Over time, all car keys will eventually show signs of wear and tear. A key’s sharp edges will begin to round off and the key may have more difficulty turning in the lock as a result. Although this isn’t necessarily a problem, the key can also suffer from fatigue and the metal shaft can eventually snap.

If you have a spare key then this might not cause you too much inconvenience but if the key were to snap off clean off while it’s inside the lock barrel, it can be a real headache. Obviously, if you don’t have anything to hold on to and pull, you won’t be able to remove the key piece at all. If it’s in the ignition you won’t be able to start the car and if it’s in the door, you won’t even be able to get into it in the first place.

So, what are your options if this happens to you? In a nutshell, you have two choices – either try and remove the broken key fragment yourself or pay someone else to do it for you.

Option one – DIY broken key removal

If you’re stranded or in a hurry, this will probably be the first thing you’ll try. The problem is, you’ll need something to try it with. Most people will have a hunt around for something thin and rigid such as a toothpick, paperclip or a small screwdriver to try and prise the broken shaft out. If none of the key is sticking out of the lock, this probably isn’t going to work – removing the key fragment can actually be quite tricky, even more so if it’s lodged below the surface.

Next, you’ll probably have a hunt for some small needle-nose pliers. If you have any, these can occasionally do the trick but only if there’s enough of the key to grip, but this is rarely the case as the key is usually either level with the surface or further down inside the barrel. You’ll probably have a look at a few Youtube videos on the subject or read the odd how-to post.

These will generally give either useless or bad advice. The linked video is a case in point – DO NOT go spraying cooking oil in your car’s ignition barrel. What you really need is a key extraction kit, but it’s unlikely that you’ll already own this as it’s generally only locksmiths who own such kits. In all fairness, a basic kit can cost under £30 but then you need to order it and wait for it to be delivered. More importantly, when it arrives, you’ll actually need the skill to use it.

Simply owning the kit isn’t enough. Think of it in terms of a car mechanic’s tools – In other words, it’s no good owning the best toolkit in the world if you don’t know the first thing about fixing cars. The final thing that you may not have thought of is that even if you’re able to remove the broken key fragment, you’ll still need a replacement key to unlock/start your car. If you don’t have a spare key, you’ll need to get one cut.

Plan B – Get professional help

These are the types of scenarios we’re faced with every week. If you choose a professional car locksmith right from the start, you’ll save yourself the time and stress of attempting to do it yourself. By all means, give it a try; you may be successful but if you haven’t managed to remove the broken key within the first five or ten minutes, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed in the long run.

As we’re based fairly centrally in Kent (just outside Gravesend) and are fully mobile, we can get to most parts of the county very quickly. For example, if it’s an emergency, we can travel to places like Maidstone, Dartford, Orpington or Canterbury within 30/40 minutes – In fact, we’d probably be arriving while you’d still be looking for your next makeshift extraction tool if you were trying to do it yourself.

Once we’ve arrived at your location, we’ll typically have the broken key piece extracted in a matter of minutes. We can then offer you the option of cutting you a new replacement key right there and then on the spot. This is entirely optional but it can be a godsend if you don’t have a spare car key handy.


The bottom line is that, if your car key snaps off in the door lock or ignition barrel, by all means, have a quick try at removing it yourself. If you can’t do it within the first 5 or 10 minutes, call Keys 4 Cars for immediate car key assistance.

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