Pin tumbler lock pick (ing) is relatively easy, even with homemade lock picks. Most pin tumbler locks have four or five pins. These types of locks include most padlocks which are not combination, deadbolts, doorknob locks, and cars, which usually have double sided pin tumbler locks. These locks offer the best security for their price, but, as their price is generally pretty low, they do not offer much security against an amateur locksmith such as yourself. Here are some lock pick sets that will get you started picking! Use the hooks, snake, or rake, but the balls won’t help much. Specifically how to pick a lock with tumblers? Read on!
These locks consist of a cylindrical shaft, inside of which is a rotating plug. The key goes into a vertical slit (keyhole) going into the plug. Drilled into the shaft and plug are holes, into which two (or more) pins fit on top of each other, two (or more) pins per hole (typically four or five holes). The pin on top is springloaded, and called the driving pin, the pin below (going into the plug) is the key pin. The point at which the key pin must reach in order for the plug to spin (and the lock to open) is called the shear point. When all pins are exactly aligned at the shear point, the plug is free to rotate within the shaft and the lock will open. Locks that have master keys and/or submaster keys are especially easy locks to pick because there is more than one shear point for each pin.
To pick them is just a matter of putting the pins at their shear point, one by one. The reason picking works for these locks is because they are crappily made, or worn down (especially outdoor padlocks made by Master brand). When one pin reaches its shear point when you push it up with a pick while applying tension with the tension wrench, the plug rotates ever so slightly, just enough for it to squeeze the driving pin between the plug and the shaft, thus pinching it so that when you release your pick (not the tension wrench) the driving pin will stay in the shaft and out of the plug. Do this to each pin, and the plug will rotate, the driving pins will stay in the shaft, and the key pins will drop down to their lowest point in the plug once your pick is removed (unlike with a key where the key pins stay up at the shear point). To prove that you have at least one pin in the correct position when attempting to pick, release the tension on the tension wrench and you should hear (and feel if your good) a click; that’s the driving pin falling down (actually being pushed down by the spring) onto the key pin. If you are picking a five pin tumbler lock, and slowly release the tension, you should be able to hear the clicks one by one if you had several pins at their shear point. If you hear five clicks but the lock did not open when you held tension, that means that the pins were pushed too far up and the key pin is now pinched between the plug/shaft interface where the shear point is, blocking the plug from rotating freely within the shaft. Remedy? Use less tension and push the pins up slowly, with more care.
Note that picking pin tumbler locks requires them to be imprecise and worn. By this, I mean that the four or five pins are not aligned in a perfectly straight line. They are slightly staggered, allowing for the savvy locksmith to pick the pins one by one (in the correct order, which you have to figure out by feel or chance). The problem is, since picking them requires the lock to be imprecise and worn, locks that are not can be very difficult to pick if they are in a perfectly straight line, such as Best brand padlocks or deadbolts and new locks. These typically require either A: lots of tension, or B: pushing multiple pins to their respective shear points at the same time, or both A and B. In this situation, I would not recommend hook picks, as they suck for picking multiple pins at the same time, use a snake or a rake, and hope to get lucky jiggling.
My advice to you for picking car locks, which usually have 10 pins and are a double sided pin tumbler lock (pins on both top and bottom, hence the horizontal symmetry of car keys) is don’t even try. The pin pair (the pins directly opposite each other in the vertical direction) must both be pushed to their shear points at the same time. This is pretty freakin hard to do. Get a pick gun if you really want, but realize that this is a tool for thieves and are a disgrace to the art of lock picking. No offense to those who just are afraid of locking their keys in their cars. There are other ways getting your keys if you locked them inside, which are much easier and time efficient than picking the lock, see auto lock picks for the three most common methods, air wedge, slim jim, and jiggler keys.
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