Home Improvement

Why My Key Only Works on One Side of the Door?

Image source: Anatoliy Sadovskiy / Shutterstock.com

Has it ever happened to you that for some reason the key only works one side of the door? Maybe you’re in this situation right now, and you need a quick answer. If that’s the case, let’s not waste any more time.

Why is the house key working on only one side?

This is a common issue with door locks, and there may be one or many causes for the key to only operate on one side of the door, depending on the type of lock you have and its particular mechanics. Hopefully, you can address your key-related troubles once you have a better understanding of the issues. 

However, if you are unable to lock your external door, you could refer to our guide on how to lock a door without a lock.  It would undoubtedly be beneficial. Now let’s look at the potential causes of a key suddenly breaking.

  • Misalignment – A misaligned bolt or latch in the door mechanism can make it difficult to turn the key smoothly from one side to the other. This misalignment may occur due to various factors, including door frameshifting or improper installation to begin with;
  • Worn-out components – Over time, the cylinder pins inside the lock mechanism may wear out, leading them to no longer fit properly with the grooves on the key. This wear and strain might be caused by regular usage, exposure to the outdoors, or poor maintenance procedures;
  • Debris accumulation – Dirt, dust, or other debris inside the lock cylinder might obstruct the smooth movement of the key. When debris accumulates, it can restrict the key’s path and prevent it from working properly on both sides of the door. In some cases, you even have to get the key out of a stuck lock because jams are also common;
  • Deadbolt issues – Deadbolts, known for their intricate mechanisms, can experience various problems such as jamming or internal misalignment. These problems may make it difficult to use the key on both sides of the door and may call for an expert’s assistance;
  • Key quality – Inadequately cut keys or keys composed of poor quality materials could not fit or function correctly in the lock. This may result in inconsistent operation when the key opens the door on one side but not the other;
  • Lock wear and tear – Just like any mechanical item, locks corrode with time as a result of frequent usage, exposure to the elements, and neglect. One sign of this wear and tear might be trouble turning the key from one side of the door.
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What to do if the door locks from only one side?

There are steps you can take to try and fix an unresponsive key by yourself. So, here is how you start.

1. Check for any obstructions

Carefully examine the keyhole and the surrounding areas of the locking mechanism. Pay close attention to any signs of dirt, dust, or foreign objects that may have accumulated over time. This might be why your door locks from the inside but not outside.

Use a flashlight to illuminate the interior of the lock, and search for even the smallest obstructions.

Remove any visible debris using a soft brush, compressed air, or a cotton swab. Be careful not to push the debris further into the lock.

2. Test the key

Inspect the key for any signs of damage, such as bends, cracks, or worn-out grooves. These may hinder its ability to engage with the lock pins effectively. If you have a spare key use it to check whether the issue lies with the original key or the lock itself. If the spare key functions smoothly, then the original key should be replaced.

3. Lubricate the lock

Select a suitable lubricant, such as graphite or silicone-based one. They reduce friction and enhance the smooth operation of lock cylinders. Apply a small amount of lubricant directly into the keyhole, ensuring even distribution throughout the interior of the lock cylinder. Insert the key into the lock and turn it several times to allow the lubricant to penetrate the internal components.

4. Check door alignment

Close the door and observe the gaps around the frame to assess its alignment. Misalignment can exert pressure on the locking mechanism, leading to difficulties in key operations.

Adjust the hinges or strike plate if necessary to realign the door, thus relieving any undue stress on the locking mechanism and promoting smoother key turning.

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5. Inspect the deadbolt

If the door features a deadbolt, examine its condition for any signs of damage, misalignment, or loose screws. Tighten any loose screws and ensure that the deadbolt moves freely in and out of the door frame without resistance.

6. Examine the latch mechanism

Evaluate the alignment of the latch mechanism with the strike plate on the door frame. Misalignment can impede the proper engagement of the latch and cause difficulties in key operations. Adjust the position of the strike plate if necessary to ensure smooth interaction between the latch and the strike plate.

