Ever been locked out of your house or apartment, or lost the key for your bike chain? Here’s a very quick guide to how a pin tumbler lock works, and what you need to do to unlock one.
Here’s the basics: most padlocks and basic door locks use something called a pin tumbler. In the render above, you can see exactly how a pin tumbler works: once the sprung pins (separated into a driver pin and a key pin) have been pushed into the right spot by a key, the tumbler cylinder turns. Simple! And you can recreate the effect of a key with two tools: a tension tool, used to turn the cylinder, and a lockpick — to actually push those pins up and into the right spot.
In the video below, the practice tumbler padlock that I’m showing Kotaku’s Alex Walker and Tegan Jones how to unlock is ridiculously simple. It’s just about the simplest lock that you could possibly pick. It’s see through, for god’s sake. But it’ll help you get an idea of how these kinds of locks work, and what you might need to do to unlock one in a pinch. And by the way: only unlock locks that you own. Don’t steal things.
Obviously there’s a very good reason to hire an actual locksmith to unlock your front door, and we don’t want to take away from that — including for example, if you’ve locked your lockpicks inside with your keys. Because why would you walk around with lockpicks in your pocket when you’re already carrying your keys (or so you think)? (Also, seriously. Don’t walk around with lockpicks. I am not a lawyer, and I’m not responsible for what happens when the cops pull you up.)