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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 while trying to find your bike lock’s keyhole 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 from jamming in the future?

This short article will teach you the quickest and easiest way to fix any jammed bike lock.

We’ll also let you in on some helpful maintenance tips that will prevent your lock jamming in the future.

A confused man wondering where he lost the keys to his bike lock

Don’t panic if your bike lock is already jammed.

Below, you’ll learn the easiest steps to release a jammed bike lock. We’ll have you back on two wheels in no time.

You may also be here because your bike lock frequently jams, in which case, you’ll want to read our 5 step bike lock maintenance guide, where you’ll learn how to stop your lock from jamming and how to prevent your lock from becoming rusty. 

If you’ve managed to snap your key in your jammed bike lock, read our 5-step snapped key removal guide first and then head back here after!

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    How to Release/Remove a Jammed Bike Lock

    If your bike lock is currently jammed, we’ll have to do a bit of fiddling to find out what’s causing the jam.

    Attempt the steps below before purchasing a new bike lock, as most of the time these simple steps are all that’s needed to release a jammed bike 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 Chart

    If you cannot insert the key into your bike lock, your lock’s internal mechanism is jammed

    Find the unjamming instructions for internal mechanisms here.

    If you can insert your key with no problem, proceed to diagnosis step 2. 

    With the key fully inserted into the lock, attempt to turn it as if you were unlocking your lock. 

    If you’re unable to turn the key, or it’s very stiff, don’t force it. Your lock’s internal mechanism is jammed. 

    Find the unjamming instructions for internal mechanisms here.

    If you can turn your key with no issues, proceed to diagnosis step 3.

    Most bike locks will unlock when the key has been rotated 90 degrees inside the locking mechanism.

    Other bike locks may require a 180 to 360-degree key turn, but these are less common. 

    With your key rotated, if the shackle/locking section of your lock doesn’t release, the body/shackle of your bike lock is jammed

    Find the unjamming instructions for the lock body/shackles here.

    If your bike lock opens, then you’re in luck! Read our simple bike lock maintenance guide to prevent jams and rust in the future. 

    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, use the links in the diagnosis tool to proceed to the next steps. 

    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!

    A diagram showcasing the different parts of a bike U lock
    (Click to enlarge)

    1. The Body/Shackle of My Bike Lock Is Jammed

    To unjam the body/shackle of your bike lock, you’ll need:

    • WD-40 (for loosening rusted parts)
    • Lubricant (lock-specific lubricants are best)
    • Clean cloth/towel
    • Hammer

    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 into all of the areas with moving parts:

    • Locking mechanism
    • 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, grime, and corrosion

    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.

    spraying wd-40 into the cylinder of a bike lock to clean out a jam
    (Click to enlarge)

    It’s now worth trying to open the lock again, as sometimes WD-40 will be all that’s needed to unjam a bike lock. 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 inside.

    Using a small hammer, give the locks shackle/body a small, sharp blow. This is often enough to separate the corrosion inside the lock, allowing it to unlock. 

    Be careful when using the hammer not to strike any plastic parts of the lock as they’ll break, and that’s the last thing you want.

    striking the shackle of a bike lock to loosen corroded parts and unlock it
    (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, you’ll be best off removing the lock with force. 

    Most people don’t have the tools needed to remove/open a jammed bike lock. With this in mind, we’ve put together the best & cheapest steps you can take to remove a jammed bike lock in this separate guide.

    If you had to remove the lock with force, it’s time to get a new one.

    Check out our review of the the Best Cheap Bike Locks, the Best Lightweight Bike Locks or the Best D-Locks for some super-secure recommendations that won’t jam on you!

    Otherwise, if you were able to get your bike lock open, proceed with these steps to prevent it from jamming in the future

    2. 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 out 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 discs 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 discs.

    Using a picking tool or a household skewer, you can attempt to push the discs back to their original position.

    Whilst you’re at it, you should also use your picking tool to remove any visible dust or debris from inside the keyhole. 

    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 wiggle the key around inside. This will encourage the discs to loosen.

    troubleshooting a jammed bike lock to find out how to unjam it by inserting the key into the cylinder
    (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, get a warm cup of water and pour it into the lock.

    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 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 prevent it from 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 couldn’t get your key into the hole or it wouldn’t rotate, then this was the cause of the jam and the part that will now require a bit of TLC. 

    Rusty D lock
    Small patches of rust like this can spread and worsen over time, increasing the chances of your bike lock jamming

    If you managed to insert and twist your key as normal, then the issue is with your locks shackle.  

    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.

    Now follow the steps below and prevent your bike lock from jamming in the future.

    1. Purchase a Good Quality Bike Lock

    The number one issue we’ve realised when people tell us, “My bike lock won’t open”, is that they’re using an extremely cheap bike lock.

    It’s worth avoiding unbranded locks from non-reputable companies. They’re normally made from sub-standard materials that will deteriorate much quicker than a quality bike lock would.

    That being said, I’ve seen many people mentioning online that their “Kryptonite combination lock won’t open” or their “OnGuard bike lock won’t open”.

    Both of these brands are reputable, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their locks. This merely highlights how important proper bike lock maintenance is. 

    Bicycle Cable Lock
    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 a reputable manufacturer (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.

    If you know the lock you use isn’t great quality, it’s likely to jam again regardless of the maintenance you carry out. 

    We’ve recently reviewed the best cheap bike locks that provide high levels of security. Have a read.

    2. Clean and Lubricate Your Bike Lock Regularly

    A high-quality lock won’t require much maintenance, but you should make sure that your lock stays clean and well-lubricated.

    We recommend monthly or bi-monthly maintenance to prevent corrosion and future jams. 

    To help ensure your lock stays free of rust, we put together a short guide that covers the bike lock maintenance essentials

    Follow these essential steps, and your lock will never jam again.

    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.

    Rotating the key before its fully inserted into your bike lock can cause the lock to jam or break, so ensure your key is fully inserted each time you use your lock. 

    inserting the key of a bike lock into the cylinder to remove any debris from inside
    (Click to enlarge)

    If this happens to you, do not panic

    The key is jammed due to the irregular rotation of the locks discs. 

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

    To release the key and return the discs 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, it still won’t insert properly, you can try to use a picking tool or a skewer to nudge the discs 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 the inside and can rid your lock of rust and corrosion.

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

    We recommend using ABUS’ PS88 lock-specific lubricant.

    When struggling to open your lock, keep calm and never try to force anything open that’s not budging.

    Applying too much force will only make matters worse and could cause irreversible damage. 

    Regular cleaning and lubrication (bi-monthly) is the best way to stop a bike lock from jamming.

    Carrying out regular cleaning and maintenance will not only prevent future jams but will significantly extend the life of your bike lock.

    Finally, using a good-quality bike lock is essential. If your lock is consistently jamming or is still jammed and you’ve tried the above methods, it’s worth looking at our review of the 8 best budget-friendly bike locks.

    Otherwise, you should now be an expert on how to stop your bike lock jamming, and you 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 advise its use for tackling jammed bike locks. (Source)

    Just make sure to thoroughly clean and relubricate the lock afterwards.

    Recent Updates:

    Author of This Post:
    Picture of James Grear (Lead Editor)
    James Grear (Lead Editor)

    Understanding how devastating it is to have a bike stolen, I've researched & immersed myself in the world of bicycle security since 2013.

    I then built BikeLockWiki in 2019 to share everything I'd learned with the worldwide cycling community so that cyclists can improve their bike security skills and make informed decisions when purchasing new products and services.

    Learn More about Me & BikeLockWiki here.

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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!