you turn your key. The pins are small metal pieces that fit into special cuts in both your key and your plug which prevent them from moving separately from one another. Finally, you have your key which is inserted into the plug and interacts with all of these pieces. By manipulating these components correctly, you can open any brand of door lock without a key.

When it comes to picking a door lock there are several different techniques that you can use depending on what type of lock it is and how confident you feel in your skillset as a locksmith or hobbyist locksmith. In general, most traditional door locks will require either raking or single pin picking (SPP).

Raking involves rapidly “raking” or sweeping a tension wrench over multiple pins at once in an effort to set all of them at their correct heights simultaneously among other things, so that they interact correctly with the plug in order for it to unlock successfully. Single pin picking (SPP) involves inserting and setting individual pins one by one until all have been set correctly for success unlocking.

Utilize a tension wrench

A tension wrench, often referred to as a torque wrench or a snake, is one of the essential tools needed when attempting to pick a lock. A tension wrench looks like an L-shaped piece of metal and is used to slightly rotate pins in the lock as you attempt to align them. You should insert the tension wrench into the keyway just above where your pick will go, and apply pressure in the direction that you would turn the key if you were unlocking it (usually clockwise).

Once you insert the tension wrench, make sure it’s firmly against all pins at its widest point. Applying too little torque will cause your tool to slip out of alignment and applying too much torque can make it difficult for your pick tool to enter the lockset. It’s important to practice using a tension wrench with different locks until you know exactly how much torque is necessary for each task.

The best way to use a tension wrench is by feeling for resistance from inside the lock as your pick attempts to move pins back into position. When each pin moves up individually and sets with less resistance, that means they have been aligned correctly – which means one pin group has been picked successfully! From there, continue picking until all pin groups have been successfully set, ultimately unlocking your door!

Insert a pick and apply pressure

Before attempting to pick a lock, it’s important to ensure the lock is set in the unlocked position and that no residual energy is present inside the lock. Once you’ve done this, insert your tension wrench into the keyhole and apply pressure in the direction you need to turn the lock for it to open.

Once you have light pressure on the tension wrench, select a pick and test where it fits best within your keyway. Every lock will be different, but most likely your pick should fit down towards where your tension wrench is applied. Once you feel a comfortable fit between your pick and keyway, begin to apply light pressure while tracing along each pin stack one at a time until they all bind up together. When multiple pins bind up together at once without turning them individually, this is known as binding pins. Focus on maintaining a decent amount of pressure with your tension wrench as binding pins can be sprung back by releasing all tension too quickly.

If one or more pins are being stubborn turn incrementally more in either direction until your pins bind up simultaneously again and maintain light pressure on them for a short period of time before releasing slightly back down into its original position before continuing on with more picks or gently turning clockwise again with either very light torque on your pick or hold maximum torque in combination with full torque force on your tension wrench while applying upward picking motions followed by counter clockwise twisting of yourself inner core to attempt breakthroughs upon sticking sentiments that may arise during attempts at resetting remaining prior bindings dated back even further still by times past forgotten somewhere within all valves until unlocking planes away arrive, thusly completing such task at having had then thusly before hand finally opened any door locked when also even perhaps thus maybe out having been locked too there too then!

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Lock picking can be an effective way to gain access to a locked door if you find yourself locked out. While the process is relatively simple and can be done with basic tools, it can remain tricky to master and sometimes you may experience difficulties. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the common problems you may encounter when attempting to pick a door lock and solutions to troubleshoot them.

Identify a jammed lock

When it comes to troubleshooting door locks, identifying whether a lock is jammed or simply not functioning is essential. Jammed locks can often be fixed using everyday household items and don’t necessitate professional services, but you should always be aware of the difference before attempting a repair.

If your door handle is moving but won’t open the lock, then the mechanism likely just needs lubrication or adjustment. But if the handle feels stuck and won’t move at all, then there’s a chance that something has fallen into or become lodged within the lock itself. This could range from small objects like paper clips and bent keys to larger items such as screws and broken pieces of jewelry.

