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How to Pick a Door Lock Without a Tension Wrench

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

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to pick a door lock without a tension wrench. This is a great skill to have if you’re ever locked out of your home or office.


Have you ever found yourself locked out of your house and without a key? Luckily, if you know the right techniques, you can learn how to pick a door lock without a tension wrench. While picking locks should be done for legitimate reasons (like when you get locked out of your own property) the following guide is offered strictly for educational purposes.

This step-by-step guide will teach you how to pick a lock using small tools like paperclips or toothpicks. Due to the risks associated with lock picking, use appropriate caution when attempting these techniques on any door other than your own. Professional locksmiths do not recommend picking as it can lead to permanent lock damage. Finally – understanding how to pick locks does not make misdemeanors such as trespassing any less illegal – always act with good intentions in mind!

Gather the Supplies

Learning how to pick a door lock without a tension wrench is not as difficult as it may seem. All you need is the right supplies and a little bit of knowledge on how door locks work. To pick a door lock, you will need a tension wrench, a flathead screwdriver, and a pick. Although you can attempt it without the tension wrench, it is highly recommended that you have it with you to ensure the job is done properly.

Lock Pick Set

A lock pick set will come with several picks that you can use to manipulate the pins in the lock. Some sets also contain a tension wrench and other tools. The picks included in the set are designed to fit a variety of locks, and the shape of each pick helps you identify what type of lock it will work on best. When choosing a pick set, make sure to select one that is designed for your particular type of lock. Picking a lock can take some skill, so if you’re new to this task, start with an inexpensive set and develop your skills before investing in something more expensive.

Tension Wrench

A tension wrench, also known as a torque wrench, is an essential tool for picking locks. It’s the most important supply that you’ll need to practice lockpicking and ultimately pick a lock successfully. A tension wrench is the cylindrical shaped tool used to apply turning force or torque to the plug of a pin tumbler lock in order to hold pins in place while you set them with your other tools.

Tension wrenches come in many different sizes and shapes, depending on the type of lock being picked, but they are all levers that transfer torque or pressure onto the plug, usually with an ergonomic handle on one side. There are also different metals used to construct tension wrenches depending on their intended application and the strength needed, such as steel or stainless steel for higher security locks. You’ll also want to make sure that you have both flathead and Phillips head options available so that you can pick different types of locks.

Understand the Lock

Before attempting to pick a lock, it is important to first understand how it works. This will help you determine the best way to pick the lock. A door lock typically consists of a cylinder which is inside a housing. Inside the cylinder are several pins which must be lined up to open the lock. A tension wrench is used to apply pressure to the pins while you manipulate them with a pick. This section will discuss how to pick a door lock without a tension wrench.

Different Types of Locks

Though most of us are familiar with padlocks and door locks, there is a wide range of other locks that you may need to understand how to pick. Different lock designs can require various tools and techniques. It is important when learning to pick locks that you can identify the type of lock that you’re dealing with, as well as your goal for the project.

Pin tumbler: Pin tumbler locks are generally categorized by the number of pins they contain, which usually range from two to eight. These types of locks are popular in residential applications, due to their cost-effectiveness and relative security. Generally speaking, a tension wrench and a picking tool (such as rake tools) is required for pin tumbler locks.

Cam/wafer: Cam or wafer locks have thin pieces (or ‘discs’) that must be manipulated in order for the lock to open, rather than pins. These types of locks tend to be less popular compared to pin tumbler types but can still be found in residential applications like filing cabinets or desk drawers. For this type of lock you will need an understanding of its basic design; a tension wrench; and a number of picking tools such as wafer turning tools and curved picks depending on the application.

Lever/Side Bar: Lever or side bar locks require something known as “manipulation” or a technique that requires different levels and angles of pressure that can unlock even the most secure door systems without requiring any keyed entry at all. For this type of lock, you’ll need understanding around basic principles such as apply-lift-shift; an understanding around movement sequences; some form of tension device such howthorn prongs; along with tall rake picks suitable for turning levers right one after another after proper sequencing has been completed successfully allowed entry into desired locked space dependent solely on practice … practice … practice!

Identifying the Lock

Identifying the lock is the first step in understanding how to pick a door lock. Most locks are usually classified into one of three types: pin tumbler, wafer, or lever locks.

Pin Tumbler Lock – This type of lock is identified by the slotted key and has two main parts inside – pins and springs. When the right key enters, it will cause a combination of correct pins to line up in order to unlock the door.

Wafer Lock – These locks use wafers that move along an axis and are identified by their flat shape. Inserting the proper key will line up all necessary pieces within each “cut” of a key so that unlocking can occur.

