How to Pick a Lock

Locked yourself out of the house? Most common pin and tumbler locks can be picked with a little luck and finesse—so before you call a locksmith, try this.

You will need

  • A paperclip or safety pin
  • A tension wrench (sometimes called a torque wrench)
  • A second paperclip

Step 1 Get a paperclip Get a paperclip or safety pin and bend it straight. Now make a slight upwards bend at the very end.

Step 2 Insert the wrench Insert your wrench into the lower part of the keyhole—that is, the side opposite the one where the key’s teeth would go in.

Step 3 Determine direction Figure out which way the lock needs to be turned to open by turning the wrench clockwise and then counterclockwise. You’ll feel which way has more give.

Step 4 Turn the lock Turn the lock the correct way with the wrench, putting slight pressure on it. Hold the wrench in place.

Step 5 Insert the paperclip While keeping pressure on the lock, insert the end of the paperclip into the top part of the keyhole.

Step 6 Feel for pins Feel around the keyhole with the paperclip until you locate the pins. If you’re picking a common door lock, there will most likely be at least five of them in a row.

Step 7 Push up Now for the actual ‘picking.’ One at a time, push each pin up with the paperclip. Try to feel for the moment when the pin reaches its ‘unlocked’ position. You should feel a slight give—or even hear a faint click.

Step 8 Increase the pressure As you go, apply slightly more pressure with the wrench until you have all the pins lifted up.

Step 9 Turn the wrench Now turn the wrench fully. Voila! The lock will pop open.

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