How to Drill out a Lock Fast and Easily

Losing a key can be a distressing situation. Here’s how you can regain access to anything without spending a fortune.
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Last updated: August 26, 2023
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Trying to learn how to drill out a lock is usually only reserved for aspiring locksmiths. After all, the everyday person would normally have their keys with them; failing that, they’ll resort to more drastic measures such as cutting the lock or hiring a professional for help. But what if you, the everyday person, have exhausted all of your options and decided to take matters into your own hands? Would learning how to drill out a cylinder lock or something similar really help you?

As it turns out, learning how to drill out any lock can be invaluable as long as you have the correct tools and patience to do it. If you’re careful and methodical about how you do it, you can successfully remove a lock when all other options have failed.

Preparation Before You Start

How to Drill out a Lock Fast and Easily
Examine the lock and get the proper equipment – a drill and a screwdriver. Also, do not forget about protection.

Drilling out a lock means that the lock is no longer usable once you’re done, so make sure you have a replacement in hand before you do it. Additionally, this option should be considered as your last resort because of the potential damage risks. For example, only learn how to drill out a storage cylinder lock if you’re prepared to cover any damage you cause should you be unsuccessful.

If you’ve tried everything else then let’s continue. First, make sure you have everything you need – your power drill, a pair of cut-resistant work gloves, a screwdriver, and your replacement lock (if you do need to replace it). Having everything within reach once you start working will help ensure the process goes smoothly.

How to Drill Out a Lock: Step-by-Step

Drilling out a lock is not a complicated process; you just need to be careful and methodical. Rushing your way through will only cause more problems. When summarized, the steps you need are:

  • Drill the guide hole
  • Use a small drill bit first to break the lock’s pins
  • Use another drill bit, this time larger, to further break the pins
  • Try turning the lock with a screwdriver to see if it opens
  • Use another larger drill bit to break through the lock and completely remove it

As you can see, you don’t need a lot of expensive tools to break a lock. As long as you own one of the best cordless drills, you already have a headstart. If you don’t already have one, now might be a good time to search for the best Dewalt drills. After all, you never know when you’ll have to learn how to drill out a barrel lock.

Make a Guide Hole

How to Drill out a Lock Fast and Easily
Use a punch or a bradawl to create the hole, which should be between the inner and outer ring of the lock and in the direction of the jagged side of the key.

As much as it’s tempting to just grab your drill and start drilling through, we need to make a guide hole first. Guide holes ensure that the drill bit won’t get damaged during operation, especially when drilling through hard materials. They also ensure that your drill bit won’t be making a hole anywhere else. This step is the same regardless of whether you’re learning how to drill out a disc lock or something else.

You can do this by using a center punch to mark where you want the drill bits to go later. Any power drill should be able to accommodate one, and you can even use a magnetic drive guide to make sure it doesn’t wobble. Drill the guide hole exactly where the key would usually go – you want to do it along the area where the “teeth” of the key would slot in.

Start with Small Bit

With the guide hole ready, grab one of your smaller drill bits such as the ⅛-inch one. Place it into your drill and drive it into the guide hole you made. You want to do this firmly but slowly; the idea is to use the drill bit to start breaking the lock’s pins. You know it’s working when you encounter some resistance for a short period before letting you through easily again. Keep doing this until you no longer feel any resistance, which should be after five or six pins.

Drill Slowly

How to Drill out a Lock Fast and Easily
It’s important to start at a low speed not to damage the lock. Then slowly increase the drill rotation.

We’ve already mentioned this earlier but we need to reiterate this: you must drill through the lock slowly. This is particularly important when trying to plan how to drill out a mailbox lock as you don’t want to damage what the lock is attached to. The smaller the lock, the more careful you need to be.

Ease of Use

Power drills are quite user-friendly. They have a simple interface and a straightforward purpose. Most people won’t be confused when trying to use one; it either rotates clockwise or counterclockwise.

Some brands even give you a few more options to make themselves easier to use. The best Makita drills, for example, can either be wired or cordless. Wired drills are great if you have a specific workstation to keep the drill close to a power supply; cordless drills are more mobile but have a limited time before needing a recharge. For drilling out locks, a cordless one might be a better option. You’ll have more freedom to move.

Increase Bit Size

Now that you’ve broken the first pieces of the lock’s pins, pull the drill back and start over again. Except for this time, we’ll be using a larger drill bit – preferably the next size up. Carefully drill into the lock again while paying close attention to the pins that you come across. You should encounter the same number of pins as you did during the first run.

Use a Screwdriver

How to Drill out a Lock Fast and Easily
Now that you’ve located the slot, you’ll need a flat-head screwdriver to press the release button inside the slot (these tend to be very small).

It’s time to give your drill a break and let the screwdriver do its work. At this point, there should be a hole large enough for the screwdriver to fit into. Place it in the lock and turn it as if you were using a key. If you were trying to learn how to drill out a file cabinet lock, now would be a good time to check with your screwdriver if your hard work has paid off. If it did, the lock would open; if it hasn’t, use a larger drill bit and drill through the lock again.

The number of times you have to drill the lock and how you do it depends on the kind of lock Trusted Source Types of Door Locks and Handles | News This article gives you an outline of different types of locks and handles you can use on your property. you’re dealing with; the more complex it is, the more work you have to do. Keep in mind that there are several types of locks Trusted Source Components of a Medeco 72S Lock | HomeSteady The cam is the part of the lock that latches the lock secure, and the base is the part where the key or tool is inserted to rotate the cam. Read on to learn more. and each one has a different mechanism than the other. The process of how to drill out a tubular lock is not going to have the same steps as drilling out mailbox locks.

Get Rid of the Lock

You’re finally almost done! Grab your drill again and insert the drill bit all the way through; feel free to use the same size drill bit as earlier. Once it’s in, set the drill in reverse so you can pull the lock out of its socket.

If you were reading this because you wanted to learn how to drill out a door lock, you should now grab your replacement door lock and install it immediately. The last thing you need is for your house or room to be vulnerable due to not having any installed locks.

How to Drill a Lock with a Key Jammed in

So far, we’ve covered how to drill out a lock and assumed that the key is lost. But what if, for example, you’re trying to open your safe but the key breaks, leaving a piece of it in the lock? In that case, you only need to worry about an extra step when learning how to drill out a lock on a safe.

If the key is jammed, it’s time to use the drill again. Drill through the lock until you reach the key, then use the screwdriver as support when turning the lock. It should hopefully open, but if not, it might be time to call in a professional locksmith.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to drill out a lock can be a money-saving skill to have. Locksmiths, though very helpful with their resources, can cost a lot of money to hire. If the lock is something simple and you have the tools to do the job, you should try your hand at it.

On the other hand, if the lock is something more complicated than your typical cylinder locks, you might just have to let the professionals do their work. Trying out how to drill out a deadbolt lock by yourself is not going to be worth it if you end up damaging your tools or your door. Some locks are simply more complicated than others; if they weren’t, then no one would be trying to help locksmiths.

Always know when to do it yourself and when to call a professional. Your wallet and your property will thank you.


Types of Door Locks and Handles | News
This article gives you an outline of different types of locks and handles you can use on your property.
Components of a Medeco 72S Lock | HomeSteady
The cam is the part of the lock that latches the lock secure, and the base is the part where the key or tool is inserted to rotate the cam. Read on to learn more.

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