How To Pick A Door Lock: A Complete Guide

You don’t plan to slam the front door without taking the home keys you left in your coat pocket. You just wanted to catch the bus. You’re back now and you have to get in somehow. Knowing how to pick a door lock is your saving grace in situations like this.

If it’s a spring-latch door knob, grab an old credit card or gift card and insert it in the space between the door and the frame. Slide the card up and down while pushing the door forward, and turn the knob until the door opens. 

Door locks have different mechanisms for safety so one lock picking method may not work for the other. This informative blog post goes over the basics of picking common door locks to help you in emergencies.


Can You Really Pick A Door Lock?

You can pick a door lock. I consider it a life-saving skill everyone should have. Your door may lock once it is jammed, or you may forget your key inside while you are outside, and the skill that will come in handy is lock picking. 

Pins are designed for lock picking, and the art gets easier using them. Anyone can learn lock picking. Locksmiths are professionals trained in lock picking; they have licenses to lock pick.

Bear in mind that not all door locks can be picked because of the lock design technicality. However, learning to pick locks will not be wasted because the skill can come in handy anytime, anywhere.

You can use several items, such as bobby pins, lock picks, paperclips, and homemade lock clips to pick a door lock.

What Can I Use To Pick A Door Lock?

You can use several items, such as bobby pins, lock picks, paperclips, and homemade lock clips to pick a door lock. However, not all tools will work for your door. Before picking a lock, you must understand the kind of lock mechanism the padlock houses so you can pick it with the right tool. 

5 Ways To Pick A Door Lock

Below is a list of some of the picking tools and ways you can pick a lock:

1. Lock Pick Sets

Lock picks are tool sets that are designed for picking locks, especially the pin tumbler lock. A tension wrench works hand-in-hand with a lock pick.

You use the lock pin to lift pins to the correct height while using the tension wrench or torque bar to apply pressure to the plug that binds the pins and rotate the plug after you pick the lock.

2. Bobby Pins

Bobby pins are lock picking tools that can come in handy when the lock picks sets are unavailable. Bobby pins are used on wide-open keyways; they are not suitable for tiny or paracentric keyways. 

3. Paperclips 

Paperclips are another handy lock-picking tool that you can use for lock picking. Paperclips are not suitable for narrow airways and absolute warding. You will need a lock pick and tension wrench tools to pick a lock with paper clips.

3. Lock Bumping

To bump a lock, you will need a bump or 999 key. A bump or 999 key is a key that is specially designed for lock bumping. All the cuts on the key are cut to the maximum depth of 9. You can turn any key into a bump key.

Bump pins are forcefully used to bump pins; this causes pins to jump to the shear line, which is their right position. 

When you insert the bump key into the lock, slightly pull it back and turn it a little, then hit it with a bump hammer or with your hand. Every hit pushes the key’s cut into the pins and throws them upward towards the shear line.

4. Loiding Or Shimming

When you loid or shim a lock, you use a thin tool such as a credit card, latch slipping tool, or knife to bypass the spring latch of a door lock. To successfully use the tool, you must know the latch slant’s direction. 

You can tell from the sides your hinges are located; if they are not on your side, then the slant is opposite you.

Common Types Of Door Lock And How To Configure Them

Let’s consider common types of lock mechanisms, how to recognize them, how they are configured (e.g., if they have pins, wafers, levers, or discs), and how to pick them without a key.

1. Pin Cylinder

Pin cylinder locks are an ancient lock and the most widely used lock today. Pin cylinder lock was popularized by Linus Yale Jr. in 1851 after the Pyramids of ancient Egypt had wooden locks that were similar to pin cylinder. Linus Yale Jr. patented his locks, and it was all known. Today, people call his locks “Yale” because of how they spread.

The lock has a central core or `plug’ that must rotate to open. A series of pins: the top, or `driver pin,’ and the bottom, or `key pin’ prevents the plug from turning. 

When you insert the right key, the split between the top and bottom key lines up along the end of the plug where the house lock meets it (shear line), and the plug turns, and the lock is open.

To pick this lock, you need to get the split in the pin pairs to line up along the shear line. Once you get the plug to rotate, the lock will open.

2. Pin Tumbler Locks

Pin tumbler locks use different lengths of pins to be locked, except you insert the correct key. This kind of lock mechanism is mostly found in cylinder locks; it is widely used and can be found in cars, mailboxes, front doors, and gun locks, among other places. 

Like the popular Yale lock, the pin tumbler lock has a pair of pins – the driver and key pins. These pins must be lined up in a sheer line for the plug to rotate and the door to open. 

When you insert the key into the plug, the pins are raised to a particular location, and the driver pins no longer obstruct the shear line.

