The locks on the doors of your home or business should make you feel safe and protected. Unfortunately, people run into issues every day when they are unable to get their doors unlocked. If your key doesn't turn in the lock, you could consider DIY options, or potentially contact a locksmith for help.
Considering hardware replacement might not be a bad idea once you’re able to get back into your home. Contact our team at Access Residential Hardware for help finding the perfect new keyed door knob for your home. Now might also be a good time to consider a keyless entryset to simplify your life and remove the complications that come with keys altogether.
DIY Troubleshooting Steps To Unlock Your Doors
Having a key that won't turn in the lock can be more than a bit of an inconvenience. Fortunately, there are several do-it-yourself options that help you get your doors unlocked quickly without having to deal with the hassle of contacting a locksmith. Here are several DIY solutions to your key lock problems.
One of the top issues with locks and keys occurs when dust and dirt begin collecting inside of a lock cylinder. When this happens, pins can get stuck, which prevents the plug from being able to turn correctly. Fortunately, this is often an easy fix.
Simply grab a can of WD-40, silicon-based lubricant, graphite spray, or a dry lubricant and spray it into the keyway. Once it has been sprayed, insert the key so the lubricant will work into the locking mechanism.
While WD-40 and other lubricant sprays are often readily available, they do get messy. It's easier and cleaner to use dry lubricant when you can. The video below demonstrates how to apply dry graphite lubricant to fix a stuck door lock.
Frozen locks may not be an issue in the summer months, but in the wintertime, when your door locks get frozen shut, it can be impossible to get your doors unlocked. Fortunately, this is also an easy fix.
Simply warm up your key by placing it in a small container of hot water. Once the key is warm and dry, insert a key into the lock mechanism and slowly turn it. Alternatively, you might also try using a blow dryer to blow hot air directly into the locking mechanism to thaw out your door locks.
The Key Is Bent
If you use your key to cut things, as a box cutter, or as a can opener, for example, you could be causing your key to bend. If your key is bent, it could jam inside the lock when you attempt to get into your home. If this happens, you need to try to straighten your key as much as possible.
You can do this by using a hammer and hammering the key on a smooth, hard surface. You do not want to flatten the key, so be careful to remove the bend in the key only. If you have a vice bench, this might be significantly easier. You can place a piece of wood between the keys in the hammer to protect it. The video below shows you how to straighten a key with a vice and wooden sticks.
The Key Tip Is Blunt
Keys are cut in a way that only allows them to fit into their specific lock. When you use your key as a box cutter or for any other reason other than opening a lock, it can cause damage to the tip of the key, just like it can bend it.
To fix a blunt key tip, you can use a bastard file to remove excess metal preventing the key from turning. Before trying to turn the key again, be sure to use some lubricant on the key and in the locking mechanism.
Consider Keyless Entry
You might be able to avoid dealing with key locks that won't turn if you purchase keyless entry systems. These are increasingly popular in homes. You will no longer need a key to access your home at all. Instead, you may be able to enter a pin code to unlock the door. You’ll no longer have to carry your key around with you and it’s one less thing you don’t have to worry about losing.
When to Contact a Locksmith
Sometimes do-it-yourself options just don't cut it. If you are dealing with any of the following key or lock issues that are preventing you from being able to unlock your doors, you might need a locksmith. However, you may be able to save yourself some money by purchasing the hardware you will need to make the necessary repairs.
The Keys Were Just Cut
One of the most common reasons locks won't open is when keys are freshly cut. If you can insert the key, but it will not turn, it is probably because the key was not cut properly. Unfortunately, in cases like these, you may need to get a new key cut so you can get into your home. Make sure you are positioning the key correctly within the lock before you decide to go ahead and send your key back.
The Key Won't Go In All the Way
When the key will not go into the lock all the way, it may be because there is an obstruction. Pins might be corroded or the pin chamber might be worn out. Make sure you do your research before attempting to fix this key and lock issue on your own, as mistakes could cause damage to the lock or your door. In most cases, it would be better to call a locksmith to resolve this particular issue.
If you do want to attempt to fix this issue yourself, you can try using powdered graphite or a graphite spray. Coat your key in graphite and insert it into the keyhole. The graphite will act as a lubricant to help unjam lock tumblers that may have become clogged with debris over time.
The Key Turns But the Door Lock Doesn't
If you can turn the key but the lock isn't turning it is probably because there is an issue with the lock's mechanism system. In cases like these, the lock may need to be removed or replaced. There could also be a misalignment issue or trouble with your lock cylinder.
The Key Gets Broken In the Lock
When you are attempting to get into your home and your key breaks in the lock, it could be difficult to retrieve the broken key. You may be able to use the tip of a pair of needle-nose pliers to obtain the broken key and pull it out of the keyhole.
However, it is important that you do not use force, as this could damage your lock or even your door. One of the worst mistakes you can make is attempting to put the key back together with super glue. The glue residue could be damaging to your key and locking mechanism. The video below demonstrates nine different ways to remove a broken key from a lock.
The Lock Body Is Broken
One of the most common types of locking mechanisms is known as a night latch. When you cannot unlock your door, and the mechanism is to blame, the key might not be able to turn. You can replace a broken lock body by screwing the lock mechanism off of the door. New holes will need to be drilled on your current door for the new lock to be installed successfully.
Issues With the Door Position
When your drawer can be unlocked or locked while it is open but not when the door is closed, this suggests that there is an issue with the locking point alignments. Doors are often designed to be adjustable, but when they drop out of position or slip, it can have an impact on your ability to get your door unlocked.
Problems With the Lock Cylinder
Inside of a lock, there are a set of serrated pins that will move up and down as the key is inserted into the locking mechanism. Each key's serrated pins are cut to match the key that goes with that lock. In many cases, the pins simply need additional lubrication so they can move up and down easier. However, in other instances, the pins can fuse or seize, which would indicate your entire locking system needs to be replaced.
You might also find issues with your lock cylinder if you were the victim of a recent break-in or attempted break-in. Here, someone could attempt to insert a foreign object into your keyhole in the hopes of getting inside. If your locking mechanism is destroyed and the pins cannot be lifted, the lock will need to be replaced. If you need help choosing a new lock and key, our team at Access Residential Hardware can help you select the right locking system for your home.
Fixing A Broken Key
If your key snaps and breaks inside your lock, your first instinct will likely be to try to glue it back together once you fish the broken half out of the lock. However, it is much better to get a replacement key created at a local hardware store as opposed to trying to glue the key back together.
House keys are typically manufactured with nickel silver, which is a strong alloy. They usually only snap because they are old. Each rotation of the key in the lock slowly weakens the key over time as metal slides against metal. Gluing a key back together won't be a long-term fix because the metal is already weakened. Replacement is always the best option for fixing a key that has snapped. If your key is patented, you will need to work with a professional locksmith that is licensed to recreate the patented key.
Want To Fix Your Jammed Door Lock For Good? Replace Your Old Hardware With Access Residential Hardware
Key issues could be the sign you needed to replace your old or outdated hardware. Modern hardware from Access Residential can help you update the look of your home and improve the functionality of your doors. Access Residential doesn’t just sell keyed door knobs and levers. We offer a wide range of exterior and interior door hardware. We also offer bath and cabinet hardware as well.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team with questions. We’d be happy to walk you through hardware options and help you find the hardware that will match your home’s style and needs. You can speak with a team member by calling 866-752-9002, or by filling out a quick contact form.