How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024

How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024- The Screwdriver Technique

Deadbolt locks are designed to provide enhanced security. But there may be times you need to open one without the key, such as if it is stuck or you lost your keys. With some simple tools, it is possible to open many deadbolt locks using just a screwdriver.

This comprehensive guide will walk through the step-by-step process for opening a deadbolt lock using only a screwdriver. We will cover proper methods, the needed tools, tips and tricks, limitations, and precautions to take.

Overview of  How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024

The basic process involves using a screwdriver to turn and manipulate the lock’s internal components to retract the bolt and unlock the door. Here is a quick overview of the steps:

  • Insert the screwdriver tip into the lock’s keyhole and apply turning force to rotate the internal cylinder housing.
  • Locate and push up on the retainer pin inside while continuing to apply rotational force. This will allow the cylinder to turn freely.
  • Keep applying rotational force in the unlock direction to retract the bolt and unlock the door. You may need to apply pressure or pick at internal wafers or pins.
  • The exact steps can vary based on the specific lock design. Knowledge of lock mechanics is helpful.
  • Patience and the proper technique of using leverage with the screwdriver are key to successfully picking the lock open.
  • Lock-picking tools can make the process easier but a basic screwdriver can work if you understand the mechanics.

Proceed with caution, as forced or improper picking can damage locks. Alternative entry methods may be required if picking is unsuccessful.

How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024
Steps to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024

Step 1 – Obtain Needed Tools

You can open many deadbolt locks with just a basic screwdriver. Here are the tools you will need:

  • Standard screwdriver – A #1 or #2 Philips head or slotted standard head screwdriver is ideal. The shaft should be approx. 3-6 inches long.
  • Flashlight – A small flashlight lets you see inside the keyhole and mechanism.
  • Tension wrench – Optional but helps apply turning force. Can use a small hex key instead.
  • Lock pick set – Also optional but can make the process much easier. Look for a basic 4-piece set.
  • Rags – To protect the paint finish from scratches when working the lock.
  • Lubricant – Such as powdered graphite or silicone spray. This is not always required.

Before starting ensure you have the proper tools on hand for the job.

Read More: How to Pick a Lock With a Screwdriver 2024

Step 2 – Examine the Deadbolt Lock Design

Deadbolt locks come in different designs, so you need to understand the mechanics of the specific lock you are trying to open:

  • Cylinder style – The most common design with an internal cylinder housing that rotates when the key is turned. Requires manipulating cylinder and pins.
  • Threaded cylinder – The cylinder housing must be physically rotated counter-clockwise with the screwdriver to retract the bolt.
  • Sliding bolt – No cylinder – bolt slides directly to open. Requires tension and levering.
  • Double cylinder – The Deadbolt is locked/unlocked from both sides requiring picking from the interior side.
  • Smart locks – Electronic locks require recharging or factory reset instead of picking.

Take a few minutes to examine the deadbolt’s external design and interior keyway. Identify your specific lock style before proceeding.

Step 3 – Lubricate the Lock Cylinder and Keyway

Adding a lubricant can make turning the lock cylinder easier during the picking process:

  • Use a dry powdered graphite lock lubricant if available.
  • Alternatively, spray a small amount of silicone lubricant into the keyway. Avoid liquid lubricants.
  • Turn the lock knob several times to work the lubricant into the cylinder.
  • Be very conservative with lubricant to avoid excess dripping or staining.
  • Skip this step if the lock already operates smoothly. Too much lube can hinder picking.

Proper lubrication reduces binding and friction when you apply turning force with the screwdriver. But use sparingly and wipe away any drips or overspray.

 How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024
Steps to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024

Step 4 – Insert and Apply Pressure to the Screwdriver

With the proper tools on hand and the lock inspected, you are ready to attempt entry:

  • Insert the tip of the screwdriver into the lock’s keyway at the very back.
  • Apply firm turning force in the direction the key would turn to unlock the door (typically clockwise).
  • Leverage the screwdriver handle to apply maximum rotational force. You are trying to rotate the cylinder housing.
  • If the screwdriver tip slips, try a bigger size or use a tension wrench to apply the turning force.
  • Keep applying firm constant pressure while you move to the next step of lifting pins/wafers.

Take care not to bend or break the tip of the screwdriver when applying heavy turning force. Proper leverage is key.

Step 5 – Locate and Lift the Retainer Clip

As you keep applying rotational pressure, you next need to lift the lock’s retainer clip or pin:

  • Many deadbolt locks have a small retaining pin that blocks the cylinder from turning when no key is inserted.
  • Use the flashlight to look inside the keyway and locate the retaining pin (typically at the top of the keyway).
  • Carefully insert the tip of the screwdriver or an included lock pick and lift this pin upward.
  • Try not to damage or overly displace the retaining pin while lifting it.
  • Keep applying rotational force during this process! The goal is to lift the pin just enough to disengage the cylinder housing while still applying rotational tension.

