How to Remove Lock Core Without Key: A Detailed Guide

Key Takeaway

  • To remove the lock core without the core key, you need to first access the back of the cylinder plug by unscrewing the screws.
  • Once you have access to the back of the cylinder plug, you can insert your shim into the lock and gently push it against the pins inside the cylinder. This should cause them to move enough for you to remove the core. 

Rekeying your lock is a simple process if you have the keys stashed up. But in case you have lost or misplaced the key to your lock, you may still be able to remove the lock core without the key. In fact, it was only last week when I helped my new neighbor replace his lock cores. 

So whether you’ve moved into a new home or need to rekey your lock as a regular security measure, if you are wondering how to remove the lock core without a key, you’ve come to the right place! In this detailed guide, I shall provide step-by-step instructions on the same. 

So let’s get started.

What Is A Lock Core?

A lock core is an essential component of a key system. It is important to identify the type of core before attempting to remove it. Generally, lock cores are small and round and are inserted into the cylinder with a direct lock attachment. 

Standard cores are less expensive than interchangeable cores. However, they have one major con – rekeying them requires a costly and time-consuming process that requires a professional locksmith service for an on-site rekey.

What Is A Lock Core?

A figure-eight-shaped interchangeable core is slightly different from a standard core. Though locks with interchangeable cores are expensive, their cores can be removed without an operational key and replaced with a new core since they are entered into the lock cylinder with a control key. This means that removing a lock core without a key shouldn’t warrant a technician.

Interchangeable Lock Core

How To Remove A Lock Core Without Key

How To Remove A Lock Core Without Key

The Tools You’ll Need

If you’re trying to remove a lock core without a key, you’ll need two tools: a shim and a key blank or a lock pick. 

Shim: A shim is a thin metal strip with a wide lip on one end that can fit between the door and the lock core. The shim works by creating space between the pins and tumbler inside the lock cylinder, allowing the cylinder to turn and unlock.


Key Blank: A key blank is a specific kind of key that has not been cut to a specific biting. They are typically made from steel and brass and sometimes plastic and nickel.

Key Blank

Step 1: Access The Back Of The Cylinder Plug

Access The Back Of The Cylinder Plug

The first step is to access the cylinder plug’s back. In order to do this, you will need a pair of needle-nose pliers. Use the pliers to twist off the faceplate and unscrew the screws that hold the cylinder plug in place. 

Once the screws are removed, pull off the cylinder plug and locate the backside of the core. You should be able to see a notch on the backside of the core. If you look closely, there should also be a tiny hole in the center of the notch that can be used to access the locking mechanism.

Step 2: Insert Your Shim

Insert Your Shim

Now that you have access to the back of the cylinder plug, you can begin to insert your shim. A shim is a thin, flat piece of metal that fits inside the lock core. The shim should fit snugly inside the lock core and will help to push out the pins within. 

You may want to use a pair of tweezers to help you carefully position the shim. Once the shim is in place, press it gently but firmly. This will cause the pins inside the lock core to move, and the lock core should pop out.

Step 3: Shim The Pins Out Of The Way

Once the cylinder plug has been accessed, you will be ready to shim the pin stack. The shim should be inserted into the keyway and pressed against the pins in the plug. You may need to use a twisting motion with your shim to separate the pins and create enough space for the core to be removed. Once you have successfully separated the pins, you can then proceed to remove the core without needing to use a key.

How To Remove A Lock Core That Is Stuck?

Removing a lock core that is stuck can seem like an intimidating task. But, with the right supplies and careful steps, you can get the job done quickly and efficiently. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Step 1: Gather your tools: a drill, small bit set, key extraction kit, Allen wrench, screwdriver, and penetrating oil.
  • Step 2: Take apart the lock by unscrewing any mounting screws and sliding the outer sleeve off.
  • Step 3: Inspect the cylinder and look for a slot where the key is used to fit. This will indicate where you need to start drilling.
  • Step 4: Using the smallest drill bit from your set, slowly begin to drill into the core. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure; the bit will do all the work for you.
  • Step 5: Continue drilling until you reach the locking mechanism.
  • Step 6:  Once you have drilled far enough into the core, use your key extraction kit to carefully pull out the stuck cylinder.
  • Step 7: Finish taking apart the lock by unscrewing the cylinder with the Allen wrench and sliding off the remaining pieces.

You’ve now successfully removed a stuck lock core! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is lock-bumping?

Answer – Lock-bumping is a technique that involves using a specially-cut bump key that is inserted into a lock and then lightly tapped or bumped to force the lock to open.

Q2. What are some other methods to remove the lock core without a key?

Answer – In addition to shimming the lock core, there are a few other methods you can use if you’re trying to remove a lock core without a key. Just remember to take safety precautions when attempting any of these methods, and always consult with a professional locksmith if necessary.

Drilling: Drilling is the quickest and most direct way to remove a lock core without a key. However, this is also the least effective since it can damage the lock beyond repair. It’s best only to use this as a last resort.

Vibration and Impact Methods: By using a hammer or electric drill, you can apply vibrations or impacts to the lock core in an effort to break it open. While this method is less precise than shimming or lock-picking, it’s still an effective way to open a lock core without a key. Make sure to use eye and ear protection when attempting this method. 

Using Lock Bypass Tools: Specialized tools such as bypass keys, bump keys, and rake keys can be used to open a lock without the original key quickly. These tools are designed to mimic the design of the original key, so they’re able to fit into the lock core and provide access. However, these tools require special knowledge and expertise to use correctly. 

Q3. What is a slim-jim tool?

Answer – A slim-jim tool, also called a lock pick, is a special flat-shaped piece of metal with a handle that is used to manually manipulate a lock in order to open it without a key.


As you can see, removing a lock core without a key can be tricky, but it can also be done. You don’t need any special tools or experience. A metal shim, a key blank, and patience are all you need to take out the lock core without a key. Make sure you take your time, use caution, and stay safe during the process. 

If you have any other queries on removing a lock core without a key, write to me in the comment section. I shall be happy to help.

Leave a Comment

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.