In order to accurately diagnose the problem with your lock if it’s jammed, it can be helpful to remove any covers that are present on the handle or knob and inspect any pieces of metal inside. Depending on what you find, you may need a pair of pliers or tweezers to carefully extract whatever has become stuck in order for the door to open properly again. If there doesn’t seem to be anything visibly obstructing the inside of your lock that could explain why it’s jammed, then you may need to consider other potential causes before attempting a repair.

Understand how to reset a lock

If you’re locked out of a room and unable to pick the lock, you may be able to reset it instead. Understanding the different types of locks can help you determine the best course of action to take if you find yourself in this situation.

The most common type of door lock is a pin tumbler lock, which contains a series of pins arranged inside the cylinder and chamber that must be aligned correctly before the door will open. If one or more pins become misaligned, they must be reunited in order to reset the lock. This can generally be accomplished with some simple tools and techniques, though professional assistance may also be required.

Other types of locks include wafer tumbler locks, lever tumbler locks and tubular locks. Each of these varies slightly in terms of how they operate and how they are reset; appropriate directions for each should be sought depending on your specific needs. Additionally, if resetting a lock proves too difficult an endeavour or one’s safety is compromised while attempting it, hiring a professional locksmith may ultimately prove necessary.

Alternatives to Lockpicking

Lockpicking is a great way to get back in your house if you’re locked out, however, picking a lock is not always an easy task and a lock can be hard to open. If you find yourself in a situation where lockpicking won’t work, there are other alternatives you can try. This section will discuss the different alternatives you can use when you are locked out of your house.

Use a bump key

A bump key is a special type of key designed to temporarily disable locks. Also known as a “rake key,” it works by inserting the key into the lock and then rapidly pushing and pulling it out, causing the pins inside the lock to suddenly pop up, allowing the door to open. Bump keys are readily available online so you don’t need specialized tools or expensive equipment to use them.

Bump keys should be used with caution as they can be extremely loud when used, which could alert people nearby of your presence and activity. Additionally, some newer locks are actually designed to be “bump-proof,” meaning they have extra security features that are activated or triggered when a bump key is inserted in an attempt to disable it. If you use a bump key on these types of locks, it can result in permanent damage or make the lock unusable even after you get into your home or office.

Additionally, many jurisdictions have specific laws in place that prohibit the use of bump keys, so before attempting this method you should check with local authorities first to ensure that you won’t be breaking any laws by using one.

Try a credit card

Using a credit, debit, or ID card can provide an effective solution for some types of locks. This method works best on door locks that have a small latch that fits into the doorjamb- not deadbolts. To pick the lock with a credit card, start by inserting the card between the latch and doorjamb at an angle. Gently rotate and bend the card back and forth while pushing in on it until it slides far enough into the jamb to engage the latch. This will cause the latch to move out of its hole and release, allowing you to open the door.

It’s important to note that this technique should be attempted only as a last resort since it can damage both your credit/debit/ID card and your lock if done incorrectly. If you are uncomfortable with any part of this process, contact a professional locksmith for assistance instead. They will be able to help you gain access and ensure that your lock is properly functioning again without causing any additional damage.

Call a locksmith

Calling a locksmith is usually the most reliable, efficient way to get back into your home. A professional locksmith can open virtually any door lock in a short amount of time, so you won’t have to wait long to regain access. Plus, they will likely also be able to make you a replacement key for the existing lock on your door.

It’s important to find an experienced and reputable locksmith who can be trusted with the security of your property. If possible, try to research in advance or ask friends and family for recommended contacts – that way you’ll be sure the locksmith knows what they’re doing and will not do damage when opening your lock. Further, remember to ask what kind of ID they will provide at the time of their arrival as well as an estimate on how much it will cost to gain entry or have a new set of keys made.

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