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Security Basics

How to Open A Padlock Without a Key | 2022

Posted July 22, 2020 by Cove

Blue shed locked with a padlock.

Have you ever locked something important in a box with a padlock on it? And then lost the key? And you didn’t even realize that it was lost until you had to open the box? Unfortunately, locks often thwart us in our desire to keep our personal property secure. It’s easy to forget the combination on a lock you never use, and it’s even easier to lose a small padlock key. So what do you do now? Well, you have a few options, and that’s what this post is all about.

This may seem like a strange thing for a security company to be writing about, but whether or not you’ve ever lost the key to a padlock, understanding how to pick a padlock can help you to become a more educated consumer when it comes to picking out locks for your home’s needs. In this post, we'll first outline some basic ways to open a locked padlock, and then we will discuss some of the features that make a padlock more secure.

Bolt cutters used for opening padlocks lying against a wooden fence post on a sunny day.

The Bolt Cutter Method

This is perhaps the quickest way to open a padlock when you are missing a key, but it, unfortunately, means that you will lose the use of the lock in the process. To open a lock using bolt cutters, position the shears on either side of the shackle (the u-shaped upper part of the lock). Squeeze the handles of the bolt cutters together until the shackle is severed, then remove the lock from the door or box you are trying to open. A wheel grinder can also cut through a steel lock pretty quickly, although this is quite noisy.

The Shim Method

A shim is a small piece of metal that is shaped in such a way that you can maneuver it into the top part of the lock, where the shackle meets the body. A padlock shim should have two thin sides, as well as a curved thicker part in the middle, You should insert the thicker part of the shim into the body and wiggle the shim back and forth inside of the lock until you hear the latch click. At this point, the lock should spring open and you should be able to access whatever materials you are trying to get to.

Lock Picking Method

There are several different ways to pick a lock. This method requires using a tool to manipulate the springs in the lock through the keyhole.

According to an expert lock picker, you will first begin picking the lock by taking a tension wrench and placing it at the bottom of the keyhole. With just the right amount of pressure, this causes the plug of the lock to rotate slightly, catching the first pin when you push it above the shear line with your pick. You will then use the pick and the tension wrench to complete the same feat for as many pins as are in the lock. You will need to move the pick back and forth in order to get it to catch all of the pins. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the wrench, as this can cause the lock not to open properly.

(Lock picking tips from: “How to Pick a Lock.” The Art of Manliness, March 12, 2022. https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-pick-a-lock-pin-tumbler-locks/.)

The Master Key

A master key is a key that can open multiple locks within a home. Master keys can be made by most locksmiths and are a bit more expensive than your average lock. You can have a master key made as a fail-safe in case you lose your primary key. If you have a master key, you can simply insert it into the lock and it should quickly click open. Some good places to purchase a master key include Ace Hardware, Walmart, and Target. Be aware that you may need to change many of the locks in your home in order to get the master key to work.

Call a Locksmith

If you have already tried most of the above things to get your lock to open, you should call a locksmith to get the lock off. It is likely that he will bring bolt cutters and simply replace the lock, but it is possible that he could make a new key for you, depending on the kind of lock.

Locksmiths are more familiar with opening locks than just about anyone. Locksmiths are trained professionals in the creation, installation, and repair of locks. Most locksmiths will charge 50-100 dollars to come and fix a door lock, and less to open a padlock. All locksmiths are required to complete some kind of training program and register with the state. Locksmiths are also required to purchase insurance for their business. If you find that you can’t get your lock open for the life of you, a locksmith is a person to go to.

Finding the Most Secure Locks

Ok, so hopefully this post hasn't totally ruined your sense of safety and well-being. There are several kinds of locks that can be used that are much harder for criminals to pick. Unfortunately, this also probably means that these locks are harder for you to pick as well, which can cause all kinds of problems if you lose the key or forget the combination. So, if you're going to get a heavy-duty lock, make sure that you have a secure and easy to remember location in which you can keep the combination of the key.

Padlocks come in differing sizes and levels of security. A simple thing you can do to get a little more security for your lock is to pick a lock with a thicker shackle, preferably steel. Some padlocks have thin shackles (occasionally made of wire), and these are extremely easy to cut through using an ordinary set of wire cutters or even a serrated knife or saw. A thicker steel shackle will require much more effort to cut through.

Another thing you can do that can protect against keyhole lock picking is to use a combination padlock. These are great because as long as you know the combination, you can open the lock without needing a key. These locks are still pickable using other methods, but it is much more difficult to do.

a Metal gate tied shut with a chain and padlock.

The Electronic Padlock: The Wave of the Future

Electric locks utilize one of two different kinds of technology to work: either magnets (these locks are referred to as electromagnetic locks) or motors. Either system uses electricity to power the lock and makes it possible for the lock to be much harder to access.

Electronic padlocks do away with the need for a key, instead responding to a magnet or a signal in a sort of fob that can be attached to your phone, your wallet, or your keys. A popular electronic padlock is the eGeeTouch smart padlock, which simply requires that you touch your fob to the padlock, and the padlock opens.

Some smart locks can now be integrated with home automation technology. Most of these are door locks rather than padlocks, but they offer a new kind of security. Some smart locks use fobs, and others require a combination to open.

a smoke detector, CO detector, two motion sensors, medical alert necklace, flood sensor, and door and window sensors

The Bottom Line: Your Security

At the end of the day, locks aren’t a 100% guarantee of safety. While they can act as a deterrent on some level, many criminals will still easily be able to get past a lock. This is why it can be a great idea to have a second line of defense against burglars. At Cove, we offer a variety of products to increase your home security:

  • Central Touch Alarm Panel: Cove’s central system a touchscreen control panel. Set up is quick and easy, and can take as little time as 10 minutes to finish. With 4G cellular monitoring, we’ll always have an eye on your home security, even if your phone lines go down.

  • Cameras: Cove offers a YI indoor camera with good surveillance capabilities, night vision, and motion activated sensors.

  • Motion Sensors: These sensors will detect movement within your home.

  • Door, Window, and Glass-break detectors: These will monitor any unusual activity around your doors and windows.

  • Environmental Detectors: Cove offers a fire detector, flood detection, freeze sensors, and carbon monoxide detectors. The freeze detector acts as a sort of smart thermostat to catch if your home drops below a certain dangerous level.

  • Medical Button: Cove is a full-life security system, meaning that we also want to take care of your health as well as your safety. With our medical button, you and your loved ones are just a touch away from emergency help.

  • Alarm Monitoring Service: Cove offers a professional monitoring service with all the benefits of a professional security system and for the price of a DIY system.

Each sensor and camera is individually priced if you build your own package, which has the potential to save you a lot of money in the long run. Cove also frequently has sales on equipment, which can allow you to build your ideal system for an even lower price.

Cove LiveAssist is available and linked through your touch panel, which means that you will always be able to reach the emergency personnel you need, whether it is a burglary or a medical emergency. Our team is available 24/7, and our system constantly monitors your home to ensure your safety.

You should always feel safe in your home. And we can help with that.

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