While it doesn't happen incredibly often, having a key break off in a lock can be problematic. For those facing their first broken key, it can be panic-inducing. Luckily, it isn't a foregone conclusion that the lock is destroyed. In most cases, the broken piece of the key can be retrieved, and the lock restored. Here's what you need to know if you're facing a broken key that you need to remove from a lock tumbler.

Don't Make The Situation Worse 

When you're faced with a broken key in a lock, it's easy to panic and make mistakes that can worsen the situation. For example, your first instinct may be to try to push the other part of the key up against the broken piece in an effort to turn the key. Unfortunately, this can push the broken end of the key further into the tumbler, making it harder, or impossible, for you to remove it. In addition, don't give up and just toss the piece of the key that's left in your hands. You'll need it later to have the key recreated, so hang on to it.

Removing A Key From A Padlock

When you're working with a padlock, you can sometimes remove the key shard by tapping the lock against something hard. Just make sure that you're holding the lock with the key segment facing downward, that way gravity can take its natural course and help you remove the piece. Tap it strongly and repeatedly to try to rattle the piece loose. Don't cover the lock opening, though. That will trap the key inside the lock. As soon as the key comes out of the lock, even a little bit, you can grab it with pliers and pull it out.

Removing A Key From Other Locks

There are a couple of different ways to remove keys from other locks. If you have one, a professional key removal tool can do the trick. Just slide it into the lock, up against the ridges of the key piece. Once the hook on the end of the removal tool is secured on the key, twist it a little bit and slide the key out. If you don't have a key removal tool, a locksmith can get the job done for you.

You can also use a hairpin or a paperclip to do much the same thing as you would with a key removal tool. Just bend the pin or the clip to slide it into the lock and then move it the same way you would with a lock removal tool.