I feel you, I really do. Losing the key to your mailbox when there’s important mail locked up inside has to be one of the most nerve-racking experiences in the entire world. It’s rough! However frustrating it might be, don’t worry. As they say, we have ways of making your mailbox talk.
There are several approaches you can take. I have found five methods in particular that are the most effective in dealing with such a sticky scenario. Now, of course, each one has its own challenges. For this reason, I’ve described each one in detail so you can decide for yourself which one’s appropriate for you. In any case, I promise we’re going to get through to your mail.
Oh, and if you’re totally done with your current mailbox and are thinking of replacing it with something more secure, check out the 10 best locking mailboxes.
All right, let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
How to Open a Mailbox Lock without a Key
Method 1: Use Brute Force
Okay, this one might sound like a desperate measure, but hear me out. If your mailbox is ancient and you’re about to replace it with a new one anyway, this is the quickest route to your mail. And it’ll also involve the least amount of hassle for you.
- Take a thick screwdriver or a metal knife
- Thrust the tool into the keyhole
- Once it is lodged inside the keyhole, apply a swift force on the resulting lever
- With the right amount of force and the right angle, the lock’s pin will jump out
- Applying too much force on the lever can bend the metal and ruin your mailbox
- The method may not be suitable for old, rusty locks
- If it’s a modern mailbox with a newer lock design, this method won’t work
Method 2: Use a Proxy
This is a tried-and-tested method for opening locks without a key. Most mailboxes today are made in China, and these locks’ mechanism is simple. More importantly, the mechanism is virtually identical, so the following method will hopefully help you open your lock without further drama. Fingers crossed!
- Take a small thin knife or something similar, like manicure scissors
- Insert the thin end of the tool through the keyhole
- Try to turn the knife or scissors as you would with a key
- Turn it slowly until the door opens
- If it doesn’t work, you can also try with a thin hairpin
- Insert the hairpin into the lock
- Push it forward and twist it in different directions
- Twist the hairpin until you hear the click of the lock unlocking
- Pushing the knife or scissors too hard can deform and jam the lock
Method No 3: Power drill your way in
This is another method where you’ll have to force your way in. So, fair warning, be prepared to replace your mailbox. This method will damage the box entirely, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to salvage any of it.
- You’ll need a power drill (Portable or battery-powered drills are too weak for this procedure. An electric drill with a long extension cord will work, too)
- Drill a hole to the center point of the lock or larva (If you don’t know what a larva is, see here)
- Take a thick screwdriver, a small chisel or a hammer
- Push the larva inside to break the mechanism
- Once the larva breaks, the mailbox door should open
- You’ll understandably have to install a new larva for the lock
- Be extremely cautious while drilling. If the lock breaks and gets jammed, you may need to change the entire thing
Method No 4: Use a cordless drill
If the last method left you feeling a bit queasy, then forget about that one. Instead, let’s try using a lightweight cordless drill. It isn’t as gung-ho as a regular electrical drill. This is a more delicate approach, and it’s right for you if you have hopes of salvaging your mailbox.
- Take a cordless drill
- Start drilling with care
- Apply constant and steady force while drilling
- Drill straight, and you should be able to open the lock with ease
- Check if the metal clip is still holding the lock
- If the lock is still attached, use a wrench to push the door and remove the clip
- Check the size of the drill beforehand to see if it fits into the hole
- Don’t apply too much pressure while drilling
Method No 5: Use a lock-picking kit
Step 1: Prepare a lock pick and lever
If you’ve reached this point in the article, unfortunately, this means all else has failed. Before you lose all hope, my friend, let me pipe in with one last quip. Using a lock-picking kit is the most reliable way of accessing a locked mailbox without a key.
First, you’ll need the lock-picking kit. Such a kit will make the process straightforward and save you precious time. A lock-picking kit typically has multiple levers and lock picks. This means you have plenty of options to search from and match your lock size. You can order such a kit online, or you can go down to your local hardware store.
Even so, let’s say you can’t get your hands on a kit. You can create a lock pick and a lever from two hairpins:
- Take a hairpin and bend it to create a 90-degree angle. Remove the rubber caps from the hairpin ends. Now, bend one end upwards. This is your lock pick.
- Take the second hairpin and bend it at roughly 1.3cm from the top. Bend it to a 90-degree angle. If you’re struggling with it, use a pair of needle-nose pliers.
This can be achieved with paperclips as well:
- To make a pick, straighten out half of a paper clip. Now bend the straightened part slightly upwards.
- To prepare a lever, take the second clip and straighten one end. Bend until it creates a 90-degree angle.
Step 2: Picking the lock
Take your lever and insert its short end into the lock. Keep the long end outside and firmly hold it with your fingers. Now, turn the longer end like you would with a key. Continue to apply force on the lever. Gradually increase pressure into the barrel of the lock.
Take the lock pick in your other hand and insert it into the lock. There are five pins inside a lock. When all the pins are at the same height, the mechanism unlocks. So, use the bent part of the pick and lift the pins. As the first pin is closest to the opening, raise it first. Keep the lock pick near the mouth of the lock.
If any of the pins is jammed, it will prevent the pick from rotating. Use the end of the pick to push up the wedged pin. Unless you feel some resistance, don’ worry. It’s not stuck. Repeat this process with each pin.
Remember, you will hear a click when a stuck pin is unlocked. Each time you push the pick a little further, you’ll be able to feel the next pin. Force it upward when you encounter a seized pin. Then use force until you hear a click.
After feeling your way through all five pins, use the lever to rotate the barrel. Try turning in both directions until the lock is unlocked. Remove both pick and level from the lock, and there you have it. Congratulations!
If all of this feels too complicated, there’s no shame in calling a lock-picking service to do it for you. They have professional skeleton keys, and they’ll get it done in the blink of an eye. This is also a good idea if you have an expensive mailbox, and it comes with a good lock. Don’t break the lock. Instead, take help from the delivery men or professional lock pickers.
Sometimes, it is possible to open ordinary mailboxes with a similar mailbox’s key. You can take your neighbor’s help if both of you have the same mailboxes. You’ll be surprised how often this works!
Also, it’s always a good idea to keep a duplicate of your keys at a convenient place that is easy to remember. And making a duplicate is a lot cheaper than installing a new lock.
If you are renting a government-owned Post Office box or U.S.P.S., you should inform them that you have lost the key. They will replace the lock and give you a new key. You have to pay for the new one, naturally.