Bike Lock Jammed? – How to Stop Your Lock From Jamming

All cyclists know there’s nothing as frustrating as when your bike lock has jammed. Fumbling around in the dark, whilst trying to find the keyhole of your bike lock can be bad enough. But it can completely ruin your day if your bike lock has jammed and you can’t get it to unlock. 

So how can I release a jammed bike lock or how can I prevent my bike lock jamming in the future?

This short article will teach you how to fix a jammed bike lock, as well as the basic maintenance required to prevent your lock jamming in the future.

Don’t worry if your bike lock is already jammed. Below you’ll learn the easiest steps to release a jammed bike lock. I’ll have you back on two wheels in no time.

You may also be here because your bike lock frequently jams, in which case use the table of contents to navigate the second section. Where you’ll find the best bike lock maintenance tips. 

Table of Contents

 

Has Your Bike Lock Jammed? – How to Release/Remove a Jammed Lock

 

 

If your bike lock has jammed, then we will have to do a bit of fiddling to find out what the problem is. It’s worth attempting the steps below before purchasing a new bike lock, as most of the time these simple steps are all that’s needed to release the jammed lock.

To locate the cause of the jam, insert the key into your bike lock and attempt to rotate the key and release the shackle. If you are unable to insert/twist your key, then you can assume that the locking mechanism of your bike lock is jammed.

Jammed Bike lock diagnosis how to unjam your bike lock
(Click to enlarge)

If you have been able to insert and fully rotate your key, then the cause of the jam is most likely the body/shackle of your lock. It’s common for a shackle to become worn and corroded, which can cause the lock to jam shut. 

Once you’ve found out the cause of the jam, scroll down to the relevant section below! As stated above the two parts of your lock that can cause issues are the locking mechanism and the lock’s body/shackle.

I’ve used a D lock in my images, just as an example. Carry out the same steps with the lock you’re using!

(Click to enlarge)

The Body/Shackle of My Bike Lock Is Jammed

If you can fully insert your key into the bike lock and the mechanism twists as it normally would, then the problem is most likely the shackle/body.

The first thing to do when any bike lock jams, is to spray WD-40 into all of the areas with moving parts. Locking mechanism, and the body/shackle. It’s important to note that WD-40 is not a lubricant and we are simply doing this to break down and flush out dirt and grime.

Once you have applied the WD-40, leave it for a good while before attempting to open the bike lock again. 

This period allows the WD-40 to loosen any rusted parts and remove any foreign particles from inside the lock.

How to stop your bike lock jamming Using WD-40 to unjam your bike lock
(Click to enlarge)

It’s now worth trying to open the lock again, as sometimes WD-40 will be all that’s needed. So insert the key and see if you’re able to release the shackle

If your bike lock has been left out in the elements or is old, it could be badly corroded together inside. This time you’ll be allowed to get some payback on your lock!  

If after attempting the above steps your lock is still jammed, it’s worth using a hammer to strike the locks shackle. A small sharp blow is often enough to separate the corrosion inside the lock and it should separate.

Be careful when using the hammer, not to strike any plastic parts of the lock. This will most likely break them and you may end up having to purchase a new lock.

(Click to enlarge)

Normally, these steps will be enough to release your jammed bike lock. In some cases, the lock may be severely corroded, especially if it’s been exposed to the elements for a long period of time. 

If the above steps haven’t worked, and you’ve repeated them several times, it’s time to remove the lock. 

Most people don’t have the tools needed to remove/open a jammed bike lock. However, your local bike shop will. Try contacting a few cycle shops, it’s likely they’ll be able to help. Most shops will charge a small fee for this service, but at least your lock will no longer be jammed!

If you had to remove the lock with force, it’s probably time to get a new one. Check out my list of the best D locks for some super-secure recommendations, that won’t jam on you!

The Internal Mechanism of My Bike Lock Is Jammed

If your key does not insert fully into your lock, this is probably why your bike lock is jammed! Make sure to apply plenty of WD-40 into the keyhole. This, as stated above, will flush particles and grime from the inside of the lock and may be all that’s needed.

