Key Doesn’t Work In Door

Problem: Door won’t open be cause of binding or broken key, a stuck bolt, or a frozen lock.

Background: Like most other mechanical devices, keys and locks can wear out or become damaged. Some times lock problems are caused by a misaligned door. To prevent lock problems, periodically inspect them, tighten loose screws, apply lock lubricant, and make adjustments as necessary to strike-plates. Excessively loose tubular or cylinder locksets, or locks that seize the key, may be candidates for replacement; however, sometimes a locksmith can replace worn tumblers and springs.

What to do: If the lock is frozen, try warming the key and reinserting it, or try squirting alcohol into the key hole. When a key breaks in a lock, it is often because it was not pushed in completely before turning, or the wrong key was pushed into the lock. If part of the key stays inside the lock, remove the cylinder and try pushing the key part out with a fine pin from the shaft end. When keys bend, it may be caused by a poorly made duplicate key. If an original key works in the lock, have the duplicate remade. Binding can also be caused by worn tumblers. If you think this is the problem, remove the cylinder and take it to a locksmith. If the key turns, but the bolt sticks, check to make sure the bolt isn’t blocked by paint. If the bolt can’t move because the door is misaligned, check and align the door.

Special advice: To help avoid lock problems, try to make all keys easily identified. When having duplicate keys made, go to a qualified lock smith who uses top-quality blanks. (Having at least 1 extra duplicate key kept in a secure place can pre vent an emergency.) When replacing locksets, spend more for the best quality you can afford. Locks can be lubricated with graphite (in a pinch, rub keys with graphite from a wooden pencil) or with fine oil sold for that purpose. Don’t use regular lubricating oil.

Helpful hint: When locking up the home, don’t lock all other doors from the inside; if the door locked with a key doesn’t work you won’t be able to gain entry to the inside of the home.