Installation of a door lock

If you’ve ever dealt with the annoyance of a stubborn or troublesome mailbox lock, or if you’ve found yourself in the pickle of losing your mailbox key, you know first hand just how frustrating it can be. To make things worse, these lock troubles have a knack for popping up at the worst possible times.

Not to worry, though, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll show you how to drill out a mailbox lock and also help you figure out when it’s time to think about getting a new lock.


The tips, tricks, and information in this guide are intended solely for individuals trying to get back into their own property. Do not fiddle with or attempt to open any mailbox lock you don’t own or haven’t got the green light to tinker with.

Remember, mail theft is a serious federal offense, and it can lead to fines and even time behind bars. Always respect the law.

What to Consider Before Drilling a Mailbox Lock

Mailboxes in the apartment building

If you find yourself in a jam with a lost mailbox key or a troublesome lock, it’s important to consider the following before breaking out the drill or resorting to lock removal. This way, you won’t end up with a more complex situation.

For PO Boxes

If your mailbox is a PO box, the solution is pretty straightforward. Your first move is to reach out to the post office managing your box. They are equipped to assist you in situations like this and can provide the guidance you need to regain access, which typically involves getting a new key.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to bring along some form of identification, like a valid government-issued ID. This helps the postmaster confirm your residence and get you a new key, of course, at a small fee. Check out this guide for more details on getting a new mailbox key.

Locked Cluster Mailbox or Street Delivery Box

If your mail is delivered to a cluster mailbox or street delivery box assigned to you, but you can’t access it due to a faulty lock or a missing key, it is best to contact your local post office to request a new key.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to pay for the new key, not the property owner’s since it’s for your personal use.

Rental Properties

If you live in a rental property, your best course of action is to reach out to the property owner or the property manager. They should be able to help you with mailbox access or facilitate the necessary repairs.

Place a Temporary Mail Hold

Don’t want your mail piling up or ending up in the wrong hands while you resolve your mailbox lock issue? Consider a temporary mail hold through your postal service.

This way, you keep your mail safe while you sort out the lock situation. The post office can hold your mail for you to pick up later so you don’t miss any important mail.

How to Drill Out a Mailbox Lock In 8 Easy Steps

young girl with a drill in her hands, in a construction helmet and overalls

If you find yourself at the point where drilling seems like the way to go for fixing your mailbox lock, here are the steps for doing just that:

Tools and Materials:

  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bits (various sizes)
  • Safety glasses
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement mailbox lock (if necessary)

Step 1: Confirm Your Authorization

Before attempting to drill out the mailbox lock, make sure you have the legal right to access the mailbox. If it’s a mailbox provided by the postal service or a community mailbox, contact your local post office for guidance on lock replacement or access.

Step 2: Wear Safety Gear

Think about your safety when drilling your mailbox lock. Put on a pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes during the drilling process.

Step 3: Select the Right Drill Bit

Choose a drill bit that’s just a tad bigger than the keyway. This will make it easier to drill through the lock without damaging the mailbox door or the surrounding frame.

Step 4: Drill Into the Lock

Now, slide the selected drill bit into your cordless drill and start drilling into the center of the mailbox lock. Apply some steady but gentle pressure to create a hole in the lock. But remember, patience is key ― don’t go all out with excessive force, or you might end up with a damaged mailbox.

Step 5: Remove Debris

As you drill, you’ll notice some metal shavings and debris piling up in the hole. Pause drilling when this happens, and use the screwdriver or needle-nose pliers to scoop out the shavings. This way, you keep the hole tidy and prevent the drill bit from getting stuck.

Step 6: Test the Lock

Once you’ve drilled through the lock, use the pliers to turn the remains of the lock cylinder and open the mailbox. If the lock is stubborn, continue to remove any remaining metal fragments.

Step 7: Replace the Lock (if needed)

If you want to keep your mailbox secure, consider swapping out the drilled-out lock for a new one. To do this, remove the old lock and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the new one. Make sure it’s securely in place when you’re done.

Step 8: Dispose of the Old Mailbox Lock

Now that you’re all set with the new lock, properly dispose of the old one, as it may contain sharp or hazardous materials. Check out your local rules for how to dispose of it properly.

For more insights into alternative mailbox access methods without a key, check out our in-depth guide here.

Knowing When to Replace Your Mailbox Lock

Now that you’ve seen how to drill out a mailbox lock, we’ll share a few tips to help you spot the telltale signs that it’s time for a new one.

  1. Worn-out lock: If your mailbox lock is visibly worn out, rusted, or malfunctioning, it might be time for a replacement. Also, difficulty turning the key, a loose lock, or signs of physical damage are all indicators.
  2. Lost keys: If you’ve lost your mailbox key and can’t retrieve it, it’s often more cost-effective and convenient to replace the lock rather than drilling it out. This also enhances security by ensuring the lost key can’t be used to access your mailbox.
  3. Frequent jamming: If you frequently deal with a jammed lock that requires excessive force to operate, it’s a sign that the lock is on its last legs. A replacement lock can save you from future headaches.
  4. Security concerns: If you’re concerned about the security of your mailbox, especially if you’ve experienced theft or tampering, consider replacing the lock or getting a more secure locking mailbox. High-security locking mailboxes with features like anti-drilling and pick-resistant mechanisms can provide added peace of mind.
  5. Aesthetic preferences: Sometimes, it’s not just about function but also about eye-catching designs. If your current mailbox lock doesn’t match your style or needs, a lock replacement can help you achieve the desired look and functionality.
  6. Keyless entry systems: Modernize your mailbox security by considering keyless entry systems. Electronic or combination locks can offer convenience and added security, allowing you to change codes rather than dealing with physical keys.
  7. Professional advice: If you’re unsure about the condition of your mailbox lock or whether it’s time for a replacement, consult a locksmith. They can assess your lock and provide recommendations based on your specific situation.

Alternatively, if this whole “lock and key” thing isn’t really beneficial in your case, you might want to consider non-locking mailboxes. This is a smart choice, especially if your mail typically isn’t of the sensitive, confidential sort.

Also, it’s a relief for those who seem to have a knack for misplacing their keys and aren’t too fussed about top-notch mailbox security.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to drill out a mailbox lock can be a practical skill. That said, it should be your last resort. Always prioritize safety and explore alternative solutions. If your mailbox lock shows signs of wear and tear, don’t wait to be locked out. Instead, consider a replacement for enhanced security and peace of mind.

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