Home Improvement

How to Open a Door with a Broken Handle

Images source: Artemiy_U / Shutterstock.com

A broken door handle doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s always a very unpleasant surprise. The hindered accessibility to the property is the least of your problems, however, while the compromised security is the biggest.

In such rare cases it pays to know alternative methods to open a door with a broken handle, so read along and take notes. So, first things first.

Why won’t the door handle open?

If you’re facing issues with your broken door handle and finding it difficult to open, several common problems may be at play.

  1. Tightened screws – Overly tightened screws can restrict the handle’s movement, and operating the door may not feel smooth any more. This may lead to the handle’s backplate pinching the lock, hindering the effective operation of the spring mechanism;
  2. Lack of lubrication – Internal springs within the handle may bind, which will result in difficulty operating the door. Without proper lubrication, friction in the internal components, especially the springs, can interfere with the smooth rotation of the handle;
  3. Failed spring mechanism – If the uPVC door fails to latch shut correctly, there could be an issue with the lock’s spring mechanism. A malfunctioning spring can lead to improper latching, compromising the door’s functionality;
  4. Loose set screw – If the doorknob turns, but the door won’t open, a loose set screw holding the knob or handle to the rod might be the culprit;
  5. Other causes – External factors like broken keys jamming the lock, rust affecting internal components, or misalignment between different parts of the door can all lead to the handle not working properly or even breaking;
  6. Handle replacement – Over time, handles can wear out or sustain damage beyond repair, necessitating replacement to restore the door’s functionality. When attempts to fix the handle prove futile, replacement may be your only practical solution.
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Now when you know the possible reasons, let’s get down to business.

How to open a door when the handle is broken

Begin by inspecting the door’s locking mechanism and identify the type and severity of damage the door handle has sustained. This is how to open the door when the handle is broken:

Method 1: Try to adjust the internal mechanism

When the internal mechanism of the door handle is broken, preventing the latch from engaging properly, it requires a more careful approach.

  1. Examine the latch mechanism and attempt to manipulate it to open the door.
  2. Carefully check for any loose screws or components that may be hindering the proper operation of the handle.
  3. If possible, try to reposition or adjust the internal parts to allow the door to open smoothly.

If you find these steps challenging or if the issue persists, seeking a professional locksmith is recommended.

Important: If the door handle is broken and you’re stuck in the room, stay calm and composed; panicking can cloud your judgment. Check the room for alternative exits or windows. Use your mobile phone to call for assistance, friends, family, or building management. Attempt a DIY fix by checking for loose screws or a jammed latch mechanism.

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Method 2: Use a thin flexible item like a credit card to manipulate the latch

The first thing which comes to mind is when you need to figure out how to open an internal door when the handle is broken.

  • Choose a suitable card – Pick a credit card, driver’s license or any thin, flexible plastic card that can fit between the door and the frame;
  • Insert the card – Slide the card into the gap between the door and the frame where the latch is located. Make sure to insert it perpendicular to the door;
  • Position the card – Position the card above the latch, ensuring it reaches the area where the latch is located inside the door frame;
  • Apply pressure – While maintaining steady pressure, begin to wiggle and push the card downward. Simultaneously, try to push the door away from the frame gently;
  • Manipulate the latch – As you apply pressure and wiggle the card, the goal is to manipulate the latch mechanism. Continue until you feel the latch retract;
  • Rotate the door knob – Once the latch is manipulated, rotate the door knob or handle. If successful, the door should open.

Mind you, this makeshift solution may look cool, especially in movies, but may not work on all types of doors or latches. It’s recommended to seek professional assistance if the door is equipped with a more complex locking mechanism

Get professional lock check and fix!

Contact a locksmith today.

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Get professional lock check and fix!

Contact a locksmith today.

