Common Door Lock Problems and Simple Fixes

We can’t fix all door lock problems we encounter around the house (Call Alpha!) but it can’t hurt to have an idea about these things. At the very least we should be able to gauge whether it is something we can possibly do ourselves or whether it is time to call for professional help.

Consider some of the most common door lock problems– you may have experienced a few of them yourself.

  • Key won’t go into the lock– Don’t panic! Check first if you are actually using the right key! If it’s the wrong key, then all is well, no use getting upset, it happens to the best of us. Now if it is indeed the right key, do not forcibly insert or turn it inside the key cylinder. You might break it and create more problems. There may be something blocking the way like tiny debris/dirt or even ice if it’s that time of the year. If you find something stuck inside and you have the right tools with which to remove it, and then by all means do it. If it’s ice, all you need is a little heat from a blow dryer or immerse the key in hot water first before inserting it back in.

  • Door doesn’t stay closedThis usually happens when the strike plate needs adjustment or the door strike needs some lubrication. If the strike plate is misaligned, either due to poor installation or a sagging door, the door strike will not spring into place, keeping the door open. If the door strike stays depressed or doesn’t pop out by itself, it may need to be lubricated.

  • Warping – Depending on the weather, warping is common especially for wooden doors and/or door jambs. This problem often stops the locking points from engaging properly, thus keeping the door unlocked. Sometimes applying extra pressure to the door does the job. The problem corrects itself when the wood reverts back to its normal condition.

  • Key inserts but won’t turnAgain, dirt may have gotten stuck or caught in the door mechanism, causing the lock to seize-up. Try attracting the dirt by inserting a damp swab into the keyhole and moving it around a bit. You will have to lubricate the lock afterwards. Never use oil for lubrication. You should use a graphite or silicone spray especially made for this purpose. They typically come in containers with a directional nozzle. Inserting the key then will spread the lubricant more evenly.

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