7. Test the door handle

Operate the door handle or knob from both sides to assess its smoothness of movement. Stiffness or resistance may indicate underlying issues within the lock mechanism that require attention.

If all that doesn’t bring any results and the door lock won’t turn from the inside or outside, then consider calling professionals.

Facing lock issues? Don't worry!

A locksmith can secure your home.

Learn more

Facing lock issues? Don't worry!

A locksmith can secure your home.

Learn more

Maintenance tips that can prevent one-sided key issues

Ensuring your door locks function smoothly on both sides is essential for maintaining the security and accessibility of your home. Fortunately, there are several maintenance tips you can follow to prevent your door only locking from the inside or outside.

  • Regular cleaning and lubrication – Make it a habit to clean your locks regularly so no dirt and debris would build up. Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe the keyhole and surrounding areas. Additionally, apply a suitable lock lubricant, such as graphite powder or silicone-based lubricant, to the keyhole and key;
  • Use the right lubricant – It’s essential to use the correct type of lubricant for your locks to maintain optimal performance and longevity. Avoid oil-based lubricants as they can attract dirt and grime, potentially gumming up the lock mechanism over time. Instead, opt for recommended lock lubricants specifically designed for use with locks. They not only lubricate the internal components but also help to repel dirt and debris;
  • Inspect and tighten components – Loose components can compromise the integrity of the lock, so regularly inspect all components such as screws, bolts, and hinges, for any signs of looseness or wear. Tighten any loose screws or bolts promptly to prevent them from further loosening and potentially causing issues;
  • Test the lock regularly – Take a few moments periodically to test your locks from both sides. This simple routine allows you to identify any potential issues early on, such as stiffness or resistance when turning the key;
  • Address misalignments promptly – If you notice any misalignments or difficulties in turning the key from one side, address them right away. Misaligned locks can exert unnecessary strain on the mechanism, leading to premature wear and potential failure;
  • Protect against weather elements – Moisture and temperature fluctuations can affect lock performance over time, leading to corrosion and other issues. By installing weatherproofing measures, such as door sweeps and seals, you can help prolong the life of your locks and maintain their functionality in varying weather conditions.
  • Consider professional maintenance – Schedule periodic maintenance checks with a qualified locksmith or door specialist to ensure your locks are in optimal condition. Professional inspection and servicing can help identify and address any underlying issues before they escalate into larger problems.
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Contact a professional locksmith for an immediate fix

If you can’t remedy the malfunctioning door lock that only works from one side, then why not consider professional assistance? We at Fantastic Services, offer professional locksmith services in London to address your lock-related concerns promptly and efficiently.

The qualified and insured locksmiths we work with boast a 12-month workmanship guarantee, ensuring your satisfaction and peace of mind with every service.

Whether you’re locked out, need a lock replacement or repair, or require assistance with broken key extraction, we are here for you with the following services:

  • Emergency locksmith – With a swift 30-minute response time, our emergency locksmith service ensures that you’re never stranded outside your property for long;
  • Comprehensive services – From lockouts to lock replacements, our locksmiths handle a wide range of lock-related issues, ensuring that all locks installed meet British Standard requirements;
  • Transparent pricing – Our pricing is upfront and transparent, with no hidden fees. You’ll know exactly what to expect before the service begins;
  • Quality parts – We use high-quality lock parts and accessories to ensure the longevity and reliability of your locks;
  • Fantastic club benefits – Join our Fantastic Club to enjoy exclusive perks, including preferential member rates and priority booking.

Don’t get locked out or locked in!

Contact us now for quick and reliable assistance!

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  • Potential reasons for why your key only works on one side of the door, may be a misalignment, worn-out components, debris accumulation or deadbolt issues;
  • Try to fix the lock by checking it for obstructions, testing it with a spare key, and lubricating it;
  • You can prevent one-sided key issues by implementing regular cleaning and lubrication;
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