Imagine trying to unlock your door using your key, only to hear and feel that tell-tale snap. Pulling out the nubby remnants of your once-trusty key can be a heartbreaking feeling. Desperate times call for desperate measures and one of those measures involve using super glue to extract the broken remains of your house or car key. However, there are a few rules to using this method and ignoring them could land you in even more trouble.
When Should You Use This Method?
The right time to use this rather unorthodox method of extracting a broken key is when the key is still visible within the lock cylinder. If you can still see the broken-off portion of the key, then it's fairly safe to use the super glue method.
The deeper the key is embedded inside of the lock cylinder, the riskier this method becomes. If you can't see the key or slide a thin object like a toothpick or metal wire inside the lock without hitting part of the lock, then it's time to consider a safer way of freeing the key from its metal tomb.
Which Locks are Appropriate to Use This Method On?
You can use this method to remove a broken key from an ordinary house door lock, deadbolt, or padlock with a conventional pin or wafer lock tumbler. This method might not work for more exotic varieties of locks and keys, such as the Berlin key or locks that use a flexible key.
You can use the super glue trick on automotive door locks. However, you should avoid using this method on automotive ignition lock cylinders, since the wrong move could result in an expensive, messy, and time-consuming replacement of the entire ignition tumbler.
How Much Should You Use?
Most experts recommend using only enough super glue to cover the tip of the toothpick or metal wire. You'll also want to use gel-type super glue instead of the runny original formula. The former tends to have a slower drying time, but you won't run the risk of having it drip off the toothpick or key and end up on the lock tumbler itself.
How Do You Use This Method?
Immediately after you've applied the glue to the end of your toothpick or metal wire, carefully place the end of your extraction tool against the edge of the broken key. Make sure you can get as much contact with the key without pushing the key further into the lock. Once the tool is firmly against the key, you'll need to wait for the glue to cure. The amount of time you'll need to wait for the curing process to finish depends on the instructions listed on the glue package.
Once the glue is cured, carefully pull the broken key straight out of the lock tumbler. Don't attempt to turn the key while pulling it out of the lock, as this could cause the tool to lose contact with the key. If the tip of the tool separates from the broken key during extraction, apply another small dab of glue onto the end and repeat the process.
What About Gluing the Key Together?
After extracting the broken key out of the lock using the super glue method, you might be tempted to glue the two broken halves back together. After all, it should work until you have a new key made or a new lock installed, right? Actually using a key that's been super-glued together to unlock your door is just asking for trouble. Not only is it possible for the key to break in half again, but it could be stuck further inside the lock this time.
The only time you should glue your key back together is if you need it as a template to have a replacement key made. In the case of an automotive key, you might not even need the broken-off key -- locksmiths can make replacement keys based on the vehicle identification number (VIN) listed on the lower driver's side corner of the windshield. Contact a locksmith like Southern California Security Centers for more information.