You’re faced with a problem and a burning question: “I lost my mailbox key. How can I unlock it?” Luckily, there are several options available to you. If you have a mailbox that is part of a cluster, such as in an apartment or a postal service location, you may be able to obtain new keys quickly. However, if that’s not possible, you either need to hire a locksmith or continue reading to explore alternative solutions.
DISCLAIMER – The information provided in this article is solely intended for individuals seeking access to their own property. Under no circumstances should you attempt to open any mailbox lock that you do not own or have explicit permission to open from the owner. Engaging in mail theft is a federal crime and can result in severe consequences, including hefty fines and imprisonment. Please adhere to the law.
The Best Ways to Open a Mailbox
Here are the top methods for unlocking a mailbox:
How secure are mailbox locks?
Mailbox locks range from low to medium security. Due to the inherent vulnerability of mailboxes, installing high-security locks is rarely beneficial. Most mailbox locks can be easily opened by amateur lock pickers or forcibly manipulated using basic destructive entry techniques. In many cases, prying attacks that disregard the lock provide a simple means of access.
Can you open a locked mailbox without lock picks?
Yes, there are several methods for opening a locked mailbox that do not require lock picking. However, if you wish to unlock your mailbox without damaging the lock or the box itself, you’ll need to learn how to pick a mailbox lock. It’s important to note that improvised tools have a lower success rate, especially for beginners in lock picking.
Can you pick a mailbox lock if it’s broken?
A broken lock is unable to operate properly with the correct key. Traditional lock picking involves simulating a key and cannot accomplish anything beyond what a key would do. When dealing with a broken mailbox lock, the best course of action is to replace the lock. Consulting a locksmith will ensure that your mailbox remains unharmed during the process.
Where can I obtain a new mailbox key?
If you have lost your mailbox key and require a replacement, consult your property manager. In cases where the United States Postal Service owns the mailbox, contact your local post office for further assistance. If no spare key is available from a third party, the simplest solution is often to replace the lock entirely.
Are mailbox locks rekeyable?
Many mailbox locks cannot be rekeyed. When you lose your mailbox key, the standard procedure is to replace the lock entirely. To rekey a lock, the device must undergo a straightforward disassembly and reassembly process. However, most mailbox lock cores are secured by a retention pin that cannot be removed without tearing off the chamber cover.
What is the cost of a locksmith to open a mailbox?
Lockout services start at $35. If your mailbox key is locked inside, you will need to replace the lock, which incurs additional costs starting at $35. A mobile locksmith visiting your location will typically charge a standard service fee for arrival and assessment ($15). Consequently, you can expect an average expenditure of around $85.
How To Open an Apartment Mailbox Without a Key
If you reside in a rented space, the simplest mailbox lock hack is to contact your property manager for a spare key. Unless you have changed the locks without informing the apartment manager, they should have a spare key on file for your mailbox. If a spare key is not available, they will likely provide you with instructions on how to open the mailbox without a key.
For mailboxes owned or controlled by the postal service, contacting your local post office is your best option. While many articles suggest filling out United States Postal Service form 1094 to obtain a key, it appears that this form is no longer in use. It is advisable to engage with someone knowledgeable about mailbox access, even if they refuse to take responsibility for unlocking the mailbox. They may offer valuable insights and potentially recommend a residential or commercial locksmith.
- Property managers often possess spare mailbox keys.
- If the mailbox is owned by the USPS, consult your local post office for guidance.
- Even if spare keys are unavailable, these resources can suggest alternative methods to access your mailbox.
The fastest way to unlock a mailbox when you’ve lost your key is to pry the door open. This method is quick, requires little skill, and only necessitates a claw hammer and a flathead screwdriver (or similar tools). However, it is crucial to obtain permission from the owner or manager of the mailbox before attempting this method, as improper execution can damage the mailbox door or adjacent mailboxes.
Avoid using this method on mailboxes with thin metal doors, as they are prone to bending or distorting, rendering the mailbox unusable. To prevent scratches or scuffs on the surrounding metal, place fabric towels or rags between your tools and the mailbox while prying. Refer to this visual guide for the step-by-step process.