If you are still unable to insert the key into the lock properly, then the cylinders may be out of line. Attempt to insert your key into the locking mechanism, twisting gently from side to side, this will normally re-align the cylinders. 

Using a picking tool (or similar object), you should be able to push these back to their original position, and that should allow you to insert the key fully. You can also use a picking tool to remove any dust or debris.

When inserting any object into your lock’s cylinder, don’t be rough. You don’t want to cause any damage.

 

If you carried out the above steps, you should now be able to insert your key. If you’re still unable to do so, keep applying WD-40 (in bursts) with the keyhole facing downwards. This will help remove any unwanted debris from inside. 

If you can fully insert the key into the mechanism but it won’t fully turn or it won’t turn at all, then more WD-40 is needed. Apply a few squirts into the locking mechanism and gently wriggle the key around inside. This will encourage the lock to loosen.

(Click to enlarge)

Make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure with the key, as this can cause it to snap and you’ll be left with a bigger challenge! After repeating this enough times, the mechanism should begin to turn/loosen.

If you live in a particularly cold country or it’s winter, there is a possibility that water may have frozen inside your lock. If this is the case, you will need to get rid of the ice before trying again. 

If it's particularly cold where you live, try warming your lock up. If there's ice inside it will encourage it to melt.

Breathing into the lock can be enough to melt any ice in there, or if it is possible, take the lock inside and allow it to warm up. This should then have solved your problem and you should be able to fully insert and twist the key to unlock your bike!

Make sure that you apply teflon based lubricant to the all parts of your lock once you’ve managed to get it open. 

Once you’ve unjammed your bike lock, you’ll want to follow the steps below to precent it jamming again.

How to Stop Your Bike Lock Jamming In The Future

Anything which contains moving parts can become worn, and without the correct care, these moving parts can seize up and stop operating properly. The majority of bike locks are operated using a key, which releases a shackle and allows the lock to be opened.

For the key to open the bike lock the locking mechanism must rotate. If you can’t get your key into the hole or it simply won’t rotate, then this must be the cause of your bike lock jamming.

Excessive corrosion can cause moving parts to seize up, or even fuse together.
(credit - bobu flickr)

If you’ve managed to insert and twist your key as normal, then the problem is most likely where the two parts of the bike lock join together.

A build up of rust, dirt and debris could be the reason your bike lock has jammed. If you’ve left your bike locked up for a long time, the elements can take their toll on your lock and cause it to seize up in a number of different ways.

The steps below can be followed to prevent this from happening to your lock and should keep your bike lock operating smoothly.

The Best Bike Lock Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini
(Click to enlarge)

1. Purchase a Good Quality Bike Lock

Cheap bike locks are less expensive for many reasons. Most of the time cheap bike locks are poorly designed and made with substandard materials. It’s well worth avoiding these as they will deteriorate much quicker than a quality bike lock would. 

Cheaper locks will frequently jam, so it’s just not worth it. Sooner rather than later you’ll have to buy yourself a new bike lock, and if this is repeated it can become rather costly!

A cheap bike lock is more likely to jam due to the use of poor quality materials. You'll be better off buying a decent lock in the lock run if yours looks anything like this.

Your best bet is getting a good quality bike lock from reputable manufacturers (Kryptonite, ABUS, Onguard) These well-known brands have been producing top of the range, reliable locks for years and are far less likely to let you down. 

The best bike locks also have features that prevent them from deteriorating, meaning they will last longer and ultimately provide a better level of protection for your bike!

If you don’t already have one and your bike lock is starting to jam on you, it’s time for a new lock. 

Kryptonite have been producing incredibly secure locks for over 40 years now!

If you’re looking for one of the best quality bike locks, bear kryptonite in mind. They are one of the most reputable bike lock and security companies and have built their excellent reputation during their 40 years of trading.

Kryptonite offer a wide range of locks for all scenarios. Kryptonite D locks are well known for their strength and security.

Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini Sold Secure Gold Bike Lock

I’ve used the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini for years now and it hasn’t jammed once! Have a look at how it compares with the best D locks.

Kryptonite bike locks are designed to resist corrosion. Many of them feature weatherproofing coatings, which keep the internal moving parts clean and stops your bike lock jamming.

A good quality bike lock will also feature a key cover. Key covers slide over the locking mechanism to prevent debris from entering the keyhole. This will keep your lock functioning properly and prevent it from jamming. 

Kryptonite Fahgettboudit Mini LED key fob
The LED keys supplied with most kryptonite locks are super helpful when operating your lock in the dark!

The best bike locks will come with good quality keys. Some of the locks in the Kryptonite range come with super bright LED lights attached to the keys. This will save you from fumbling around in the darkness, and if your lock is jammed it will help you discover the cause of the jam.

2. Clean and Lubricate Your Bike Lock

A high-quality lock won’t require much maintenance, but you should make sure that your lock stays clean and well lubricated so that the chance of a jam occurring is reduced significantly.

How to Clean Your Bike Lock

There are two parts to any bike lock, the Internal Locking Mechanism and the Body. The Internal Locking Mechanism is the technical part of the lock and is normally the cause of most jams. The body of a bike lock is all of its external features such as the shackle/chain or the outer housing of the locking mechanism. 

How to stop your bike lock jamming maintenance equipment
Application straws are very handy but not totally necessary. I use WD-40 products to keep my lock jam free.

 

How to Clean the Internal Locking Mechanism of Your Bike Lock

To clean your bike lock mechanism, you will only need a few tools.

  • A can of WD-40 with application straw
  • Teflon/PTFE based lubricant with application straw
  • White Lithium Grease – application straw will aid usage 
  • Pipe Cleaner or Lock Picking tool
  • Cloth or firm bristled brush
 
Firstly, a can of Original WD-40 can be used to remove dirt and debris from inside the keyhole. Position the bike lock so that the keyhole is facing downwards, then using the application straw, apply several short sharp bursts. 
 
Continue repeating this until the liquid streams out. Whilst doing this, you can insert the key in between squirts and twist it to encourage the dirt to flush out. Where the keyhole is facing downwards, gravity should be pulling out any debris from inside the mechanism.
 
how to unjam a bike lock
 

Any dirt and debris that had built up inside the lock should have been flushed out after completing the above process. Original WD-40 isn’t and should never be used as a lubricant. WD-40 is a water displacer and will remove any existing lubricant that has been previously applied. 

Original WD-40 is also known to cause problems such as a build-up of dirt and grime, which is why we will now thoroughly re-lubricate the locking mechanism. Before lubrication, leave your lock, keyhole facing downwards so that any excess WD-40 can make its way out of the mechanism.

What is WD-40 used for
WD-40 is fantastic for jammed bike locks. It drives out moisture, cleans and protects and loosens rusted parts. After using WD-40 always relubricate!

 

*Before proceeding wipe your lock and key clean of any dirt or remaining WD-40*

Good quality lubricants contain Teflon/PTFE which is a non-stick material that coats the moving parts of your bike lock’s mechanism, whilst reducing friction. WD-40 manufacture a Specialist Dry PTFE Lubricant which comes with a very useful precision application straw. (shown in image above)

Now that your lock is free from dirt and debris, apply the Teflon/PTFE based lubricant into the keyhole, with the keyhole facing upwards. After each squirt insert and slowly twist your key to encourage the lubricator into the moving parts. 

Repeat this process multiple times to allow deeper penetration. Once applied, allow the lubricant to seep into the mechanism. You can repeat this lubrication process every few months to aid smooth usage.

(Click to enlarge)

 

As shown above, if you encounter a foreign object inside your keyhole that WD-40 won’t get rid of, then you can carefully use a pipe cleaner or a lock picking tool to encourage it out. Just take care not to snap either of these inside the lock or get them stuck in the mechanism! 

