I have a key to an apartment mailbox that was almost impossible to get the key in and out of to unlock, and in trying, my roommate broke the key off in it. From looking in with a light, it seems that all of the key except the outermost pin is in the lock, but the lock won't turn even when putting the head back in.

I've generously lubricated the lock, tried hooking a small scroll saw blade in the teeth, and used a lockpick set with various hooks to try dragging the key out, but it's pretty firmly stuck. So my question is: with this being an entire row of mailboxes and me unable to just remove the lock, how would you recommend either getting the key out, or replacing the lock?

  • 1
    Phone a locksmith, describe the situation, and ask if he thinks he can get it out.
    – getterdun
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 7:43
  • 2
    It doesn't matter right? Even if you get your key out the key is lost. And you can't trust the lock now.
    – DMoore
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 16:25
  • 1
    Have you tried a pliers-type key extractor?
    – Compro01
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 18:10
  • Yeah, we've wanted to replace the lock since it was so hard to get the key in/out of, but preferably on our own time. I haven't found a set of pliers small enough to try, and unfortunately can't order a pair online since it would likely end up in the mailbox...
    – vityav
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 0:02
  • For a mail box? Is there a master door for the row? Remove the lock next time your carrier comes, to fix or replace it.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 19:18

5 Answers 5


The key sounds like a lost cause. The lock will probably need to be changed.

The mail carrier has access to the box, usually through a large panel at the top (above the doors you open). It is likely that access to the lock is possible when that large panel is open.

You probably need to coordinate with her or him and the superintendent of your building to remove and replace the lock.

  • I was hoping to avoid this, and that maybe someone knew of something esoteric like, say, a hardening foam that could be sprayed around the edges to pull the key out, but I'm not too surprised. Thanks
    – vityav
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 2:09
  • 3
    Maybe super glue on the edge of the key handle if you are willing to hold it there for the hour or so. Likely the key needed to NOT be in all the way to work well (small locks are like that, cheap quality). Now being broken it cannot be jiggled to the right position to turn. If there is no other way into the box, it will probably have to be drilled. The landlord will probably have to arrange this at your cost.
    – Skaperen
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 2:46
  • @Skaperen superglue would either glue the key back together, or I'd suspect more likely glue the broken key to the lock permanently. But it's already broken now so I wouldn't worry about it getting worse, so still a good last-resort idea.
    – Xen2050
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 0:49

Call a locksmith. It's possible to extract the fragment, but may require disassembly and/or lock picking techniques. Cutting a new key will likewise require taking measurements of the pieces and cutting the new key from those.


it is really simple to take out the key out of the lock. Once it breaks in the lock. I would first try to put some oil in the locks to have it loosen up. Then I would either take one of the tools provided in the comment before and try pulling it out. If not and if your onn side out of your door you can unscrew the lock off. once that is done you can pull the cylinder from the lock. Once you took it off there is a ring holding the cylinder and the lock together, need to take that off. Once that is off you are able to push the broke park of the key out form the back.


I know this is late, but the question still sees activity. If the key were brass and you have a fine tip soldering iron, you could solder more brass to the broken key and pull it out after cooling.


try a pick?

a pick
(source: harborfreight.com)

can be gotten at any hardware store, i know this works with schlage keys, done it many times at an ice rink with people breaking keys

if you get it out get a new key and lube it with powdered graphite

  • 1
    -1 OP already stated they tried lubricant and picks.
    – BMitch
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 17:47

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