The long, thin pieces of metal with curved ends of different shapes for different types of locks are built to pick the pins in cylinder locks. There are two methods of picking the tumbler lock: 

Single Pin Picking

In single pin picking (SPP), lock pickers pick one pin at-a-time, and they refer to it as proper lock picking. To successfully pick a lock with this technique, you must pay close attention to the lock’s internal mechanism, from applying the correct turning pressure to the binding of the pins.

Although single pin picking requires a lot of time to learn and practice, paying attention to the internal mechanism reduces the tendency to destroy the lock from erratic movement. 

Use a hook pick to lift and set the pins accordingly and a tension wrench or turning tool to apply pressure to the plug while picking the pins individually.  


In raking, you work all the pins at the same time. Raking is a good technique for beginners learning how to pick pins. It requires little practice, and you are good to go. 

Most standard lock picks can be used for raking; however, they are rakes explicitly designed for this method. Some current lock pick sets will have tools designed for raking with a turning tool to work on the driver and key pins.

How To Pick A Door Lock

3. Lever Locks

The lever lock is another famous and widely used lock next to the pin cylinder lock. Robert Barron, an Englishman, designed his `Double Lever Lock’ in 1788, and it became so popular and earned the name `Chubb locks.’

Lever locks use a sequence of levers with cut-aways or gates that need to be lifted to different heights to allow the bolt stump to move and unlock the door. They are mostly found in domestic front doors or padlocks.

When you insert the key and turn it, the various height cuts on the key will lift all the levers to the right height, which properly aligns to give a through which the stump can move. 

As you turn the key, the levers are raised, the bolt thrower, which is the last cut on the key, moves at the same time with the bolt, and since the gates are lined up, the bolt and stump freely move, withdrawing into the house and opening the lock.

Lever locks can have a variety of levers, or more than two or three lever locks can be found on a lock inside a house and five or more on the outside door; regardless of the number of levers and variety, the picking principle is the same. 

4. Wafer Locks

Wafer locks are not as popular as pin cylinder or lever locks; they can mostly be found in cars, drawers, lockers, and some padlocks. The picking technique of wafer locks is close to the pin cylinder. 

In pin cylinders, you use springs to push obstructions into the housing of the lock, which stops the plug from turning, but in wafer locks, you use a series of single flat pieces of metal called wafers, instead of pins, as in pin cylinder.

There are both single and double-sided wafer locks, but for quick understanding, you should start with a single-sided wafer lock – the kind you will find on a locker. You can use the same pick sets for pin cylinders for wafer locks.

5. Warded Locks

Warded locks are not a common lock. They are mostly used for historical referencing to maintain ancient aesthetics. The warded lock mechanism has a simple mechanism which is why the key is not widely used because of the lack or little security it offers.

Warded locks are highly unsafe; if you can reach the back of the lock, you can rotate the mechanism and unlock it. Although many skeleton keys have emerged, the original `skeleton key’ was designed for warded locks.

The name – skeleton key came about as a result of the key being stripped of its blade, leaving just a turning tool. 

The metal barriers or `wards’ in the lock stops you from getting to the back of the lock. When you insert the right key, you can turn the lock without hitting the obstructions, which are the wards, unlike the pin or wafer lock that obstructs you from getting to the turning mechanism. 

The skeleton key leaked the security weakness of the warded lock because with the bare body of the key, there will be no obstruction, and the turner can reach the end of the lock, and then you can unlock the mechanism.

6. Disc Detainer Locks

Emil Henriksson invented the disc detainer locks in 1907 and manufactured them under the company he founded some years later – the Abloy brand. The lock mechanism is a slotted rotating detainer disc. 

When you insert the right key, the disc rotates like the tumblers until the slot aligns, allowing a sidebar to drop into the slots and the lock opens.

Disc detainers are mainly used outside under harsh conditions where water, sand, or salt will not easily destroy. Although many copies of the disc detainer lock can be easily picked, the Abloy brand still manufactures the safest and higher security disc detainer lock.

Disc detainer locks require strong or high-quality picks to maneuver their high security; otherwise, your tool can become bent or broken. You can use the common tools for tumbler locks.

How Do You Pick A Locked Bedroom Door?

If your bedroom door is a push-button lock, take two paper clips and straighten one of them. Bend it to 90-deg to form a wrench. Take the other one and bend it into a rake using a plier. Insert the pins into the doorknob hole and turn to open the lock.

The first step to picking a lock is to determine the lock type. Knowing the kind of lock mechanism informs you of how the lock works, its configuration, and its right picking tool. Your bedroom door is an interior door that houses a push-button or twist-button lock. 

