How to fix common lock problems

Door locks, like any other mechanism, can stop working properly at inopportune times. If you're having issues with a lock then this article could help you to solve the problem.

Key gets stuck or is hard to turn

If you're having difficulty operating the key in a lock then there are some simple steps that might free things up.

Key is hard to turn

1. Check the key

The first step is to make sure you're using the right key! If you need to lift the handle before locking, try pushing it down then lifting again.

2. Lubricate

Lubricate the lock by spraying a little graphite into the cylinder.

3. Call a locksmith

If these methods don't work it's a good idea to call a locksmith. A stiff key could mean that your lock is in need of replacing.

Key is stuck

1. Pull

Grip the key firmly and with your other hand push around the keyhole. If you can't get a good grip try using pliers, but remember to be gentle to avoid damaging the lock.

2. Call a locksmith

If the key won't come out then you will need to call a professional locksmith to remove it without damaging your lock and door.

Key turns but doesn't work

If the key turns but doesn't lock or unlock the door then this usually means that an internal mechanism has failed. Call a professional locksmith to solve this problem.

Key won't go in lock

If you can't get your key in the lock then the first thing to check is that you're using the right key.

  • Defrost the keyhole

If it's very cold then the lock might be frozen. Gently heat the key and insert it gradually into the keyhole. Repeat heating and inserting until the ice has melted. Be careful as this method could result in a  stuck or broken key.

  • Lubricate

Lubricate the lock by spraying a little graphite into the cylinder.

  • Check the key

If you have a new key it might have rough spots that need to be filed off. Ask a key manufacturer to do this to avoid filing off a vital part of the key.

If none of these steps solve the problem then you may need to have a replacement key made or the lock replaced.

Door latch won't shut

If the door latch doesn't engage then it may be out of alignment with the strike plate (the bit on the door frame that the bolt goes into). Try the following:

  • Tighten the screws on the door hinges.

  • Try adjusting the strike plate by loosening its screws and shifting it slightly.

  • Spray graphite into the latch to lubricate it.

Latch is stuck

If the door latch is stuck then there are several things that you can check:

  • Check the door hinges

Try lifting the door slightly to check that the hinge screws are tight. If the door is out of alignment then the latch will stick.

  • Check the strike plate

Check that the strike plate aligns with the latch and bolt. If not, try loosening the screws of the strike plate and adjusting the position slightly.

  • Try lubricating the latch

Spray some graphite into the latch to lubricate it.

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