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How Do Locksmiths Open Doors? – Overview of The Techniques

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how do locksmiths open doors

When caught between a lock and a hard place, having lost your house key, you call your locksmith to jimmy open your doors without breaking it to enter your safe space.

Because of this, locksmiths might be the most trustworthy profession in the world!

So, how do locksmiths open doors?

This depends on the type of door, and the type of technique that a locksmith uses, which is on a case-to-case basis. But the general principle involves using different tools such as steel picks, half-diamond sticks, and even some power tools such as drills.

Locksmithing 101

Whether it is losing the keys to your front door, your car keys, or both, we all experience being unable to get out from a locked door. So, how does locksmith work to open it so easily?

A locksmith typically uses two main types of techniques in opening locked doors—destructive and non-destructive techniques.

  1. Destructive techniques involve permanently damaging the lock to open it making it essential for replacement.
  2. Non-destructive techniques are the opposite. It is ideal for locksmiths to use non-destructive techniques. Each technique requires some of the most common tools to open doors.

Manual and Automated Techniques

Locksmithing is indeed an old profession but also a necessary and adaptive one. With new technologies and automated security systems, locksmiths have had to veer from their usual lock picking techniques by hand (Manual) to system resets and reprogramming (Automated).

You will notice each method mentioned below will fall under a particular technique as we also answer the question of, what do locksmiths use to open doors?

1. Bump Keys Technique


One of the most common tools in unlocking your house door without a key is using a “bump key.”

A bump key is a locksmith’s oldest trick in the book that works best on common tumbler locks. It is applied inside the lock, where it realigns the pins to the correct position, allowing it to turn.

2. Picking the Lock


Another basic technique used by locksmiths to unlock a door is by lockpicking.

Lockpicking is usually done by single pin picking techniques using basic locksmith tools such as hooks and half-diamond sticks.

The tools are inserted into the lock, and the locksmith uses each pin to feel the pressure feedback from the pick and align it to the correct height individually. This technique usually takes more patience and skill.

3. Drilling the Cylinder Lock


Usually, a locksmith’s final attempt is to break into a locked door. This technique is also referred to as cylinder grilling, in which a drill is used to break the lock, allowing the locksmith to remove the cylinder lock.

4. Pulling the Cylinder Lock


This technique slightly differs from cylinder grilling, as it uses a specific tool often called a “bell” or a cylinder core puller to cleanly extract the cylinder lock. It is often used with the help of a drill and a screw.

5. Broken Key Extraction


When locks are broken, common causes are keys snapping in half, leaving locks with a piece of the key in it.

In this situation, locksmiths must first extract the broken key from the lock using a broken key extractor, similar to hooks and half-diamond sticks.

6. Reprogramming Security Systems

In automated security systems, malfunctions in technology should be met with solutions using technology. This requires your locksmith to know basic security system programming and the tools to reset your system.

Locksmith Hiring: Getting the Right Fit


Locksmiths in the United States generally cost around $100 to $225 per job, though opening-your-door prices vary.

Whenever you lose your key, get jammed out, or have any circumstances lock you out of your home, do not put yourself at risk. You should call a locksmith immediately.

A locksmith also offers services to replace the lock on your doors if ever they get broken, and most important of all, a locksmith will re-key or replace locks; it’s a win-win situation!

Here are some pointers to consider before choosing the best person that will unlock your car or unlock apartment doors:

1. Find Licensed and Reputable Locksmiths

Some states in the U.S. and other countries require a locksmith license to operate. Ask the locksmith for their identification and verify the company they represent.

2. Confirming Your Identity/Ownership

A licensed locksmith will confirm your identity and ownership of the property before lockpicking and opening your house or car doors. Use this as your gauge to check if your locksmith is legit.

3. Check your locks and keys

Get a good handle on the situation before calling your local locksmith. Ensuring you know, the problem will make the locksmith’s job faster.

4. Verify their website

If you are looking for a locksmith online, be wary of signs of scams and phishing. Easy to tell if a website is legit are its URL (or website link), contact details, privacy policies, and simple quality control such as correct grammar, spelling, etc.

5. Ask for a receipt

Legitimate companies are typically required by law to provide you with a receipt of a purchase or service. Do not pay until you are provided with a legal citation of the service provided.

Locked-out Don’ts


Before calling a locksmith, getting a handle on the issue at hand is good.

If you have the right tools and a simple extraction of a broken key is needed, you are good to go. However, some mistakes can cost you and your locksmith even more problems, making you wait longer and pay even more than necessary. Here are your locked-out don’ts:

1. Do not use a card

Movies often show this neat trick to unlock doors. This will simply damage the card you are using or even cause the card to get stuck in between.

2. Do not destroy the lock immediately

As we have mentioned, a good locksmith will try their best to find easier and more cost-effective solutions for you.

Breaking your lock will cost you an instant lock replacement and if you’re unlucky, an entire door replacement, not to mention you might get hurt.

3. Do not panic

Panicking will cause you to make the wrong decisions that can worsen your situation. Find solutions to your problem instead, check for open windows, ask for friends or family that may have spare keys, and finally, call a locksmith.

It is also good to be prepared for such situations by making new keys and placing spares in secure areas outside your home or car.

FAQs for Locksmiths

How fast can a locksmith open a door?

Locksmiths tend to assess the situation before trying out possible solutions to your problem. Depending on the complication of your lock, a locksmith can take just seconds to an hour. However, more complex issues that need bolder solutions, such as cylinder grillings, will take longer.

Are there any locks that locksmiths cannot open?

Common answers to this question from locksmith companies are safe or vault locks. The materials used for such locks are complicated and sturdy, not to mention illegal to perform in some countries.

Another example are those with biometric or fingerprint keys, which require the unique patterns of the person’s prints to open.

How much does it cost to open a locked door?

Prices may vary depending on your country of origin, but in the United States, the range is commonly $100 to $225 per job. Prices may also depend on hourly rates, the complexity of the job, and the tools required.


Locksmiths are more than yofur average handyman; they are your trusty companions in guarding and reentering the most intimate areas of your life.

Whether it is simple key extraction to opening deadbolt locks, the best locksmith will provide the ideal solution to your problem.

Whether you are reading this to find solutions to an issue or just to satisfy your curiosity on how do locksmiths open doors, it is actually quite surprising how complex locksmithing can be!

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