Picking A Push-Button Lock

Open a paperclip. Put the wire into the hole in the doorknob’s middle. Be sure to maintain alignment by inserting the paperclip or clothes hanger’s edge directly into the hole. Once the lock has been forced open, turn the doorknob.

Picking A Twist-Button Lock 

You’ll insert a flathead screwdriver into the slot on the outside knob. Ensure the screwdriver is straight, then slowly it clockwise. For the door to open, you have to turn the screwdriver about a quarter of the way, and if it passes and the door does not open, you will have to retry or change the screwdriver.

How Do You Pick A Door Lock With A Screwdriver?

Screwdrivers are used on the inside door lock (privacy lock); it works on a doorknob with a tiny hole. A flathead screwdriver is a type that can fit a small hole on the doorknob. There are two types of doorknob: button-lock and thumb-turn.

For a button-lock door knob, push the screwdriver straight into the hole until you hear the click sound, which will open the door.

Also, for a thumb-turn doorknob, put the screwdriver into the hole and turn it until it falls into a slit. Continue to turn the screwdriver until you hear a click.

How Do You Pick A Door Lock With A Credit Card?

A credit card works on a spring-latch door knob which has to be on an exterior door, and the door hinges must be facing you. Ensure that there is a little space between the room and the doorframe.

It will be challenging to shim a lock with a credit card when there is no space. To loid a lock with a credit card, turn the credit card between the doorframe and the lock until you hit the spring latch.

Keep pushing the card into the latch; once it is fully withdrawn, the lock will give way, and the door will open.

How Do You Pick A Door Lock Without A Key?

When you do not have your key with you, they are several ways you can open your door lock without a key, which are:

Use Pick Sets

Pick sets are thin, long metal pieces designed for lock picking. So without a key, you can open a door lock with a pick tool, depending on the lock mechanism.

Remove Door Hinges

Removing the hinges on the door is one way to open your door without pick sets or shim tools. However, this can only be possible if you have the hinges on your side of the door. Door hinges are usually removed with a screwdriver and hammer. 

Warning: Do not put the hinges on the outside for absolute security.

Destructive Entry

Destructive entry usually arises in cases of emergency. There are situations you may find yourself in, and you have to do whatever it takes to have access to your house, maybe to rescue your children or spouse – at that point, you would not mind taking this step; so far, your family is safe.

Kick In Door

Kicking the door is another option but be sure you are making the right decision, especially if it is not a case of emergency. Not all doors can be kicked; kicking a metal door will be fruitless. 

If the hinges are outside the door, consider removing them.

Call A Locksmith

You can call a locksmith who is a professional in lock picking. They have a license to lock pick and the right tool for every locking mechanism. 

Can You Pick A Door Lock With Scissors? 

Picking a lock with scissors is very easy, but you must be careful not to injure yourself while picking. 

  • Thrust the pair of scissors into the lock’s hole (use smaller scissors with a thin blade so that they can fit into the hole). Secure the scissors in your hand and gently apply pressure.
  • Turn the scissors counterclockwise till the lock opens.

When Should I Call A Locksmith?

If you’ve lost or forgotten your keys, you can call a locksmith to help you out. They can make new keys for you and also repair any damage that may have occurred while they were lost (such as replacement door locks). 

If your doors seem jammed or broken, the first thing to do is check if there are any obstructions in the way before trying to open them yourself. If there aren’t any obstructions, then try calling a professional so they can take care of the problem right away before any damage occurs. This service will cost you money but it’ll save you stress.

Frequently Asked Questions On How To Pick A Door Lock

What Is The Easiest Way To Pick A Door Lock?

The easiest way to pick a door lock is to understand the type of lock mechanism your padlock houses (either for an interior or exterior padlock). By that, it will be easier for you because you will be using the right tool for the lock mechanism. 

How Do You Pick A Door Lock Without A Tool?

Lock picking without a tool is nearly impossible because the make of your door material may be so strong that you cannot kick it down (which is the only way you can open your door without a tool), so you must need pick sets or household items.

What Household Items Can You Pick A Lock With?

Several household items can come in handy when picking a lock. They include a bobby pin, hairpin, paper clip, toothpick, credit card, screwdriver, stiff bits of wire, and many more. You can be creative about it. Look around your house; you will always find a house item that will salvage you at that point. 


Lock picking is a great skill. This article has explained different kinds of lock mechanisms, how they are configured, how it works, and what tool is the most suitable.

Lock picking is learnable with constant practice. You learn lock-picking with the right intention – someday, your skill might come in handy, and you will be glad that you saved yourself or somebody else from damaging the door or paying a high price to a locksmith.

Leave a Comment