6 Reasons Your Lock Is Stuck or Jammed — and How to Fix It

by Team eLocal
deadbolt door lock and handle

Most people have had that door with a little “trick” to lock it — or one that needs brute force to open it. Over time, these doors can become completely unusable, leading to bigger problems.

But did you know there are simple ways to fix a stuck lock? Read on to find solutions to the broken door in your home.

What’s Wrong With the Lock?

Wonky Key

Check that the key is correct and well-cut. If you can find another key for the lock, try this first, and be sure to use a reputable locksmith for further cuttings. If you believe that the key is the problem and you have no spares, you may need to fit a new lock.

Keys from room hotel on the door

Mechanisms Aren’t Lubricated

One of the most common causes of a jammed lock is that the mechanisms are clogged with dirt and dust. If the key turns with difficulty, this may be the problem. Use graphite spray or a silicone-based lubricant to lubricate the lock. Don't use an oil-based product, such as WD-40. It may work initially, but it will eventually clog the mechanism.

Broken Key in the Lock

One of the most frustrating issues is a key stuck in the lock. Don't use the remaining part of the key to try to turn the part stuck in the lock. Pushing the broken part of the key further into the lock can result in further damage.

You can buy a key extractor to fix the problem. Carefully spray lubricant into the keyhole. Then insert the extractor into the keyhole, ridges facing the same way as the key ridges, and slide it back and forth until it interlocks with the key fragment. Gently pull the key from the door. Call a qualified locksmith to resolve the issue if you can't retrieve the broken piece of the key yourself.

Broken key in front of a lock

Misaligned Door

An older door may have shifted position because the hinges are loose. Look for gaps between the door and the frame to identify this problem. Open the door to expose the hinges and tighten them with a screwdriver.

Misaligned Deadbolt

You have probably experienced a door that takes a push or a jiggle to close because the bolt doesn’t line up with the strike plate. This may begin as a slight inconvenience, but it can lead to a door that won't lock at all.

Using basic tools, you can adjust the position of the strike plate to resolve the issue. Take a chisel and hold it to the lower lip of the plate. Use a hammer to gently tap it down. It should move a fraction of an inch easily, and you can position it to line up with the bolt.

If it won’t budge, get a screwdriver and a metal file. Remove the strike plate from the door and file down the lower lip of the strike plate to increase the size of the opening. If neither of these solutions works, you can try repositioning the plate or call a professional to fix it.

A worker is replacing the dead bolt on a home entryway door

Temperature

In winter, moisture in the lock can cause the jam as it freezes inside the lock. Use a hairdryer to heat the mechanism or a flame to heat up the key before using it.

How Do You Prevent a Lock From Getting Stuck or Jammed in the Future?

Purchase a Good Quality Lock

When purchasing new locks or replacing a lock in your home, opt for higher quality. This will make the biggest difference in preventing jamming. Cheaper locks may break and become clogged more easily. Of course, even quality locks still need maintenance.

Don’t Turn the Key Until Fully Inserted

Many people are unaware of this, but turning a key before it is fully inserted can be bad for the lock because it won't catch all the discs to open the door. This can cause misalignment that will eventually break the lock.

Maintain the Lock

Maintenance is necessary for your lock to last a long time and work at its best. Clean the lock regularly and lubricate the interior annually with graphite spray or a silicone-based lubricant.

Take Care of Your Keys

Don't force or push at resistance when turning your key in the lock. If the key has been bent or doesn't fit properly, don't continue to use it. Using the damaged key can cause internal damage to the lock over time.