We give very little thought to the locks on our doors – aslong they are working properly. That said, if we pay attention to how our locks operate, we may be able to forestall more serious door lock problems down the line.
The following are some common door lock issues and how you might be able to fix them. We’ll also touch on what locksmith service would be the most useful in each case.
Door Lock Problem #1: Loose Door Locks, Door Knobs, and Door Handles.
Locks loosen up and wear down with time and use – the more use, the quicker the wear. The door you use primarily to enter and exit your home will likely be the first lock to loosen up. It’s relatively easy to diagnose this, as the door handle or knob will feel wobbly when you grab it and try to use it. When you try to use the door lock it, you may find yourself using one hand to hold the door handle or knob still while you turn the key because it needs that stability to engage.
Don’t ignore this problem. It gets worse over time. Plus, it’s a relatively easy fix.
How to fix loose door locks, door knobs, and door handles.
It is most likely an issue of loose screws, sometimes within the lock itself but likely it’s the screws attaching the lock to the door or handle. If it is the screws within the lock itself you could be dealing with the set screw, the fastener, or the spindle which connects both halves of your doorknob, lock, or handle.
DIY:Check to confirm it isn’t simply fixed by tightening the screws attaching the lock to the door. If it looks as though the issue is within the lock itself, you might want to consider reaching out to your local locksmith.
Locksmith service:You could look into having the lock repaired or it might be better to simply replace the lock. Consult with your trusted locksmith to determine what the best course of action is.
Door Lock Problem #2: Misaligned Door Locks or Strike Plates
The door lock may not engage if it’s misaligned with the strike plate (the piece of metal in the door jamb that secures the latch or bolt when shut or locked). This could occur due to poor installation, loose hinges, orit could result from wood warping over time due to climate and weather.
How to fix misaligned door locks or strike plates.
You’ll want to trouble-shoot a couple options, since there are a few things that could be causing the misalignment.
DIY:Examine the door hinges and screws. Tighten them as needed. This could be the culprit as over time the hinges can loosen, causing the door to sag.
Then, look at the strike plate. Was it installed at the proper height, depth, and angle? Fix as needed. Ideally, the latch or bolt should fit flush inside it.
Locksmith service:You could always hire a locksmith to come in and repair or replace your locks. This would be a premium service and is only worth it if you find yourself overwhelmed by DIY projects or simply don’t have the time. Hiring a contractor or handyman to do the job likely won’t deliver the quality lock installation a locksmith would provide.
Door Lock Problem #3: Broken Key in Lock
This tends to occur with normal wear and tear on the key or lock. If the teeth of the key wear down, this could cause it to stick inside the lock. And then at some point the key may catch but instead of turning the lock, the softer metal of the key breaks. The best time to catch this issue is when you first notice a hitch in the key turning. But we’ll deal with the broken key scenario first.
How to fix a broken key in a door lock.
Stop before you cause any more damage. The good news is you may be able to deal with this issue yourself, carefully.
DIY:Assess how deeply seated into the lock the key pieces are. It may be that you can grab the end sticking out of the lock with a set of needle-nosed pliers or a similar tool and slowly pull the key out. Be careful to not push the key in further. Try to make sure there are no key remnants or filings within the lock. Get a new key made from a master key as soon as possible.
If the key is really jammed in the lock, you may need to call out a locksmith.
Locksmith service:Locksmiths have tool kits that are specifically designed to help extract broken keys or other debris from door locks. This will be a premium service but is worth it as they can extract the key and manufacture a new key for the lock – either from the original key (preferred) or possibly from the broken key if the original key isn’t available. Or, they may recommend rekeying or replacing the entire lock.
Door Lock Problem #4: Jammed Locks and Latches
Locks jam for a variety of reasons. The key’s teeth could be wearing down and thus not engaging the tumbler easily. Debris could have built up inside the locking mechanism. Either of these issues could lead to a key breaking inside the lock. The latch or lock bolt could be broken. This could be the result of an attempted break-in.
How to fix jammed door locks or jammed latches.
In any case, you’ll need to trouble-shoot a multitude of possible causes to your jammed door lock to figure out how to fix it. Doing so as soon as you notice the problem will make it easier to diagnose and fix.
DIY:First, examine your key. You can apply graphite (lightly)to all the surfaces of the key, insert it into the lock, turn, remove and examine. Any place where the graphite hasn’t been removed is where the key doesn’t engage with the lock. If there is still graphite on some of the teeth, that key is worn down and needs replacing.
Second, is there debris within the lock? You can use an air duster (a can of compressed air typically used for cleaning computers) to blow debris out of the lock. Or you can use graphite. Avoid using anything wet or viscous as that can cause more of a mess.
Third, if the previous two options don’t fix the jam it could be an issue with a broken bolt or latch. Often this happens when a would-be thief tries to force their way in. In these cases, the lock will have to be repaired or replaced.
Locksmith service:As mentioned previously, your local locksmith will be more than happy to help you replace your jammed lock.
Door Lock Problem #5: Turning Cylinder in Door Lock
A properly functioning lock means that you can insert the key, easily turn it, and the door unlocks. However, sometimes you can insert the key and the cylinder turns without engaging the lock. This is probably the easiest issue to diagnose, but perhaps the most challenging to fix.
How to fix a turning door lock cylinder.
If the entire cylinder of the lock turns without engaging the lock itself, then you’ve probably got an issue with the lock’s set screws or tailpiece. They are either loose or damaged. To fix this, you’ll need to tighten or replace them.
DIY:You need access the set screws that hold the cylinder in place. For some locks, this means that you will simply have to remove the faceplate, whereas for others you might have to remove part of the lock from the door.If you know the make and model of your lock, you can look online for a user’s manual to walk you through the process. You may even be able to find a YouTube tutorial. Otherwise, you may have to wing it.
Not every lock will have the set screws installed or positioned in the same place. For instance, rim locks will have a set screw that is easily accessed by removing the outer case. On the other hand, a mortise lockset will have multiple set screws that can only be accessed once the faceplate has been removed.
Once you locate the set screws, tighten them or replace them if they are rusted or damaged. Then place the faceplate back in its original position. Test your door lock to ensure that the cylinder is kept firmly in place, and that you can easily lock and unlock your door.
Locksmith service: As noted previously, your local locksmith can assist in lock repairs or replacements. They may even be able to help you trouble-shoot your problem or suggest DIY options.
Prevent Door Lock Problems to Get the Best Home Security
It is relatively easy to prevent a door lock failure through regular door lock maintenance. This is often neglected or forgotten about, until a door lock issue like what we’ve described above presents itself. Read this article to get a maintenance checklist. Or contact us if you have a larger issue.