How to Pick a Door Lock - 4 Easy Steps

How to Pick a Door Lock

Door locks come in different sizes, models, and lock systems. To most people, learning how to pick a door lock used to sound like something that only people with intentions to break into neighbours homes should master. My dad is a retired military officer, and as you can imagine, my childhood was not fun. He tried as much as possible to teach me life lessons, and one of them that I found weird to some extent is how to pick a door lock.

I remember him instructing me to repeat the process multiple times at different times of the week and on other locks. Honestly, I did not understand his lessons’ essence and why he insisted on teaching me this lesson until last week when I locked my keys inside my apartment.

I’m not 30 years old, married, and have two beautiful kids. It dawned on me that instead of spending money on a professional locksmith service, I should try and apply the skills my dad taught me close to 15 years ago.

Luckily, I have a good memory and managed to unlock the door in less than ten minutes. If you are stranded and want to learn how to pick your tumbler door lock, here are some tips to help you out. It would be best if you were patient; otherwise, you might miss the lock system’s main parts that you should twist and turn.

Tools Required to Pick a Lock

Like any other physical task, you need several tools to do it successfully. Surprisingly, picking a tumbler door lock is not rocket science; you only need two tools, namely;

  • Pick rakes
  • Tension wrench

Nowadays, there are pick locksets that have multiple rakes and a tension wrench online. In the early 90s, when my dad was teaching me this skill, he would make the pick rakes in the basement using basic metal tools.

The Tumbler Lock Picking Technique

As mentioned earlier, picking a lock is not rocket science, and you can do it without breaking a sweat if you take the necessary steps. However, the secret to doing it well is by developing a feel for it. Remember that different locks have varying mechanisms, but the principles of unlocking them are pretty the same.

One of the easiest ways that my dad taught me to open this kind of lock is scrubbing. It’s fast and easy compared to other methods that we will discuss in other future articles.

Step 1: Locate the Key Hole Bottom Section and Insert the Tension Wrench

The first step is crucial, and if you don’t get it right, you will struggle to unlock the door. Locate the keyhole bottom part and insert the tension wrench. Apply slight pressure on the plug until it starts to move/rotate.

Get your pick rakes and start lifting the driver pins until all of them are opened while maintaining the same pressure on the tension wrench. Ensure that the tension wrench is set in the direction that the key turns as you apply the pressure.

The reason I insist on making sure that you apply slight pressure is that too much pressure will result in all the driver pins binding together under the shear line. The goal is to use just enough pressure to get the driver pins above the shear line and torque to ensure that when the pins start to drop, you will be able to catch them using the driver pin edge as the lock rotates.

Step 2: Working on the Top Section of the Lock

This is easy if you mastered the first step. All you need to do is slide the rake until it hits the very extreme end of the lock.

Step 3: Move the Pick in the Key Hole

Remember, I mentioned that picking a lock is more about getting the “feel” right and not science or mastering the physics behind how the locking system works. Apply a small amount of torque on the tension wrench and move your pick into the keyhole and move it back and forth.

Use one hand to apply the torque on the wrench and the second hand to rake the inside of the lock using the picks. Ensure that as you move the pick rake back, lift it slightly to apply pressure on the lock pins.

Step 4: Repeat the Steps

The number of times you will need to repeat the three steps depends on the number of pins in the lock. Continue applying pressure on the wrench and maintain the same back and forth movement of the pin rakes until all the pins are unlocked.

If you realize or feel like you are not making progress, you might be applying to much pressure on the tension wrench. Take a break to allow the pins to go to the normal position before giving it another shot. The main goal is to ensure that you exert the right amount of pressure on the tension wrench.


It is not difficult to pick a door lock if you have the right tools, apply just enough pressure on the tension wrench, and follow the simple steps discussed above. Practice makes perfect so try the same technique on other locks in your house to become an expert.

Finally, as you shop for a pick rake set, make sure to look at the reviews posted by other customers to know if it’s worth buying. Also, compare the prices and make sure that the set is ideal for the type of lock you intend to pick. If you are not sure, consult an expert at the store to avoid wasting money. All the best, and, please share your experience and pictures in the comment section.

I look forward to reading your success stories.

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