A Step-By-Step Guide: How to Pick a Vending Machine Lock

Key Takeaway

  • Vending machines typically use tubular key locks, which are more secure than standard key locks and are designed to resist drilling and other tampering attempts.
  • Picking a vending machine lock using a specialized tubular lock pick or a homemade tool such as a pen may be possible, but it should only be done with proper authorization and in a legal situation.

Have you ever wondered if picking the lock on a vending machine is possible? As a lock-picking enthusiast, I’ve always been curious about the possibility of picking a vending machine lock. In the past, I’ve written about picking padlocks and deadbolts, so this time, I decided to dive into the world of vending machine locks.

However, before I share my step-by-step guide on how to pick a vending machine lock, I want to emphasize that lockpicking should only be done with permission and in legal situations. With that said, let’s explore the world of vending machine locks and see if they can be picked!

What Type Of locks Are Installed On Vending Machines?

The most common type of lock installed on vending machines is the tubular key lock. This type of lock is specifically designed for vending machines and is more secure than other types of locks, such as standard key locks.

Tubular locks are more difficult to pick or bypass than standard key locks, which makes them a popular choice for vending machine manufacturers. This is so because they have a cylindrical keyway that requires a specialized tool to manipulate the pins inside the lock. The pins in a tubular lock are arranged in a circular pattern, making it difficult for a traditional lock pick to reach and manipulate each pin individually.

In addition to being more secure, tubular locks are also more durable and can withstand frequent use and abuse. They are designed to resist drilling and other tampering attempts, making them an excellent choice for vending machines in high-traffic areas.

Functioning Of A Tubular Lock

Tubular locks, also called pin-and-tumbler locks, are secured with a circular stack of pins. To unlock this type of lock, a cylindrical key with notches aligned to the pins must be used. When the key is inserted and turned, each notch will lift a specific pin to a certain height, enabling the lock cylinder to rotate.

Depending on the model, tubular locks may have anywhere from 4 to 10 pins, with most having 6-8 pins..

Functioning Of A Tubular Lock

How To Open A Vending Machine Without The Key

We will explore two methods to open a vending machine without a key: using a specialized tubular lock pick and a DIY lock pick made of a pen.

Method 1: Picking a Vending Machine Lock Using A Tubular Lock Pick

Method 1: Picking a Vending Machine Lock Using A Tubular Lock Pick

To pick a vending machine lock, you’ll need a special type of lock pick known as a tubular or circle lock pick. This pick has a circular metal component with protruding needles or pick wires that can align with the pins of the lock to unlock it. 

Here are the steps you can follow to pick a vending machine lock using a tubular lock pick:

  • Step 1: Take your tubular lock-picking kit and ensure that your pick has the appropriate number of needles for your lock. Your pick should have as many needles as many pins on your tubular lock. A tubular lock usually has 4-10 pins, so for a lock with six pins, your needle should have 6 needles.

    To determine the number of pins in a tubular lock, you will need to inspect the keyhole of the lock closely. The keyhole will typically have a small circular opening with several smaller holes located around the perimeter. These smaller holes correspond to the number of pins in the lock.
    tubular lock-picking kit
  • Step 2: Loosen the pick by turning the L-shaped tightening wrench that is located on the side of your lock pick.
    L-shaped tightening
  • Step 3: Place the lock pick against your vending machine lock and ensure that the needles align with the lock pins. Tighten the pick once again once you have aligned the pick wires and lock pins.
    vending machine
  • Step 4: Insert the lock pick as far as it will go into the lock. Remove the pick and adjust the needles before trying again if the pick gets stuck.
  • Step 5: Turn the lock pick to the right to unlock the vending machine lock. If the needles are properly aligned, the lock should open easily. However, if it does not, you may need to re-adjust the needles and try again.

It’s important to note that picking a vending machine lock without a key may be illegal and can result in criminal charges. Always seek the proper authorization before attempting to pick a vending machine lock.

Method 2: Picking A Vending Machine Lock With A Pen

Another way you can open a vending machine lock without a key is by using a homemade tubular lock pick made up of a pen. Yes, you read that right! To attempt opening a circle lock using a ballpoint pen, you will need a pair of scissors, a ballpoint pen, and the lock. 

Follow these steps to give it a try:

  • Step 1: Obtain a ball pen that has a long, narrow tube. The tube should be long enough to reach the lock mechanism inside the vending machine. Remove the ink cartridge from the pen, leaving only the tube.
    ball pen
  • Step 2: Use a pair of scissors or a cutter to cut the tip of the ballpoint pen to make it a straw-like tool.
  • Step 3: Create four vertical notches (cuts) on the back of the pen, running up and down the edges of the pen. These notches will make the pen flexible enough to slide into the lock and imitate the tubular lock pick to move the pins.
    vertical notches
  • Step 4: Insert the tube into the keyhole of the vending machine lock, and press it against the back of the lock. Use your other hand to apply pressure to the front of the lock. Push the pen tube into the lock while simultaneously applying pressure to the front of the lock. This may require some force.
    vending machine lock
  • Step 5: Turn the pen tube in a clockwise direction while continuing to apply pressure to the lock. As you do this, the pins inside the lock will gradually move into place, allowing the lock to turn and open. You may need to apply more pressure and turn the tube back and forth until the lock clicks and opens. Once the lock has opened, remove the pen tube from the keyhole and open the vending machine to access its contents.

If the lock still doesn’t unlock, it’s time to invest in a proper lock pick to open it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can a pen be used to open all vending machine locks?

Answer – A ball pen tubular lock pick may be able to open some tubular locks, but not necessarily all of them. The effectiveness of a homemade pick will depend on its design, the quality of materials used, and the specific lock being picked. Commercially manufactured tubular lock picks are typically more reliable and effective because they are specifically designed and manufactured for this purpose. 

Q2. Is it legal to pick a vending machine lock?

Answer – Picking a lock that you do not own is generally illegal and can be considered a criminal offense. However, in some cases, such as when you are locked out of a vending machine you own or have permission to access, lock picking may be legal. It’s important to check the laws in your area before attempting to pick a vending machine lock.

Q3. How to pick a vending machine lock with a paperclip?

Answer – A vending machine equipped with a tubular lock cannot be opened using a paperclip. However, if it has a pin-and-tumbler lock, it may be possible to use a paperclip, though it is more common for vending machines to have tubular locks.

It is possible to open a pin and tumbler lock without a key using a paperclip. The basic steps are to straighten the paperclip and bend a small hook at the end. Then, insert the hook into the keyhole and manipulate the pins until the lock opens. To read about picking a pin and tumbler lock using a paperclip, refer to one of my past articles.


Picking a vending machine lock can be a useful skill to have in certain situations, but it should only be done legally and ethically. Always remember to obtain proper authorization and only use this skill for lawful purposes. Additionally, keep in mind that not all vending machines have the same type of lock, and some may be more difficult to pick than others. With the right tools and techniques, however, it is possible to successfully pick a vending machine lock and gain access to its contents.

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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.