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How to Fix a Door Lock That Won’t Lock

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Muhammad Baballe Ahmad, Mehmet Cavas, Sudhir Chitnis, and Zhen-ya Liu.

✓ Verified & Tested Information

Having a door lock that won’t lock can be a major inconvenience. If you’re experiencing this problem, don’t worry! In this blog post, we’ll show you how to fix a door lock that won’t lock.

Identifying the Problem

The first step in fixing a door lock that won’t lock is to identify the issue. There are several common problems that could be causing the lock to not work, such as a broken key, a worn out lock, or a jam. It is important to accurately identify the issue before attempting any repairs. Knowing the issue will help you troubleshoot the problem and determine the best course of action.

Determine what type of lock you have

Knowing what type of door lock you have is important because the instructions to fix a broken lock may differ based on the model and brand. There are several common residential doorknobs that you’ll likely encounter. Standard cylindrical locksets, tubular locksets, latchbolt locksets, ball catches, surface bolts and mortise locks are the most popular types.

Standard Cylindrical Lockset: This widely used knob-and-deadbolt combination is featured in many doors. Both exterior and interior cylindrical keys feature a spring-loaded bolt that shoots out when turned to secure doors when locked.

Tubular Lock Set: Another widely used combination lock features an elongated cylinder reach-through keyhole with a single turn of the key required to engage both deadbolt and latch on residential doors.

Latchbolt Lockset: This type has two parts: handle or knob with an exterior cylinder handle into which you insert a key or thumbturn switch that releases the latch from inside the house.

Ball Catch: Commonly found in closet or cabinet doors, this type of lock consists of a small ball located behind the door which fits into a shallow socket mounted inside the frame; therefore maintaining it closed without requiring manual closure each time.

Surface Bolts: This lock consists of two parts, one flush with door jamb and the other attached to the top edge of swing door itself which engages from above when in closed position.

Mortise Lock: Most commonly found in commercial buildings this type consists of an whole system featuring an internal box to secure components such as latches, bolts, deadbolts etc., connecting them all together for advanced security measures.

Check for any visible signs of damage

The first step in attempting to fix a door lock that won’t lock is to check for any visible signs of damage. Look closely at the surface of the handle, the mechanism that operates it, and other components of the unit to determine if any parts look broken, bent or out-of-place. Pay close attention to any signs of wear and tear as these can be indicators that your lock has reached its life age. If there are no visible signs of damage, move on to checking your door’s internal components.


When dealing with a door lock that won’t lock, the first step is to troubleshoot the issue. This means looking at the lock mechanism , inspecting the Types of Door and any other elements that might be causing the problem. In this section, we’ll explore some of the common causes of door locks that won’t lock and what steps can be taken to try and fix the issue.

Clean the lock with a lubricant

It’s important to remember that a door lock is an intricate and often sensitive mechanism. Dirt, grime, and everyday use can easily cause problems for the delicate internals of a lock. Therefore, one of the first steps in troubleshooting a door lock that won’t lock should be to clean it with a lubricant.

Most locks are designed to be taken apart so that you can gain access to the working parts and clean them. However, you need to be aware that some locks may require specialized tools or releasing mechanisms. When disassembling your door lock, pay close attention to how it goes together so that you can put it back together properly when done.

Once your door lock is disassembled, examine each component for any signs of damage or wear and tear and gently clean with compressed air or Q-Tips before applying a high-grade graphite lubricant such as Tri Flow. Do not use WD-40 as this will speed up corrosion of metal components over time. Reassemble the lock after you have applied lubricant – if all parts are in good condition then reassembling should fix most issues but if they appear damaged or worn then they may need replacing.

Check for any loose screws or bolts

It’s important to check that any screws or bolts attaching the lock to the door are secure. Depending on your lock, you may need to unscrew it from the outside of the door using a Phillips head screwdriver. Pay close attention to any screws on either side of the lock that hold it in place. If any of these appear loose, use a screwdriver or Allen wrench to tighten them firmly. If you discover that any parts are worn out or damaged beyond repair, then you may need to replace them with new ones from a hardware store.

Next, check for dirt and debris that may be stuck in the bolt mechanism of your door lock. Use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to clean inside and around the keyhole, as well as around the faceplate and other components. If your lock has visible springs or fitted pins, they should be cleaned carefully as well with a brush or cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. Make sure all of this is thoroughly dry before re-installing it on your doorframe.

Make sure the bolt is aligned correctly

In order for a door lock to work properly, the bolt must be installed and aligned in the correct direction. This is especially important when replacing a lock, as adding an extra part can cause misalignment. If your key won’t turn in the keyhole, it could be a sign that the bolt is not lined up correctly.

Start by opening the door and inspecting the lock cylinder. Take note of the shape of any add-on or stacked parts that were included with your replacement lock. Typically, they should form a straight line and each part should fit into its designated slot on the frame. If there’s an issue with alignment, you’ll need to uninstall everything from scratch and reinstall each component precisely following directions from your product manual or installation guide.

