Hey, secret agents! One of the really cool things about lock picking is you can start at home with no professional kit and get results quickly and in style.
The average house has around 30 locks in use, and with a bit of poking about in the garage and that drawer full of junk, you’ll find all sorts of locks that are no longer needed for any security purpose.
As long as you’re not trying to pick your front door or car and are, of course, staying legal, your journey to becoming a master lock picker can start today, from the comfort of your living room. Sound good? Let’s go.
U-Type Bicycle Locks
These locks were quite fashionable a few years ago but fell out of favour due to more secure alternatives. This means many people have them about, often missing the keys. They use a ‘tubular lock’, which is a small ring with the pins arranged in a circle inside the ring.
The keys are like a little tube with a handle. However, although they may appear secure, you can often open them with a piece of cardboard! As with the other locks, experiment!
Get a few different thicknesses of cards. They have to be thin enough to be able to roll into a tube but thicker than a sheet of cartridge paper. The inside of a toilet roll is perfect, and you can even double up if necessary.
First of all, find an object roughly the same size as the ring-type keyhole in the lock. A Bic Biro is the perfect size. Roll the card round the pen tightly, and use some tape to secure it. Slide the pen out, and you have a long thin tube of card. Now, see if this fits the circular keyhole.
If it’s too small or too big, make another one, adapting it as required to fit the lock. Once you have the right size, slowly insert one end into the circular keyhole, making sure to keep it straight so you’re not going in at an angle.
Once about 1 mm of the cardboard tube has entered the lock, you’ll feel the resistance of the pins. At this point, continue to push the tube into the lock, but turn very slightly left and right about 1 mm each way as you go. Continue this process until the lock opens.
If after a couple of tries it doesn’t work, try a thicker and thinner card. You’ll be surprised how many of these tubular locks will open like this, not just those on bicycle locks—similar locks are used on laptops and hotel safes. I have used this technique on holiday when I lost my keys and my passport was in the safe, and a friend once picked his tubular laptop lock with a rolled-up dollar bill!
Push Button Code Locks
One of the cool things about push-button code locks is, unless they’re super high security, the 4-digit code doesn’t need to be in any order. So if the code is, say, 3456, you can use 6543, 5436, 4356, etc.—any combination of those 4 digits. So to learn the code is quite easy.
Frequently, by looking closely at the buttons, with a magnifying glass, you can see which buttons are used the most. There will often be an oily residue of fingerprints on 4 of the buttons. Blowing a small amount of a fine powder, like custard powder, at the buttons can sometimes highlight this, and you’re in.
You can also work this in reverse, so to speak, by blowing a small amount of custard powder over all the buttons and leaving it for a day or two. When you return, the 4 buttons used most frequently will have had the powder rubbed off, meaning, you can now enter the 4-digit code and open the lock.
Small Cabinet and Desk Locks
Many pieces of household and office furniture have small locks on drawers. These are usually a type of lock called a ‘wafer lock’. These can frequently be opened with a hair clip. You need to use the type that have a wave pattern along one side.
To prepare the hairpin, pull the two ends apart to make it a V shape, rather than having the two prongs next to each other. Then, pinch the two prongs back together and insert the hairpin into the lock.
Once it’s all the way in, you should still have a small part of the hairpin sticking out. Grab this with a pair of pliers or an adjustable spanner, and turn left and right.
If the lock doesn’t open immediately, try moving the hairpin in and out while turning slightly left and right as you go. This is a technique called jiggling, and although special tools exist for more secure locks, many of these smaller wafer locks are vulnerable to a hairpin and this technique!
Interior Latch Doors
Many interior doors, such as the ones used on bathrooms and bedrooms, use a simple locking mechanism where you shut the door and turn a little knob to lock. The thing is, this often doesn’t lock the door; it just stops the handle from moving, meaning, you can’t get in until the person on the other side has turned the knob. This means, if you can access the latch that pushes into the door frame and prevents the door from opening, you can bypass the ‘lock’.
And here’s how you can. Get an empty plastic bottle, from, like, a litre of Coke or milk, and cut a rectangle out about the size of a large postcard. Bend a little triangle on one corner, about 1 cm deep, and that’s now bending up slightly. This will be your leading edge.
Then insert the tip of the triangle into the small gap between the door and the frame, just above the handle and where you think the latch will roughly be.
You may have to shuffle it up and down while pushing it in to get it round the right angles of the door frame. Once about half of the rectangle has been pushed through the gap, slide the entire piece down until you feel it hit the latch; now it’s just a question of using the piece of plastic to push in the latch.
You’ll feel the resistance of the latch, and if you can push it in, you’ll know because the rectangle of plastic will start to move. Tip: You need to be coming at the latch from the other side rather than straight down onto it, so use the angle of the rectangle to come at it from behind. Once the latch has been pushed into the lock, the door will open.
There are many types of combination locks, from the little three-figure ones found on briefcases and suitcases, to slightly larger ones used on gym bags or old bicycle locks. If you have a look about and find one, there are a variety of methods you can try. Basically, picking such locks relies on putting pressure somewhere on the lock, usually the shackle, and slowly turning the wheels, causing the lock to give away little ‘signs’.
Often it requires putting pressure on the shackle, pushing it into the body of the lock. Sometimes, it requires pulling the shackle. Occasionally applying pressure on both ends of the body, putting pressure on the wheels, is required.
As with all these hacks, experiment. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can learn. So you’re looking for telltale signs, such as a small click or even a ‘loosening’ of the wheel. For instance, if you put pressure on the shackle, pushing it into the body of the lock, you can one by one turn the wheels.
Often, one of them will offer more resistance than the rest. This is the one you start with. Turn the wheel slowly through all the numbers. You’re looking for a change in tightness or a sound—anything to suggest a change.
Once you feel you have located the correct number, move on to the next wheel that resists turning the most. Once you have gotten to the last wheel, with luck, the lock will open.