Lever Lock – Lever locks can be recognized easily by their slim and sometimes tall ergonomic design. They are similar to pin tumblers because they also use pins to unlock (unscrew) the latch when an appropriate key is inserted into them.

Prepare the Lock

Before you attempt to pick a lock without a tension wrench, it is important that you understand the inner workings of a standard lock. Locks contain pins that act as a barrier to prevent the unlocking of the lock. In order to successfully pick a lock, you must first get an understanding of how these pins work. After understanding how the pins work, you will then need to prepare the lock for picking by setting the pins.

Insert the Tension Wrench

Once you have found the ideal location for applying the pressure, insert the tension wrench carefully into the bottom of the keyway. Be sure to angle it in the same direction as the pins rather than pushing it straight in. You will begin to find resistance as you reach each pin, and will need to adjust your tension wrench accordingly in order to apply a steady pressure without jamming any of them. Depending on how deep your keyway is and how long your tensioner is, you may need to insert it only far enough so that its tip stays in contact with all of the pins.

Apply the Right Amount of Pressure

When picking a lock, the goal is to apply just the right amount of torque pressure, or tension, to the plug so that it will turn gently until it lines up with the aligned pins. It’s important not to use too much pressure or you might damage the lock. You’ll need a tension wrench for this step.

A tension wrench creates a small gap between the plug and shell of your lock, which gives you clearance for picking it. You won’t be able to insert your pick without this gap; without it, all your efforts will be in vain. The amount of pressure required varies from manufacturer to manufacturer as some locks require more force than others. You should feel slight resistance as you turn the wrench counterclockwise and increase pressure slightly until you can feel that resistance break.

If you’re using too much torque and having difficulty releasing it when the pins align, try turning down the tension instead of dialing up periodically (changing directions). Don’t persist if you can’t feel any give at all; chances are there’s either something wrong with either your technique or tooling which requires rectifying before continuing with your task at hand.

Pick the Lock

Picking a door lock without a tension wrench is possible, and here we will provide tips on how to do it. This technique can be used if you don’t have a tension wrench or if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot use a tension wrench. Knowing how to pick a door lock without a tension wrench is a useful skill to have.

Insert the Pick

Before attempting to pick a door lock, you want to make sure that you have the right tools. You will need something that resembles a dental pick, which should have tiny barbs on the end. If you don’t have such a tool in your arsenal, it is easy to get one from most hardware stores.

Once you have the necessary tool and have the lock properly positioned in front of you, insert the pick into the keyway at a 45-degree angle. This is an important step as it will help make sure that your pick engages with correct pins which come within each pin chamber of the lock cylinder. For this step, it is important to keep steady pressure applied and make sure not to push too hard or bend any pins out of shape while they are being picked up inside the lock. As well, you should apply slight tension on the lock while inserting and picking with your tool as this will ensure that all pins stay in place once they’ve been set inside each pin chamber.

Manipulate the Lock Pins

Now that you have the proper tools to pick the lock, it’s time to start manipulating the pins. As you can see, if you look inside the lock you will find five or six pins or wafers. The goal is to raise each of them up until they reach a sweet spot where all of the pins are ‘set’ – meaning that they are raised just enough so that the cylinder will turn once all of them have been set.

To manipulate these pins, begin with your hook pick. Gently place it into the bottom of each pin and press upward. This should help elevate each one. In some cases, turning your pick at a slight angle can also help in raising two adjacent pins at once. If any of these become stuck and don’t rise up very far, back track slightly and try again until they move freely up and down without resistance.

Be sure to exercise patience during this process as not every pin will rise in one press – but with steady pressure over several presses each one should come to rest in its optimal elevation level as indicated by moderate resistance when turning your hook’s gripping end clockwise or counterclockwise within each pin chamber.

Test the Lock

After you’ve selected your lock pick set, you are ready to open the door without a tension wrench. To begin, begin by thoroughly testing the lock. Start with a few trial insertions of different picks before using any pressure or torque to ascertain what type of warding and pins the lock has. You should also note which direction the pins meet resistance – as they can often be placed at angles away from the opening mechanism used when unlocking a door. This information will come in handy when it is time to apply torque and pressure to pick the lock.


Picking a door lock without a tension wrench is possible, but it is important to remember that doing so increases the risk of damaging the lock, particularly when the picker does not have a great deal of experience. Those wanting to open a door lock without any tools should consider using an alternative method. A variety of methods are available, including using a paperclip or credit card to manipulate the pins. Alternatively, an experienced locksmith may be able to pick the lock or even cut off both sides with special tools. If all else fails and replacing the lock is unavoidable, it is best to choose one that is reliable and reputable and has been manufactured by an established company.

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