Lifting the retainer pin allows you to rotate the plug freely to retract the bolt on many standard deadbolt locks.

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Step 6 – Rotate Cylinder and/or Manipulate Internal Components

With the cylinder now able to freely rotate, the next step is manipulating the plug and pins/wafers inside to fully unlock the door:

  • Keeping tension rotated in the unlock direction, slowly turn the cylinder using the screwdriver.
  • You may need to lift or apply pressure to the driver and key pins inside the cylinder plug as you rotate.
  • Try “scrubbing” or rocking the screwdriver tip against pins/wafers to push them upward and out of the shear line.
  • On some locks, you may need to simply rotate the cylinder housing counterclockwise multiple turns with the retainer lifted.
  • Repeat lifting, rocking, and rotating motions until the bolt is retracted and the door unlocks.
  • This step can take some finesse based on the exact internal design. Go slow and take care not to over-rotate components.

With practice, you will become proficient at manipulating the internal lock components to successfully pick open different deadbolt styles.

Step 7 – Open the Door and Reset the Lock

Once the deadbolt is picked, you can now access the secured door:

  • Turn the door handle and open the door carefully. The unlocked deadbolt should allow entry.
  • After use, reset the retainer clip and cylinder housing back to the starting position. Locking the door can help reset the cylinder.
  • Try not to force components or bend parts during picking attempts.
  • Spray lubricant and blow out shavings if the lock feels gritty or sticky after picking.
  • Consider replacing the lock if it no longer functions properly after picking damage.

Entering this way should be a last resort in an emergency. Have a professional rekey or replace the lock if it becomes compromised from picking damage.

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 How to Open a Deadbolt Lock With a Screwdriver 2024
Tips and Tricks, Limitations of Using a Screwdriver to Pick Locks, Safety Precautions

Tips and Tricks for Picking Deadbolt Locks With a Screwdriver

Here are some helpful tips for successfully opening a deadbolt lock with just a basic screwdriver:

  • Go slow and gentle – don’t force things or you may break components.
  • Leverage is key – Use your palm or foot to apply maximum rotational force to the screwdriver handle.
  • Tension wrenches help greatly in applying smooth rotational force.
  • Shaking or tapping the lock can sometimes help bounce pins into position.
  • Try picking in both directions. Not all deadbolts follow standard clockwise unlocking.
  • A 4-pin lock rake can speed the process up significantly. Look for pick sets.
  • Graphite or talcum powder works better than liquid lubricants which can gum up.
  • Cheap, loose, or worn locks are easier to pick than high-quality, tight deadbolts.
  • Some locks simply cannot be picked this way. Know when to call a professional.

Patience and proper technique are vital for successfully picking open a deadbolt lock without causing any damage.

Limitations of Using a Screwdriver to Pick Locks

While a screwdriver can be used to open many deadbolt locks, there are some limitations to be aware of:

  • Very high-precision or high-security locks are difficult or impossible to pick with just a screwdriver.
  • Lower quality locks are easier to force than high-grade locks which have tighter tolerances.
  • Deadbolts with security pins or multi-locking wafers often require proper lock-pick tools.
  • Electric or electronic deadbolts require alternate bypass methods.
  • Picking takes practice and knowledge of lock mechanics – not always straightforward for novices.
  • Forced picking can damage locks and reduce security. May require replacement.
  • Key control and rekeying are lost once a lock is picked open by unauthorized people.

Understand that picking locks is not guaranteed to work in all situations. Hiring a professional may be required if self-picking efforts fail.

Safety Precautions When Picking Deadbolt Locks

While picking your deadbolt lock is legal in most regions, safety should be your top priority:

  • Only pick locks you own or have explicit permission to open to avoid legal issues.
  • Avoid forcing any parts past stopping points – you can break the lock.
  • Opening a damaged, stuck, or improperly installed lock may require a locksmith.
  • Use proper tools – makeshift tools can damage locks or your hands.
  • Wear eye protection in case debris flies out under tension.
  • Keep children and pets away from the work area for their safety.
  • Do not pick a lock with the door fully latched or you can get locked out!
  • Discontinue picking and call a professional if you have any difficulty with the techniques.

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Understand that picking locks is an advanced skill requiring experience to be done properly and safely. Proceed with caution or hire a locksmith if needed.


With some basic DIY skills, many people can pick open a deadbolt lock using just a standard screwdriver. However, practice on junk locks is recommended to get a feel for the tension and maneuvers required. Understanding your specific deadbolt’s inner mechanisms is also key. Patience and proper technique will provide the best results. In any situation where picking attempts are unsuccessful or you feel uncomfortable, immediately call for a professional locksmith. They have the skills and specialized tools to properly open stuck, damaged or locked deadbolts. While learning traditional lock picking can be an interesting skill when done legally and ethically, always take appropriate safety precautions.

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