Door Lock Repair – When to Call a Locksmith

Door Lock Repair - When to Call a Locksmith

While many DIYers may have the skills to tackle a door lock repair project, it is sometimes better to call in a professional. A locksmith can help you fix your lock quickly and correctly, saving you money in the long run.

A stuck lock can often be unjammed by spraying lubricant in the keyhole. However, homeowners should avoid using oil based lubricants like WD-40 as they can attract more dirt and dust. Try a dry lubricant such as graphite spray or powdered graphite.

Loose Knob or Handle

Doorknobs and handles help secure rooms and buildings, but they can become loose over time with wear. When this happens, it can hinder proper lock operation. If the knob or handle is loose, there are a few simple things you can do to fix it.

Examine the screw connections to the handle or knob. If the screws are loose or broken, replace them with new ones and tighten them. Apply a bead of threadlocker to the screws where they meet to keep them from coming loose again.

If the screws are fine, then the problem may be a loose set screw. Depending on the type of lock, this may be accessed with a round hole or a rectangular piece of metal that can be pushed to loosen the screw. Inspect the set screw to see if it is loose or missing completely, then replace it.


Lock Repair can jam from many things, including freezing weather, moisture in the tumblers, or a misaligned deadbolt. However, these problems usually aren’t serious and can be easily fixed with a few tools and lubrication.

Applying a dry lubricant like powdered graphite or WD-40 to the key and lock can often solve this problem. Using a dry lubricant is important because it doesn’t attract dirt and debris like oil does.

Another possibility is that the deadbolt has become out of alignment with the strike plate on the door jamb. Loosening the hinge screws should reposition it to allow the lock to work properly. If this doesn’t work, try enlarging the hole in the strike plate to accommodate the latch bolt. This may require a locksmith’s help, depending on the type of door. Then, re-tighten the screws.

Broken or Damaged Cylinder

When a lock’s cylinder becomes worn, it may start to require excessive turning force or get stuck inside the keyhole. Eventually, it may stop working entirely, leaving you unable to open the door. This is usually the result of a combination of factors such as poor installation, extreme temperature changes, or rough key handling.

A damaged cylinder can also be caused by an attempted break-in where a foreign object was inserted to help open the door. This is usually more difficult to fix than a simple sticky key, as it will probably require removal of the lock and cylinder.

However, there are some things you can try. One is to coat the key in graphite, which acts as a lubricant and can be used to unstick a stuck lock tumbler that has become partially raised by debris over time. Another option is to use a flat screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers to loosen the set screw that holds the cylinder in place.

Broken Key

If your key broke inside the lock there are a few methods for removing it. First, make sure it isn’t snagged, which will cause you to push the broken piece of key further into the lock. Yanking on a snagged key could break it even more or cause the pins to become loose in the cylinder and prevent it from turning.

If it’s just a small portion of the key that broke off, try using needle nose pliers to clamp down on the end and shimmy it out. Another option is to use a tool called a broken key extractor. It’s a thin barbed piece of spring steel that grips the key on both sides and can pull it out with a twisting motion. It works much better with lubrication, such as classic WD-40 or silicone, Teflon, or graphite-based lubricant.

You can also use a small amount of super glue on the break to glue it back together. Just be careful not to over-apply the glue, which could squish out and cover important components in the lock.