If you stick to these instructions and follow the simple steps we have provided, your lock’s mechanism will keep functioning longer! This will save you from splashing out on a new lock because you didn’t take care of your last one!

Now move onto cleaning the body.

 

How to Clean the Body / Shackle of Your Bike Lock

The body of your bike lock shouldn’t require too much maintenance, but from time to time giving it a good clean won’t hurt and will only prolong the life of your bike lock.

To clean the body, you will need to remove any loose debris first, so take a cloth or a firm bristled brush and remove any visible dirt. If you are using a D lock, then wipe clean the two ends of the shackle and the holes where the shackle is inserted.

How to stop a bike lock jamming, cleaning the shackle
(Click to enlarge)

 

As stated before it’s important to keep moving parts in all machines and mechanisms free from water dust and debris as these can all lead to corrosion.

By using some White Lithium Grease your lock will keep functioning properly for a long time. It’s better to use grease for the body because it won’t run into places you don’t need it and it lasts a long time. 

To use this effectively, simply apply a small amount of grease to the ends of the shackle, and into the two holes from time to time.

By doing this, you’ll keep the lock ends nicely lubricated and this will make sure they don’t corrode and cause your bike lock to jam.

Applying Lithium Grease to Your Bike Lock
(Click to enlarge)

 

3. Don’t Play or Fiddle With The Key Whilst It’s In The Lock

Bike locks are designed to protect your bike from theft, not to be fiddled around with. The locking mechanisms in good quality locks are complex. They contain several cylinders which must be turned by the key for the lock to release and open. 

If you partially insert the key into the bike lock and accidentally twist it around before it is fully inserted, you won’t do your lock any good and could cause the locking cylinders to partially rotate.

How to stop you bike lock jamming fully insert the key
(Click to enlarge)

 

If this happens to you, do not panic. The key will probably be stuck inside of the lock and it won’t be released until the cylinders have rotated back. 

It is very important not to pull on the key here, as you could end up damaging the mechanism and having to purchase a new lock!

To release the key and return the cylinders to their original position, gently twist the key back and forth. It should loosen itself and you will be able to remove the key or push it fully into the locking mechanism.

If once you’ve removed the key and it still won’t insert properly, you can try and use picking tool to nudge the cylinders back into position.

Summary – What to Do if Your Bike Lock’s Jammed

WD-40 is your best friend when it comes to jammed bike locks that won’t release. WD-40 will help remove unwanted debris from inside and can rid your lock from rust and corrosion. 

Always remember to relubricate with a Teflon/PTFE based lubricant after applying WD-40!  

When struggling to open your lock, keep calm and never force something that isn’t working. You’ll only end up making matters worse for yourself.

Regular cleaning and lubrication (bi-monthly) is the best way to stop a bike lock from jamming. By doing this not only will you prevent future jams, but you will greatly extend the life of your bike lock. 

Finally, the quality of the lock you use is important. If your lock is consistently jamming or is still jammed and you’ve tried the above methods, it’s worth having a look at our better quality replacement locks.

Otherwise, you should now be an expert on how to stop your bike lock jamming, and won’t need to put up with a jamming lock in the future!

Many people argue that WD-40 shouldn’t be used to clean bike locks. However, Kryptonite advises it’s used for tackling jammed bike locks. Source

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2 Responses

  1. Came across this article after a google search. Had a key stuck in an expensive but old motorbike padlock. WD40 was my first and usual port of call. Did not work alone.

    Read your article and gave the hammer approach a go. Worked second time. Thanks alot! Thought I was going to need an Angle grinder…

    1. Glad you found this article helpful. Make sure you get that padlock nicely lubricated so this doesn’t happen again!

      James

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About Me
Me and My Bike

Hello! My name’s James, I’m an avid cyclist and I’m the lead editor of BikeLockWiki.

I have invested three years into researching & studying bicycle security and I want to share the information that I have gathered with the cycling community.

I do this in the hope that people don’t have to simply become a victim of bike theft to realise and understand the importance of bicycle security. Read More…

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