Exercise extreme caution while following these instructions:
- Insert your screwdriver into the crevice opposite the hinged side.
- Pry until you encounter resistance.
- Insert the claw side of your hammer into the opening.
- Remove the screwdriver.
- Apply force with your hammer, leveraging it quickly.
- If the lock fails to open, utilize tools that offer better leverage.
This mailbox lock hack involves breaking the tailpiece of your lock, leaving nothing to keep the mailbox door closed. Subsequently, the lock can be removed and replaced. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to replace the tailpiece, so be ready to completely substitute the mailbox lock. If you have damaged the mailbox door or it no longer closes properly, repair it before installing the new lock.
This section does not provide an in-depth tutorial on lock picking but offers practical guidance on the process of picking a mailbox lock with no prior experience. Most mailbox locks operate via a pin tumbler system, where multiple stacks of pins are raised to specific heights by the cut depths on a key. Your objective is to raise these pins to the correct height while applying tension to keep them in place.
With minimal skill or practice, you can learn how to pick a mailbox lock. However, using better-quality tools will expedite the process. You can purchase tools from reputable lock pick brands or fashion lock picks from bent paper clips. In either case, you’ll require two tools: a tension wrench and a rake. Once you have these tools, you can begin:
- Position your tension wrench at the top or bottom of the keyway (choose whichever eliminates interference with your lock pick).
- Rotate the tension wrench in the same direction as the key for unlocking the lock (most mailbox locks open with a left turn).
- Apply light tension and insert your lock pick.
- Move the pick from the back to the front of the lock while simultaneously lowering and raising it within the keyway.
- If the lock remains closed after 60 seconds, release the tension and try again.
If you struggle with this method of picking a mailbox lock, experiment with different tension levels. Understanding the distinctions between raking and single pin picking can also enhance your chances of success. Alternatively, if you don’t wish to pursue lock picking as a hobby, you can seek assistance from a professional locksmith.
If you need to unlock a mailbox with a broken lock, refer to the prying section, which offers the quickest approach. Alternatively, drilling is another effective mailbox lock hack. All you need is a screwdriver and a power drill with a new drill bit. Ensure that the drill bit is slightly larger than the keyway to facilitate easier access once you remove the keyway dust cover.
Before drilling the lock, have a replacement mailbox lock ready. Additionally, you can prepare the lock to ensure a smoother process. Apply lubrication using any spray lube (e.g., WD-40). Once the dust cover is removed, use a punch to provide the drill bit with a grip. For a comprehensive visual demonstration, watch this video:
- Use your screwdriver to pry off the keyway dust cover.
- Position your drill bit at the top of the keyway.
- Drill until you hear or feel five distinct jolts, indicating that all five pin chambers have been destroyed.
- Utilize your screwdriver as a makeshift key to turn the lock.
The most common mishap during this process is the drill bit snapping inside the lock. This can occur if the bit is weak, forced too aggressively, or fails to bite appropriately. Furthermore, the more drill bits you break, the more challenging the process becomes. Continuous bit breakage can jam the keyway or damage the lock to the point where the next bit struggles to grip properly.
4. Call a Locksmith
If you decide to hire a locksmith, there is no need to familiarize yourself with lock picking or mailbox lock hacks. The best lockout service in your area will be capable of opening a mailbox lock without a key. If your thought process aligns with “I lost my mailbox key. How can I open it with the least effort and the best outcome?” then placing a call to a locksmith is your optimal solution.
Since mailbox locks are non-rekeyable, locksmiths usually resort to drilling and replacing the lock. Non-destructive entry is typically only viable when you want to maintain the existing lock. If you lack a key and the lock cannot be rekeyed, replacement is the recommended course of action. Even if locksmiths possess the skill to pick a mailbox lock, they may opt for alternative methods.
When searching for ways to open a mailbox lock without damaging it, learning how to pick a mailbox lock may seem like the logical choice. However, unless you possess a lost mailbox key, it is often more practical to pursue quicker and simpler methods for unlocking your mailbox. If you have concerns about utilizing destructive entry techniques, contacting a locksmith for assistance is a prudent decision.