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How to Drill Out a Lock Cylinder – An Easy to Follow Guide

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to drill out a lock cylinder

Want to learn how to drill out a lock cylinder? Before you start drilling, place a center punch above the keyhole. After that, drill a hole through the cylinder of the lock. Drill again using a larger bit. Insert a flat-headed screwdriver inside the hole then turn it like you would turn a key.

You don’t need professional help to open your lock. This tutorial will guide you on drilling out lock cylinder. You just need to follow the steps carefully, and at the same time, use the items needed for the tutorial to successfully drill open a lock.

What You Need


Before you can proceed with drilling a lock, you must first have the right items. Some of these items are commonly stored in a toolbox. If you don’t have them, you can purchase them at hardware stores near you or you can borrow from your friends or your neighbors.

Drill driver and drill bit


You can use a variable-speed power drill for this tutorial. It includes an adjustable clutch that makes drilling versatile, especially when you are dealing with various bits. The available sizes of the drill are ¼-inch, ⅜-inch, and ½-inch. The size of the drill will depend on the size of the drill bit you will use.

When choosing a drill bit, you need to have the right one to prevent the bit from breaking. Since you will be drilling a metal, you can use high-speed steel. If it is a soft metal, you can use an HSS drill bit with a point angle of 118 degrees. For harder steel, use a drill bit with a point angle of 135 degrees.

In terms of the size, you need a ⅛-inch drill bit to make a smaller hole and a ¼-inch drill bit to create a larger hole. You need these specific sizes so you can break the cylinder of the lock.

Flathead screwdriver


A flathead screwdriver works for screws that have straight and linear notches. Compared to other screwdrivers, this one has a wedged and flat tip. It is commonly used for tightening and loosening screws. The available sizes of flathead screwdriver are ⅛-inch, 5/32-inch, 3/16-inch, ¼-inch, 5/16-inch, and ⅜-inch.

The size of the flathead will depend on the size of your lock. It must fit perfectly on the lock so that you can turn it properly. Using a flathead screwdriver with a tip that is too large for the lock will make it difficult for you to open it.

With this tool, you even can break an ignition lock easily.

Center punch and Hammer


The benefit of a center punch is that it provides indentation for drilling that can prevent the drill from veering off while you are doing the work. There are various types of center punches. However, use a prick punch tool since it has a sharper and narrower tip that can create a deeper hole.

As for driving the center punch, you will need a ball-peen hammer. With its domed and flat heads, it can exert the right force in driving the punch tool to the metal lock. A small ball-peen hammer is enough for the task.Read more: Breaking a lock with a hammer in no time.

Protective Goggles


To protect your eyes from metal filings, you need to wear a pair of goggles. Small debris can cause eye injury or a temporary loss of vision. You can use welding goggles since they can protect your eyes from the heat and they are strong enough against any metal debris.

Make sure that the pair of protective goggles fit your head perfectly so it won’t disturb you as you are drilling. Aside from that, it must provide you with good ventilation while you are doing the task.

What to Do


Step 1: Check if your lock can be drilled or not


Before you start with the tutorial, you must make sure that your lock can be opened through drilling. If your tubular has a hardened steel center pin or a middle pin with a ball bearing, drilling is an ineffective method to open your lock. You can consult your lock manual to know the components of your lock.

Recommended post: Ways to drill out a tubular lock without spending too much time.

Also, check if other mechanisms could prevent you from opening your lock by drilling. If your lock has an alarm, it is recommended that you disable it to prevent your neighbors from thinking that there is a burglary going on.

Step 2: Place a center punch above the keyhole


A center punch will serve as a guide as you drill a hole. To prevent the drill from moving in the wrong direction, create a point below the shear line of the lock that divides the inner and outer cylinder. See to it that the point is high enough so you can successfully drill through the pin tumblers.


If you are not sure where the exact position is to create a hole, you can use a lock-drilling template to make things easier. You can usually purchase this kind of template in hardware stores.

Step 3: Drill a hole through the cylinder of the lock


You can now drill a hole through the cylinder of the lock to destroy the pins inside. You will feel a resistance when the drill bit reaches each pin. Typically, locks have five tumblers but others have six or more. In case the drill binds because of metal filings, you should put the drill into reverse then pull it out.

Prevent breaking the drill bit by not pressing too hard or working too quickly. When it becomes difficult to drill through the pins, you can stop and lubricate the drill bit with oil or water.

Step 4: Drill again using a larger bit


After you have drilled a hole using a small drill bit, switch to a larger bit so that you can destroy more pins so that you can open the lock successfully. You can switch into a ¼-inch drill bit or a larger one. Once you are done creating a bigger hole, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Insert a flat-headed screwdriver inside the hole then turn it like you would turn a key


Insert the blade of the flat-headed screwdriver inside the hole that you made and turn it like you would turn a key. You will open the door if you have done the drilling correctly. In case the lock did not turn, you need to break the whole lock cylinder.

For you to destroy the entire mechanism of the lock, you need to switch into a larger bit. If you have a tubular lock, you will need a drill bit that is specifically designed for this kind of lock. Then, drill through the whole lock.


Do you enjoy our tutorial on how to drill out a lock cylinder? With these easy steps, you can open your lock even without your key. You can also follow this tutorial if you want to drill out a storage cylinder lock.

If you find this article helpful, you can share this post with your friends. This will also help them to open their locks in case of a lost key. You are also free to tell us about your thoughts and ideas as you do each step. Just leave a comment below.

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