Campus Cycling Services

Bicycle lock cutting service

If your bike is on UC Davis property, and you have lost your bike keys or your bike lock is malfunctioning, Transportation Services can help (proof of ownership required). We do require that the bike have a valid California Bicycle License when we cut the lock. If it doesn’t, we can renew or register the bike anew when we cut the lock. A valid photo I.D. (e.g. student registration card or drivers license) will also be required.

If you require a lock to be removed, you can:

  • Call Transportation Services at (530) 752-2453 during business hours, 8:30am-4pm, M-F (not including University holidays).
  • Send an email and make an appointment for a time for Transportation Services to meet you at your bike and cut your lock.
  • Call University Police at (530) 752-1727. They will require proof of ownership, which includes having registered your bike. If you did that locally, the police should be able to verify that in our registration database. You don’t need to produce your copy of the registration.
Preventative bike lock maintenance

More often than not, our lock cutting service is needed because a bike owner suddenly discovers that his or her key will not turn in the lock, or, because it won’t turn easily, the key breaks off in the lock when the owner tries to force it open. If your key won’t turn far enough, don’t force it and then read the advice below. Our staff will also try the technique described below to open the lock without resorting to cutting it.

A typical U-lock may cost between $20 - $100, so preventing “stuck” U-locks or fixing them instead of cutting them is clearly a more desirable outcome.

 When U-locks are “jammed”, it’s usually not the actual lock (where the key fits) that is at fault. Rather, the moving parts of the mechanism that engage the shackle (U-shaped piece) portion of the lock are what get rusted or otherwise stuck together. In that case, oiling the lock through the keyhole will not have much effect.

To help prevent that from happening, the following steps are recommended to be followed at least once a year or more often if your bike spends a lot of time in the rain:

  • take the lock apart into its two parts
  • set the shackle  aside, it’s just an inert piece of metal
  • turn the key to make the lock mechanism move to the locked position
  • as you turn the key, look into the holes where the shackle fits
  • some u-locks will only lock one side, other will lock at both ends (photo shows a one-sided mechanism)
  • drip several drops of machine oil (or chain lube) onto the part that you see moving when you turn the key; this is the sliding-locking-bar/pin that engages the shackle (see photo below)
  • work the key back and forth a few times to get the oil between the moving parts
  • once they move smoothly again, the key should no longer bind and you’re good to go

Even with a frozen/stuck u-lock, there is one thing you can try as long as the key isn’t broken off in the lock and unable to be removed. Squirt copious amounts of thin penetrating oil (like "Liquid Wrench") down the tiny seams where the u-portion enters both sides of the bar of the u-lock (see photo below). Do it on both sides and don’t be shy with the amount; flood it good. Squirt a tiny bit right into the keyhole, too, just in case. If you’re willing to wait a few minutes for the oil to penetrate, you may find that the key turns again if you start by gently wiggling it back and forth to help the oil penetrate even further. Do not use thin oils like WD-40 to lube locks once they’re working again; it washes off too quickly; use a graphite-based lubricant designed for use with locks. A widely-available product found at most hardware stores is “Lock-Ease”.

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