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How to Pick a Mailbox Lock? – Quick and Efficient Process

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to pick a mailbox lock

Imagine that you’ve just returned home and know you have important letters to check. However, you can’t find the key to open your mailbox, or for some reason, your key does not work. It’s annoying, but don’t worry!

This article will show you two methods of how to pick a mailbox lock. Although each method will have its limitations, in the end, they can both attain the goal of “opening the mouth of the mailbox”. In general, there are 3 main sections:

Facts About Mailbox


  • A high-security lock is rarely necessary due to the vulnerability of the mailbox itself. Most mailbox locks may be picked or forced open using basic destructive entry techniques by lock pickers. Mailboxes are usually opened via probing attempts that bypass the lock entirely.
  • Although it takes a key to open, they still produce kits to open a mailbox without a key so that you can open similar types of locks and easily store them. With the help of these kits, your success rate will be higher and you won’t have to destroy the mailbox’s physical structure.
  • If the problem is your key, understand that the lock’s principle of operation has been broken. The only way you can solve the situation is to break the lock or pry the lock.
  • Many mailbox locks are impossible to rekey. The typical practice if you lose your mailbox key is to replace your mailbox lock. A retention pin secures most mailbox lock cores, which cannot be removed without ripping the chamber cover.
  • If you don’t try to open a mailbox lock without a key, the locksmith would charge you around $30-35. Also, if you want to change the lock, you will lose the same amount. If you require an extra service to call them to your home, it will cost you somewhere around $10-15 extra. So, it’s your choice to continue reading this article on picking a mailbox lock.

Step-by-step Processes


1. Use a drill

This is the simplest and fastest way for me to pick a USPS lock. All you need is a screwdriver and a power drill. Drills that are portable or battery-powered are insufficient for this technique. You need an electric drill with a lengthy extension cable. The size of the drill head should be slightly larger than the keyhole. If you decide to go with this method, you will have to replace the lock, or the entire door of the mailbox if you apply too much force.

  • Step 1: Lubricate the lock (Optional).

This is a way to remove dirt and increase friction between the drill bit and the lock. You can use any type of lubricant, but in this case, the WD-40 hand spray lubricant is recommended. You can also use it for other occasions, like when a lock is frozen in winter.

  • Step 2: Remove the keyway dust cover.

Using a screwdriver to pry it open is the best way to apply enough force without damaging the other parts inside.

  • Step 3: Put your drill at the top of the keyhole at the point known as the larva. 

There will be about 4-5 pins in the mailbox lock, so drill until you hear and feel 5 distinct cracking sounds. Once you have successfully destroyed the pins, there is no need to drill too deep. You just need to use a screwdriver as a key to turn and unlock the mailbox without a key.

Friendly Note: You need to ensure the safety and quality of the drill, and be careful while drilling because a drill that is too thin will easily break. On the flip side, you do not want the drill to be taking up all the space and preventing you from putting in another one.

2. Use hairpin or paperclips

  • Step 1: Gather your supplies

Two hairpins: One will function as a wrench, applying pressure to the lower pins and turning the spindle. The other will act as a pick, lifting the pins and forming the hairpin.

A pair of pliers: Many people believe that we do not require the use of pliers. However, I found that this will assist you in bending or straightening segments of the paperclip without injuring your hand.

  • Step 2: Adjust the hairpin’s form

First, straighten the paperclip into a long metal bar with the plier. Second, put the paperclip about a centimeter into the keyhole. Then, using only a few millimeters of the tip, bend the remainder of the paperclip to the left for around 45 degrees.

Third, use the tension wrench, which is the second paperclip and bend roughly one-fourth or third of the paper clip using the plier. Then, flatten the loop that develops when you bend it with the plier. Make an L shape out of half of the component that you’ve just built, including the piece it was placed on.

  • Step 3: Choose a rotational direction

To test the spindle’s flexibility, insert the wrench into the keyhole. If the key does not move while the spindle is rotated clockwise, the spindle will rotate in the other way. After determining the rotational direction, set the wrench at the lowest point and place it on the shear line. The wrench will now function as a lever.

  • Step 4: Determine the pins’ positions

Place the pick in the deepest position. To establish contact with the pins, just turn the bent tip upward. For optimal results, be sure to apply enough force. You want the pins to align with the shear line. Slowly repeat this process a few times to ensure you hear the tinkling from the springs of the pins.

  • Step 5: Pull the pins up

Ensure that the wrench remains set at the shear line. Insert the pick while keeping the tip up. Then, start pushing up the first pin. Since all of the pins will be on the upper portion of the lock, concentrate on that area. To drive the pin into position, gently shake the pick until it snaps into place. You’ll need to pay attention to hear the “click” sound to determine if it fits properly. When your pin is released and no longer stops the spindle, you’ll hear this sound.

  • Step 6: Pull the remainings

Your spindle will revolve a little when the first pin is freed. When you hear a “click,” you know the pin is fully pushed up. If not, it may revert to its previous place, forcing you to repeat the operation. That’s how you pick a mailbox lock with a bobby pin.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you don’t have a drill, try to pick a mailbox lock with a knife by inserting a thin one, or scissors, and turn it like a key.
  • If you are picking a lock with a drill, use lubricant to make it slippery so you can insert the tools more easily.
  • If you are picking with hairpins or paperclips, use a decent quality one that is thick but not too thick and long enough.
  • If possible, negotiate with the postman when you have a problem or need to change the lock.
  • If you often have the same problem, save the locksmith’s contact information or get yourself an unlocking kit.
  • If it all seems a little confusing, go ask for help from your neighbors. Just a friendly note in case you are panicking.
  • If you buy a new lock, make a duplicate key and keep it in a secret place because making a new key will be more affordable than buying a new mailbox.


The above article is my experience and many others that I have compiled to help you. In addition to information on how to pick a mailbox lock, I provided helpful tips to help you visualize how your mailbox works. Do not worry because, with only very familiar items that you can find in your home or garage, you will easily open the mouth of the mailbox. Fingers-crossed!

If you would like to find out more information on a similar topic, such as finding a suitable mailbox or tips on keeping your keys in a safe place, do not hesitate to email us at the address below or leave a comment. We will try to respond as soon as possible.

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