Home Improvement

5 Frequent Door Lock Problems and How to Fix Them

Anybody can experience door lock problems, from homeowners to office landlords. That’s why it’s essential to know what the most common issues are and how to resolve them. You can always call a professional emergency locksmith later, but when you’re in a hurry for work and your key is stuck in the lock, you need to act now.

So, if:

  • Your key doesn’t go in the door lock and you wonder why;
  • The key got stuck in the lock and now the mechanism won’t turn;
  • Your key just broke inside the lock and you don’t want to leave your property unattended;
  • The handle and locking mechanism turn, but the door still won’t open;
  • Your new lock became stiff and not won’t open at all,

Then read along!

1. The key won’t go in the door lock

When the key doesn’t go into the lock, make sure you have the right one. If you do, but it still won’t go in, follow these steps to, hopefully, resolve the problem.

  • Lubricate – The cylinder lock may have become dry from all the years of use and different climate conditions. A graphite lubricant will help the pins move again. Blow into the lock, then spray some oil. Mind you, do not mix lubricant products: use either one or the other. If you don’t have any of these products with you, try with some water or spit. When you have the time, definitely lube the lock.
  • Something’s inside the lock – It might be dirt or debris of some sort. Flash it with your phone light to try and see. If you find a wooden match, glue, or another object, then the lock is unsavable and needs to be changed.
  • Check if your key is bent – If your key is bent even slightly, it might not go all the way into the lock. Often in our daily lives, we use keys for different purposes other than the intended one. For example, like a saw, a handle, or as a bottle opener. Keys can only take so much. You either have to get a spare one or straighten this one if you still want to use it.
  • Defrost – If the temperatures outside are below zero, it is normal for your lock to freeze. You have to defrost the keyhole by blowing hot air into it or heat your key so it can defrost the inside of the lock.
You may also like:
Home Improvement
Locked Yourself Out with the Key Left in the Lock on the Other Side?

2. The key won’t turn and the door lock is jammed

Keys sometimes get stuck in the lock when they are new. The rough edges cause the key to latch and get stuck between the lock pins. Old keys can also get stuck in the lock.

It’s usually relatively easy to remove a stuck key, provided nothing is broken inside the lock. Do not try to force the key out by pulling because it can damage the lock or break whilst still inside. Instead try to:

  1. Lubricate – Some lubricant sprays come with a tiny straw nozzle, perfect for spraying into tight spaces. Spray above the key. Afterwards, wiggle the key up and down to work in the liquid. After several minutes, try to pull it out gently. If you manage, spray some lubricant on the key and place it back inside, so the entire lock gets adequately lubricated.
  2. Use ice – Cold makes metals contract. Try and find ice either from a helpful neighbour, or a local shop. Hopefully, when you keep ice on your key for several seconds, it will contract and become easier to get out.
  3. Push plug method – Try this method if you have a pin tumbler lock. When you look at the outer part of the lock, you see the “face”. It’s the small circle where you put your key. It may have become shaky, resulting in it shifting within the cylinder and not aligning with the pin tumblers. Start by pushing the key into the hole. Then, rotate it so that hole returns to its normal, starting position when you insert the key. (The cylinder and pins should now be aligned with each other. Finally, push the “face” with your finders whilst turning and pulling the key gently.

Experiencing lock problems?

Check out our solutions.

Learn more

Experiencing lock problems?

Check out our solutions.

Learn more

3. The door latch is stuck inside

When the latch is stuck inside the lock, there could be several reasons and fixes, such as:

Misaligned strike plate

If the latch is fine when the door is open, but stuck when the door is closed, then the strike plate is probably misaligned. This happens due to moisture which expands the wood of the door frame, or the foundation of your home becoming slightly different. Wood frame houses settle and shift somewhat over time, though we can’t notice it.

  1. Smear a little chalk on the faceplate of the door.
  2. Close the door and open it again. Now you should see the contact point between the door frame and latch.
  3. Move the plate so it aligns better with the door latch. Unscrew and screw back the strike plate. You may even have to widen the hole a bit.

It’s also a good idea to redo your door finish. It will keep moisture from bending your door shape for several more years.

You may also like:
Home Improvement
How to Open a Door with a Broken Handle

The internal mechanism is broken

You know this is the likeliest problem when you push the handle, and the latch gets stuck. Frankly, there’s no point in trying to save the lock. It would be much easier and quicker just to replace it.

You may also like:
Home Improvement
uPVC Door Lock Mechanism Broken? Here’s What to Do!

The latch is jammed

if you feel no difference when you press the latch or turn the handle, then the internal mechanism is probably rusty. You can either replace the lock entirely or try and save it.

  1. Remove the lock.
  2. Disassemble it.
  3. Submerge all parts in vinegar with 5% acidity or WD-40. Either of these will help remove the layer of grime from the components.
  4. Leave overnight.
  5. Scrub all the nooks and crannies of the components the next day. If you used WD-40, you will have to lubricate the lock again.
  6. Use car wax to seal any imperfections in the metal. Those imperfections can cause your lock to rust again unless sealed.
You may also like:
Home Improvement
Stuck Again? Here’s How to Deal with a Jammed Lock

4. Broken key in a lock

A broken key in the lock is perhaps the worst-case scenario for anyone, but it’s not entirely impossible to resolve it. Check what part of the key broke off. If it’s only the head, you can still pull out the other part with needle-nose pliers or a jigsaw blade.

  1. Spray penetrating oil into the keyhole to loosen up the key inside.
  2. Insert a screwdriver into the lock to move it to its default vertical position.
  3. Put the needle-nose pliers into the keyhole and grip the broken key.
  4. Pull it out.

If the pliers are too large for this small work area, use your jigsaw blade.

  1. Slide the blade into the keyhole.
  2. The teeth of the blade need to touch the key.
  3. Push the blade into the key. You should feel the blade teeth grip the key.
  4. Keep applying this pressure as you slowly pull out the key from the lock.

If none of these methods prove to be successful, try to remove the door lock cylinder without the key.

5. The door lock is spinning

When this problem happens, it’s usually on euro cylinder locks. If your entire lock turns along with your key, you probably have a damaged set screw. You need to access this screw to tighten it back up or change it if necessary.

  • Remove the faceplate.
  • Locate the set screws and untighten them.
  • Inspect the set screws. If they are worn out or rusted, replace them.
  • Put the set screws back and tighten them.
  • Test the lock before putting back the faceplate.

There is also the instance where the key keeps spinning in lock, but that’s a whole different matter. Check our post if necessary.

Need a locksmith?

Find a professional to take care of your lock problems.

Add a valid postcode e.g. SE1 2TH

Call professionals

If your door lock problem takes too much time and hard work, why not call a professional locksmith?

Fantastic Services works with experienced and fully equipped locksmiths in London who will efficiently extract a broken key or help you with any other door lock problem you may have. Your lock will be easily fixed in a stress-free manner.


  • Try to remedy the problem as soon as you experience it.
  • Don’t push or pull your key aggressively.

Wondering about the cost for a locksmith to fix your door locks? Take a look at our blog post on the matter next!


Is your lock giving you trouble? How did you manage to fix it? Let us know by commenting.

Image Source: Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x