View Full Version : Help! Need to remove trailer "tongue" lock without key

Sweet Thing Eventing
Jul. 20, 2011, 03:24 PM
No I am not trying to steal a trailer ;)

Yesterday was a great day... office was quiet, lunch catered in because of all the committee guests in for meetings, boyfriend got a raise and bought us a new chair for our livingroom, I secured enough alfalfa for winter (phew!) had a great ride on my mare and ready to go XC school this weekend! Of course something has to go wrong, right!?!

Boyfriend gets a call from Aunt that the cattle got out... not really a big deal they will follow the truck horn back to the pasture and get their cake for the evening. Boyfriend leaves to take care of that and I head back down to the barn to feed our three horses. While picking stalls I get a call, "cattle are not coming and are heading towards to road, can you bring Cajun?" (his horse) No problem, I head to get my truck. (All back country roads, no big highways)

Of course I don't want to take the older, lighter two horse... no way I want to take my new trailer, why on earth would I think twice about that? :eek:

In my hast, because as soon as he hung up the phone the cattle raced for the road, right? I backed the truck up to far and hit the tongue of the trailer (bumper pull) no problem, the tongue probably just hit the plate... pull forward and get out to take off the tongue lock thing... NOPE!! Guess what I hit with the truck (receiver ball apparently)!?! That darn tongue lock I thought I was so smart to get to protect my new trailer from all the thieves in the middle of no-where Texas!! Yep I managed to hit it so right that it is now bent to the point that the key will not turn to unlock it!! :no:

So what a great way to end my evening. I was wondering if anyone can help me solve my retarded moment and has any advice on removing the now permanently locked tongue lock? :confused: Blow torch? Bolt cutters? Grr!

Thank you for any help!!
Oh and yes we did get the cattle back in the correct pasture :)

Jul. 20, 2011, 03:49 PM
I don't know what your lock looks like but you won't want a torch on bits of your trailer unless you are really good with one. Bolt cutters probably won't cut it.

An angle grinder and a metal cutting disk is probably the best bet unless you can bend whatever bent back the other way with a hammer and a cold chisel.

Sweet Thing Eventing
Jul. 20, 2011, 04:18 PM
Looks like this:

This just kind of sucks all the way around. Probably not possible to bend it back into place, but maybe.

Best part, I need the trailer in less then two weeks to take my horses to boyfriend's parents house about 2 1/2 hours South. We are going on vacation and they are 'babysitting' I can't take the older trailer because it is only a two horse and my yearling colt isn't fond of it...

Thank goodness my trainer is hauling this weekend.
Oh the things I get myself into! Maybe boyfriend will have a smart man plan, he wasn't able to look at it last night because we got home well after dark after getting the cattle back in.

Thank you for your help and thoughts!!

Tom King
Jul. 20, 2011, 04:47 PM
About a half dozen (one at the time, but if the loop is hardened it will wear out several of them) of the thin metal cutting disks in a 4 1/2" grinder. They're sold in Lowes and Home Depot where the other grinding disks are in the tool section.

Jul. 20, 2011, 06:56 PM
Without seeing what exactly is bent, I'm assuming the lock is in a bind.

I would try drilling the lock, jamming a screwdriver in the hole, get some locking pliers for leverage, and try to get it to turn that way. Might just keep drilling 'till the guts fall out and then try knocking it loose with a hammer.

If that doesn't work, then Tom King is on the money with the cutting disks. But I would attack the (probably) softer base. Notch the side with the key then the locking side of the loop should pop out.

Those locks are cheap, cheap, cheap, (see my previous posts about "visual deterents") which will come in handy in this situation. I drilled one for a guy who lost the key; cordless drill, screwdriver........literally took less time than it would have taken to find the key on a key ring and unlock it that way.

Jul. 21, 2011, 12:30 AM
Another tool can be a sawsall. A good metal blade will cut through most hardened steel fairly easily. That is our general technique in the foundry if we can't take a torch to it.


Sweet Thing Eventing
Jul. 21, 2011, 08:44 AM
Thank you so much for all the help!!! I truly appreciate the advice in my time of lapsed judgement!!! I will not use anything with heat as I do not want to damage my trailer, I wasn't thinking straight and couldn't come up with a different solution!

I am not going to worry about it this weekend, I am too excited to head out for xc schooling so I will tackle this frustrating issue next week :)

Thank you so much for the help!!!!

ETA: I will try to describe the bent 'issue' I hope this makes sense -
I looks like I hit the yellow part of the lock right where the key goes with the receiver ball on my truck. In doing this it appears I bent the arch part that goes over the top of the tongue. I managed to bend it just enough that it has jammed the inside of the locking device and when I try to use the key it will not turn to unlock...

Again thank you for the ideas, I am going to see if one of my friends might have an angle grinder I can borrow!

Jul. 21, 2011, 09:31 AM
Angle grinder would be choice #1. Liquid nitrogen choice #2. Freeze the hardened steel and 1 good shot with a hammer will break it. Bicycle thieves have been doing that fer a while now...

Jul. 21, 2011, 09:56 AM
A regular locksmith might be able to help you. They have all sorts of metal-cutting tools. (edit: I understand that the lock is bent and mangled and you don't need a key! I was just thinking of mobile folks who travel with metal-working tools. Or maybe you could hire someone at an autobody shop to make a house call?)

Jul. 21, 2011, 10:12 AM
Angle grinder would be choice #1. Liquid nitrogen choice #2. Freeze the hardened steel and 1 good shot with a hammer will break it. Bicycle thieves have been doing that fer a while now...

I am not sure where this liquid nitrogen myth comes from. We run LN2 through steels and other metals all the time and I have yet found one that shatters unless it already had significant defects in it already. The other possibility is nitrogen defect formation in the metal but that takes years.

At the same time you would need to hit (cold work) the metal severely for the LN2 to work. Also, you need to have a dewars flask (I doubt a bicycle thief can carry enough to hold a lock under for minutes to hours).

Yes, an angle grinder or any rotary cutting tool with a wafering or abrasive blade makes very short work of hardened steels. We use alumina or cubic boron nitride blades to cut through designed hardened steels easily.

Jul. 21, 2011, 10:24 AM
A hacksaw with a good blade should be able to make relatively short work of it, looks thin enough and will be a lot less expensive than buying a rotary cutter just for this. Plus I hate all those flying particles, I'd rather plug away with a hacksaw for a few minutes.

Jul. 21, 2011, 10:41 AM
I thought someone had written that bolt cutters wouldn't work...I'm curious as to why not? When my husband lost the key to our tongue lock he used bolt cutters and snipped right through it. It wasn't a wimpy lock either.

Jul. 21, 2011, 12:13 PM
I am not sure where this liquid nitrogen myth comes from.

Well, I have seen video of it being done to U locks. Spray, whack, break...

That being said, there are many grades of steel out there.

Best bet is the angle grinder.

Jul. 21, 2011, 02:42 PM
Ask your farrier if he/she has an angle grinder. DH has two in his rig, complete with metal cutting disks.