When a key is old and worn, it may break when you're using it to unlock your door. If it's the only copy of the key that you have, then you've got a major problem on your hands. You'll need to quickly have a duplicate created. Thankfully, this isn't a difficult process for a skilled locksmith. Read on to learn more about when broken keys can be duplicated and the alternative methods of creating a key for a lock when duplication isn't possible.
Can You Duplicate a Broken Key?
In most cases, a broken key can be easily duplicated by a locksmith. When someone breaks a key while using it to open a lock, it tends to break off cleanly at the head of the shaft. After removing the broken shaft from the lock using a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can take the shaft to a locksmith in order to have it duplicated. The grooves of the shaft will be measured in order to cut a new key with the exact same grooves. As long as the grooves are undamaged, it's simple to create a perfect replica of the broken key.
Note that you'll need to go to a locksmith shop in order to duplicate your broken key. Hardware stores don't typically own the equipment necessary to cut keys to exact measurements—they're only capable of duplicating unbroken keys.
If the shaft has been broken into multiple pieces, it still may be possible to create a duplicate key by piecing them together. However, a different approach will be needed if the grooves on the shaft have become warped due to severe damage.
What Should You Do if Your Key Is Severely Damaged?
When the grooves on the shaft of a broken key have been warped, you can no longer use them to create a replica of the original key. The grooves are what allow the key to bite into the cylinders of a lock in order to open it, so they need to match the old key's grooves perfectly.
Thankfully, there are still options for creating a key that matches your lock. One option is to look for the code numbers on either the key or the lock. These code numbers tell a locksmith how the grooves on the key should be configured, which allows a working duplicate key to be created.
If your lock doesn't have code numbers, a locksmith can still create a key for your lock by removing it and disassembling the lock mechanism. Once the lock is disassembled, the cylinders can be measured in order to find out how to create a key that fits the lock.
In some cases, it may not be possible to remove or disassemble your lock. A locksmith can still make a key that fits the lock by taking an impression of it. When taking an impression of the lock, a locksmith will insert a blank key into the lock and slowly file grooves onto the shaft until the key makes a connection with all of the cylinders inside the lock. Once the blank key fits the lock, it can be duplicated in order to create a working key.
If you have a broken key and need to make a duplicate, the first step is to take the key to a locksmith shop in your area. Depending on the manufacturer of your lock, they may be able to quickly cut you a new key using the code numbers. If the code numbers aren't available, they can use measurements from either the key or your lock in order to create a working replica. Regardless of the route you go to create a new key, remember to create extra copies to have on hand in case you break your key again.