Once all parts are properly aligned and fitted together with no gaps, check to make sure your key fits in smoothly before attempting to close or shut any doors; this will give you an opportunity to identify any further issues before locking up completely. Alternatively, if you’re using a one-piece lock, then double check its position in relation to the edges of your door frame before closing it completely – typically, there should be approximately 1/8-1/4 inch between them so that it moves freely when opened and closed again.

Replacing the Lock

In order to fix a door lock that won’t lock, one of the best solutions is to replace the lock. It is an easy process that is relatively inexpensive and it will ensure that your door remains secure and safe. In this section, we will discuss the steps to take in order to properly replace the lock.

Remove the old lock

To begin the replacement of your old door lock, you need to start by removing the existing hardware. Open the door and look on either side of the knobby area to find two screws. Using a screwdriver, unscrew these screws and keep them in a safe place. Once they are off, you will be able to pull out the knob. Depending on how advanced your current lock is, you will either see two pieces (the exterior and interior parts of a double cylinder setup) or just one piece (the interior part if it is a single cylinder setup). If you see two pieces, you should remove the exterior first before taking apart the interior piece.

The exterior part should come off without too much force. Once that is done, use your screwdriver to loosen up the retaining screws until it can be pulled apart as well. Now that both pieces have been removed from your door, you’re ready to replace it with your new lock!

Install the new lock

Once you have selected the new lock, it is time to install it. Before attempting this yourself, read through the instructions included with the lock and make sure you understand them. When replacing a locked unit, begin by removing the two screws that hold the unit in place on the door. After removing these screws, pull gently on both knob pieces to separate them from each other.

Next, remove the latch assembly from inside by gently prying it loose from its grooves and lifting it out of the door hole. At this point, you should be able to slide the new latch assembly into place in its grooves and secure it with a couple of screws. Make sure that everything is even and secure before proceeding any farther.

You will now need to replace both sides of your handle set: re-attach your exterior hand piece with its mounting screws followed by your interior handle and attaching any hardware or knobs as required by your specific model of lock. Finally, attach all cables (if necessary) which run between both sides of your lock before closing up any remaining holes or openings around your newly installed door lock mechanism–you are now ready to try out locking/unlocking your door!

Test the new lock

When you have purchased the replacement door lock and supplies, it is important to test the new lock before installation. This ensures that your new lock is compatible with your existing door hardware and that the key works properly. To test the new lock, you will need a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

Begin by unscrewing any screws that are securing the faceplate on your old lock. Using a pair of pliers, remove the locking bolt from your old lock and discard it. Place your new lock in its place and insert screws to secure it in place. Now, test the key inside of your new lock to make sure it turns properly and functions as expected. If all goes well, you can proceed with the replacement process outlined above.

Other Solutions

If cleaning and lubricating the locking mechanism does not resolve the issue, there are a few other solutions for a door lock that won’t lock. You could try replacing the springs inside the lock, replacing the pins, or adjusting the strike plate. In this section, we’ll go through the different solutions and how to apply them.

Install a new strike plate

Installing a new strike plate is one of the more effective ways to repair a door lock that won’t lock. It is important to ascertain which type of strike plate needs to be installed. For example, if you have a deadbolt on your door, then you should use an anchored reinforced strike plate. This type of plate has four hole bases, allowing screws or bolts to secure it firmly in place. Additionally, the mounting holes should be deepened and moved up or down slightly so the new strike plate can catch and hold the bolt securely without any loosening or rattling when the door is shut and locked. Installing a good new strike plate with strong screws can help ensure that your deadbolt remains secure for years to come.

Add a deadbolt

Adding a deadbolt to a door is one of the most effective solutions for a door lock that won’t lock. Deadbolts are installed above existing door knobs and provide an extra layer of security without sacrificing convenience. Installing a deadbolt is relatively simple and can be done in a few basic steps.

First, locate the correct size of strike plate needed to fit your type of door. Measure the distance between the center of the knob to the edge of your door, then add that measurement to 1 inch; this should indicate the size plate you need. Once you have located and purchased your desired deadbolt, drill out two holes on either side of your door frame. To finish up, place the bolt through these holes, secure it with screws or bolts, add in any accessories such as handles or decorative plates, then test and adjust as necessary.

Install a door guard

Sometimes, a door lock won’t lock due to a faulty latch. If the latch is failing to securely fit into the strike plate when you turn the key or knob, you may need to install a door guard. Door guards help protect the door frame and latch, and they provide additional strength to keep it in place. Depending on your security needs, you can choose between a simple bolt-style guard or a more advanced electronic model.

Bolt-style door guards: These models can be easily installed onto your door with just a few screws and are an affordable option for basic security needs. The guard works by catching onto the beveled edges of your strike plate and holding it in place when you turn your key or knob.

Electronic guards: Electronic models use sensors, magnets and alarms to provide stronger security for your locks. They are typically more expensive than their bolt-style counterparts but offer additional features such as digital entry codes, remote access control, automated alerts and even video surveillance.

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