Learn more

Method 3: Utilise pliers or wrenches to grip and turn the exposed spindle

If you’re facing an exposed spindle on uPVC door handle, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  • Remove decorative caps (if applicable) – Some uPVC door handles have decorative caps covering the screws and spindles. Use a flat-head screwdriver to gently pry off these caps, exposing the components beneath;
  • Access the spindle – Expose the spindle, the rod connecting the handles;
  • Gripping techniques – Once the spindle is exposed, use pliers or an adjustable wrench to grip it firmly. Ensure a secure hold to prevent slipping during the next step;
  • Rotate the spindle – With a firm grip on the spindle, rotate it either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the door’s design and latch mechanism. The goal is to retract or engage the latch inside the door.

If this method doesn’t quite work for you, check our post on broken uPVC door lock mechanism for additional insights.

Method 4: Leveraging flat objects as makeshift handles

When faced with a broken door handle that can no longer be used, your only option for the moment is to find a temporary replacement.

  • Explore household items – Look around for common household items that can serve as temporary handles. Examples include a screwdriver, butter knife, or any flat, sturdy tool that can be easily gripped;
  • Insert the tool – Once you’ve selected a suitable item, carefully insert it into the space where the handle would be. Ensure a secure fit, allowing the improvised tool to function as a makeshift handle;
  • Leverage the tool – With the improvised tool in place, apply controlled pressure while turning the tool to mimic the handle’s function. You will be either retracting it to unlock the door or engaging it for proper closure.

Be very careful not to cause further damage to the door. It might be so that only the handle needs fixing, whereas the key mechanism is perfectly fine.

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Method 5: Replace the spring cassette or washer

The result of this problem is a loose or detached handle from its base. This can be a quick fix.

  1. Open the door and remove the two screws holding the escutcheon plates.
  2. After that, carefully take off both plates to reveal the internal mechanism.
  3. If you find spring cassettes, remove them from each escutcheon plate and inspect for any damage.
  4. If the cassette area is no longer square-shaped, it needs replacement.
  5. If your handle has washers, remove the old broken washers and replace them with new ones.

Usually, this should be enough, but if you need more details, check our post on how to fix a floppy door handle.

Method 6: Seek professional assistance

When dealing with a broken door handle, seeking professional assistance is a wise decision in the following situations:

  • Emergency situations If you find yourself locked in a room without a proper means of escape and all DIY tricks you’ve tried prove to be fruitless;
  • Uncertain cause – When the cause of the door handle malfunction is unclear or too challenging to determine on your own;
  • Extensive damage – If there’s visible and extensive damage to the door lock or handle, it’s an indicator that the issue may not go away with just a simple repair. Maybe replacement is the only solution;
  • Repeated failures – If the door handle continues to fail even after temporary repairs, it’s a clear sign that a more comprehensive and permanent fix is needed.

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Preventive measures

To ensure the prolonged functionality of your door handles and prevent future incidents, consider following these practical tips:

  1. Regular inspection and maintenance – Regularly inspect your door handles for any signs of wear, loose screws, or malfunction. Perform maintenance tasks promptly by tightening screws and addressing minor issues before they turn into larger problems;
  2. Lubrication for prevention – Apply a suitable lubricant to your door handles at regular intervals. Lubrication helps prevent rust formation and reduces stiffness in the mechanism, ensuring smooth and effortless operation;
  3. Exercise caution with fragile handles – Exercise caution when handling doors with fragile or worn-out handles. Avoid exerting excessive force, especially if you notice any signs of wear. Gentle operation and proper care can significantly extend the lifespan of your door handles.
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  • Many reasons can lead to a broken door handle, those being wear and tear, lack of lubrication, overly tightened screws, a failed spring mechanism and more;
  • If the problem is a loose or detached handle from its base, you can try to fix it yourself;
  • A broken internal mechanism preventing latch engagement may or may not be within your capabilities, but still try to fix it;
  • If you find yourself stuck in the room when the door handle breaks, stay calm and think clearly. If that fails, call friends or family for help.
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