Stiff Door Lock: Locksmith Trouble Shooting Tips

Why is my door lock hard to turn? It’s not uncommon to have a stiff door lock that is a pain to open or won’t open at all. It get can gradually worse or happen all of a sudden. There are a number of reasons why this can happen and number of things you can try to resolve stiff lock problems before calling a locksmith.

Reasons for a Stiff Door Lock

There could be several causes of a stiff door lock;

  • Dirt in the lock – Locks need maintained. Things like building work in the area can make cleaning out your locks even more important.
  • Cold weather – In winter I get lot of calls because locks have ceased up in the cold weather.
  • Hot weather – In summer doors swelling with the heat can cause problems with locks because of movement.
  • Subsidence – Movement in a building can affect the lock.
  • Draft excluder added to a door – This can move the locked position and cause lock problems.
  • Worn out or poor-quality lock – The internal parts of a lock can get worn out and break

The other issue is that some people haven’t got the strength in their hands to turn the key. The elderly and very young as well as those suffering from arthritis can struggle with this problem. When this is an issue you can buy special gadgets that can be attached to make turning the key easier.

How to Fix a Stiff Lock on a Door

When I am called to a job where a stiff door lock is the problem there is a process which I go through to identify what is causing the problem. There are parts of this process that you can check yourself before calling a locksmith. Some problems can be resolved easily with quick fix door lock solutions, and some will require more skill and experience to identify and resolve.

The First Thing I Do When I attend a Job Where the Problem is a Stiff Lock

There are 2 scenarios;

  • Scenario 1 – The door alignment is causing problems.
  • Scenario 2 – The lock is the issue.

The first thing I do is simple and can be done without calling a locksmith. I open the door and check if the lock works in the open position. If it does, then I know that the problem is not the lock itself.

yale lock with snib. Fix Stiff Lock issues

Scenario 1 – The Door Alignment is The Problem

The Next Step When the Lock Itself is Working in The Open Position

If the Lock itself if working in the open position, then I will look for reasons why the alignment of the lock and the door may have become an issue.

Reasons for Misalignment of a Lock and Door

There can be several reasons for this to happen. I work out what the issue is in order to resolve the problem. These are some common problems;

  • Swollen door – due to hot weather or water damage.
  • Subsidence in the building causing movement in the door
  • Loose door hinges causing the door to drop
  • Draft excluder being added to a door

How to Realign a Door

Adjusting a door to correctly align with the lock is something that requires a certain amount of skill and experience to get it just right.

It is done by adjusting the hinges, so the door is in exactly the right place for the lock.

troubleshooting tips for stiff locks

Scenario 2 – When the Lock is the Issue

There are a few reasons why a lock could fail to work in the open position

Reasons Why a Door Lock Can Stop Working

  • Dirt in the lock – good door lock maintenance is crucial
  • Cold weather freezing the internal components of the lock
  • Badly cut keys – there could be a problem with the key rather than the actual lock.
  • Worn out lock – if a lock is old internal parts can become worn and fail to work
  • Broken components – internal parts can break, common with low quality locks installed by non-security specialists such as builders as well as in double glazed / UPVC doors.

How to Clean a Dirty Lock & General Locks Maintenance

Door lock repair and maintenance is so important and is very quick and easy. Read our guide to lock maintenance here.

If there is building work going on in your area locks can get particularly dirty. If dirt is the issue, then cleaning the lock should resolve the issue without the need to call a locksmith.

how to fix a stiff door lock

Defrosting a Lock & Winter Locks Maintenance

It is particularly important to keep your locks lubricated (as explained above) in the winter when lock pins can freeze and cease up. When this happens you can get problems like;

  • Keys snapping in the door
  • Keys stuck in the door
  • Locks that won’t turn
frozen locks
Image courtesy of Robert Wiegmann

Badly Cut Keys

A poorly cut key can cause significant problems. Keys should be cut by an experienced local locksmith. It’s important to choose the person who cuts your keys with care as there are a number of things that can go wrong. You can read more about the dos and don’ts of key cutting here.

key cutting
Image by Jay Gooby via Flicker.

Lock That Needs Replaced

If none of the things above work, I’m afraid you have run out of options as it may be an internal lock problem and you may require a professional lock change service. We have written a post called How Does a Lock Work which explains what goes on inside a lock.

Repairing a lock without experience is not advisable. In most cases a new lock is required. If you do need to call a locksmith make sure you choose one with care because the industry is unregulated. Choosing an MLA local approved locksmith will guarantee high quality locks and installation and less stiff lock issues in the future.

In our Front Door Security Tips post – you can read about how to choose the best front door locks as well as other tips for keeping your front door secure.

With a new lock you usually get around 2 spare keys and it’s important to keep a few of these safely for the purpose of getting copies cut. You can also ask your locksmith for extra copies at the time. This will rule out the badly copied keys issue in the future.

How Much Should a New Lock Cost?

Replacing the lock is the worst-case scenario. Installing a new lock should cost £65+ in labour charges if it is with in working hours (out of hours charges a usually 50% higher) and £45+ for a good quality lock on top of the labour charge.

Beware!: It’s not uncommon for less trustworthy locksmiths to quote less in adverts to secure work and up the price on the job. A reputable locksmith will quote a fixed price before attending a job.

cut locksmith costs

Main image courtesy of Howard Lake

Hopefully you can resolve your stiff door lock problem yourself with our troubleshooting tips and save yourself the cost of a locksmith call out! If you are still having problems and are based in North London, we carry out lock repair near you.

Give us a call for advice or a quote.

How can we help you?

For professional security advice and information call to speak directly to Martin, our Master Locksmith and security specialist.

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