Five Common Lock Problems and What to Do About Them

Five Common Lock Problems and What to Do About Them

This article discusses common lock problems, such as frozen and loose locks, and how the reader might overcome them. As well as providing practical solutions, it discusses preventive measures the reader can take to stop the problems from recurring.

To paraphrase Jane Austin: A property containing valuable possessions always needs a lock. Locks are unsung heroes, reliably keeping our homes and belongings safe and secure without fanfare.

But these trusty protectors don’t always work perfectly. A broken lock often results in us desperately trying to make it work before searching online for a locksmith, probably muttering words not for children’s ears. Let’s take a look through the keyhole (pun intended) of what can go wrong and what you can do about it.

Author: Rowan Guthrie

Loose Locks: A Wobbly Dilemma

A loose lock is one of the most common problems and one of the easiest to fix. The barrel wobbles and feels unstable — which doesn’t inspire confidence in its security capabilities. Over time, the screws holding it in place loosen due to everyday wear and tear. To remedy this, follow these three steps:

  • Check the lock’s screws to see if they’re Phillips or flat-head.
  • Firmly tighten the screws with the appropriate screwdriver.
  • Don’t over-tighten or you risk damaging the screw’s threads.

Sticky Locks: When Turning Is a Struggle

Imagine you’re standing in the rain trying to get into somewhere dry, only to find your lock sticking and resisting your increasingly desperate efforts. Sticky locks are a common annoyance, often caused by a buildup of dirt, rust or debris in the lock cylinder. Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it:

  • Use a small brush, or a can of compressed air, to remove debris inside the lock.
  • Follow up with a silicone-based lubricant to ensure it operates smoothly.
  • Periodically, apply the lubricant to prevent the lock from sticking again.

Frozen Locks: The Winter Woe

Winter’s icy grip can freeze your lock as solid as the faces on Mount Rushmore. Frozen locks are usually caused by moisture that's found its way into the mechanism and turned to ice. While this is a pain, it’s an easy fix — and here’s how:

  • There are deicers specifically developed to unfreeze locks, but regular deicer works as well.
  • If you don’t have a deicer, try using a hairdryer on a warm but not hot setting. Don’t use a heat source that can burn you or make the lock hot.
  • To stop the lock from freezing again, consider installing a cover or lock shield.

The Key Won't Turn in the Lock: The Stubborn One

We’ve all faced this one — you insert your key, but it refuses to turn. This problem can stem from various causes, including a misaligned door, a poorly cut key or simply wear and tear. Here's how to tackle it.

  • Check for misalignment: See if the door is in line with the frame. If not, you might need to realign it to get the lock to work.
  • Inspect your key: If it’s worn or damaged, you’ll probably need to get a professional to cut you a new one.
  • Apply lubrication: If the previous two examples don’t apply, the issue might be wear and tear. Apply a small amount of graphite lubricant and try turning the key gently, being careful not to twist it too hard because you might break it.

Can’t Get the Key Into the Lock: Reentry Problems

Sometimes, the lock problem isn't the mechanism; it's getting the key inside. The issue is usually the key itself or the lock's internal components. If this happens to you, here’s what to do.

  • Examine the key: Check for visible signs of damage. If you can’t fix it, you’ll probably need to get a replacement.
  • Clean the lock: If you haven’t been maintaining the lock, debris has probably gotten inside. It’ll need cleaning out. Tools you can use include a can of compressed air, silicone-based lubricant, needle-nose pliers and a toothbrush or another small brush. You’ll need to be careful because you could damage the lock’s mechanism.
  • Get professional help: If you’re not confident you can clean the lock safely or the problem persists, it’s time to call in a locksmith. They’ll diagnose the problem and come up with a solution.

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