When you notice that the lock on the door to your home or business is sticking, there are several things you can try before you call out a locksmith. Try using these troubleshooting tips to free up your lock mechanism and get the lock working properly again.
1. Add Lubricant to the Lock
Lubricant reduces friction, allowing the moving parts of a door lock to slide freely over each other. The best way to get lubricant into a lock is to squirt it directly onto the keyhole. Insert the key and turn it back and forth to drive the lubricant into the inner locking mechanism. In many cases, this simple step will solve the problem of a sticky lock, but in other cases further troubleshooting steps might be needed.
2. Check Your Key
Problems with a lock sticking often arise after you get an extra key cut. Keys that are freshly cut often have tiny burrs on the metal, which can snag on the locking mechanism and cause the lock to stick. These burrs should wear down over time, but if you want to speed up the process, you can try removing them yourself.
Take the key that is sticking and compare it to an old key that works well. If there are burrs on the new key that are not present on the old one, gently file them away using a metal file. Test your key every time you remove a sliver of metal to see if your work has resolved the problem.
3. Consider Getting a New Key
Although new keys are a common cause of sticky lock problems, old keys can also be problematic. Over many years or decades, gradual wear and tear cause the teeth of an old key to become misshapen or overly smooth. If you are having problems with a very old key sticking in a lock, getting a new key cut could resolve the issue.
4. Realign the Lock
Sometimes, a door lock can stick due to a misalignment between the door and the frame. Swelling, warping, or shrinking of the wood from which the door and frame are constructed can cause the bolt of the lock to no longer line up with the strike plate attached to the frame. If this is the cause of your sticky lock problem, you will probably be able to see dents or other signs of damage around the hole on the strike plate. To correct the misalignment, use a screwdriver to remove the strike plate and then reaffix it so that it lines up with the bolt.