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How to Take the Lock Off a Water Meter – Here’s What To Do

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to take the lock off a water meter

Your water meter isn’t working, you know where the problem is, and you want to fix it yourself. But you run into another problem: you can’t open the lid of the water meter. Water meters and other home appliances such as electricity and telecommunications are protected by barrel locks, not standard pin tumbler locks.

A box of unlocking kits can cost several tens of dollars, and so does calling a locksmith. But don’t worry! Today I will show you how to take the lock off a water meter with tools you already have at home. It sounds hard to believe but trust me, it will work. In general, our step-by-step instruction includes three main parts:

  • Mechanism
  • Step-by-step process
  • Pro tips

How Barrel Locks Work


Many people often confuse barrel locks with similarly shaped locks like tubular or cylinder locks. But barrel locks are much more impressive than that. I am not sure when they were born and who invented them. But what I care about is their quality. Their springs are quite heavy (partly because the material is made of high-strength metals such as stainless steel, copper, chromium, …). That also increases their durability, allowing them to last outdoors, withstanding the effects of the environment for decades. And finally, to open it, you need to use a specially designed key that looks like a screw, which means it is not easy for water meter lock removal. Therefore, I think the above are the main reasons that electricity and water companies use this type of lock for operational security. Because it has a similar shape, the screw is also the item I chose to support us in unlocking the water meter lock today.

The unlock process could be completed when the key attaches and modifies the springs that hold the ball bearings. After that, the lock barrel becomes removable. Since the inside cylinder works as a bolt, it prevents the pivot and other similar components from rotating. Your lock is now loose.

The ability to pivot inside a confined housing makes barrel locks harder to pick. The key connects and binds the barrel when fitted, causing the key to relieve the tension on the ball bearings.

Because this mechanism is connected to the exterior of the wall in certain locations, the clamp on a water meter is built as a ring to avoid unnecessary dismantle and weather factors, including liquid or debris. Besides that, this is also true for network equipment, where a lock on the water meter is utilized to minimize break-ins and data breaches on modems and CATV systems.

Step-by-Step Process


Step 1: Find a suitable screw

The screw will act as a water meter lock removal tool, so you need to treat this step as if it were the most important. The reason is easy to understand: a screw that is too large will not be able to fit into the keyhole, while a smaller one will not make contact with the wall of the shaft. For that reason, you probably can’t manage to release the balls by applying pressure on the clutch and pulling it out.

You can adjust the size of a mismatched nail by smoothing the serrations on the wall, but don’t sand it completely, since it will lose friction with the cylinder. That grinding also helps to reduce bad physical effects on the quality of the inside of the lock such as scratches or breakage. Next, use a hand grinder to grind the tip of the screw so that the body of the screw comes into contact and creates more friction with the cylinder.

Here is a tip that I was introduced to. I’m not sure removing the water meter lock will work, but you can try the same steps with items like a screwdriver or an iron core. Wrap their tips in a piece of plastic or something to create serrations, which are similar to the appearance of a real screw.

Step 2: Place the screw

This step is simple but you still need to be careful. Since the internal cylinder of a barrel lock consists of sections with different diameters, inserting the screw too quickly will damage the structure of the lock. Instead, you need to feel the screw movements and insert them slowly until it touches and fits into the deepest part of the keyhole.

Step 3: Rotate the screw

You will now need to use a screwdriver to turn the screw as it is firmly seated in the bottom of the key hole. You have to feel the screw movements, rotate it until you feel it in the right joint, which can be felt with a distinct sensation. If it rotates but does not enter the cylinder or slips out, it means that you have inserted the screw into the wrong depth. All you need to do is take it out and do step 1 again. When you do this again, you can try putting the wall of the screw in more contact with the shaft to make sure it’s in the correct sequence.

Step 4: Release the screw

The cylinder is always placed at the bottom of the housing and fits perfectly inside. When the cylinder is taken out, the narrower tip allows the balls to slide a little lower while still blocking them from dropping underneath. At this moment, the surface of the housing is flat enough to lock off the water meter. With such a technique, you may simply relock it by entering the screw and pressing it back to its original position. Following that, the ball bearings would be mechanically forced up to the locked position by the bigger diameter component of the cylinder.

Pro tips:

  • Check the current quality of both the snail and the water meter. If either one shows signs of physical damage, the water meter barrel lock removal process can be difficult.
  • Do not oil if the screw is stuck. Unlike the way to open the type in a normal lock, the screw, in this case, may slip out if you do.
  • Check the size of the lock before unlocking it. This will help limit trying multiple screws.
  • Check the bottom of the lock or around it. It may have lock specifications as well as manufacturer information.


Before performing this unlocking process, you need to make sure that the area you live in does not have laws related to safety guidelines that prohibit unlocking water meters. If you get caught, you’ll be in big trouble. It is easy to understand, water meters control the operating parameters of the water source of an entire house, of a certain area.

That aside, you need to be careful with metal components because they can conduct electricity. It is necessary to take electrical safety measures during implementation. To remove a water company lock is a difficult task that takes practice. But that practice should apply to a removable barrel lock rather than directly to the water meter. It will be difficult but entirely possible. Good luck to you. If you want to know anything related to a similar topic on how to take the lock off a water meter, feel free to leave a comment or send us an email.

Read more: Tips to remove a gas meter lock and a electric meter lock.

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