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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

5 Top Reasons Your Door Knob Won’t Turn & How To Fix Them

by Ralph March 2, 2022

So your door knob won’t turn. Now you are locked out, and there may be something wrong with your lock. Before you start jumping to conclusions, take a breath. You may not be locked out, and your lock may be in perfect working order.

Until you know more about why your door knob won’t turn, there is no need to assume the problem is overly complicated. Investigate a little further or contact a trusted locksmith to find out just what is going on with your door knob not turning.

The most likely causes of a door knob not turning include:

  1. Wrong Key
  2. Broken Key
  3. Lock Jam
  4. Lock Alignment
  5. Lock Damage


What causes a door knob not to turn?

A litany of potential issues can make it so a door knob won’t turn. When you neglect lock maintenance, the latch can jam due to rust or catch on the strike plate. Things can also break within the lock. And outside of the lock, the key can also cause issues if it has worn, distorted, or is the wrong key.

How do I open a door when the knob is not turning?

To open a door knob that won’t turn, start by lubricating it. This may free up the lock to open, even if only temporarily. Almost every fix will require the door to be opened. And in cases where you need to remove a locked door knob from the outside to replace it or troubleshoot it, the door must be opened first.

Do I need to change locks if my door knob won’t turn?

The process of fixing a door knob not turning is to troubleshoot the issue, isolate the cause, then fix or replace whatever is malfunctioning. If you do not want to investigate why a door knob won’t turn, you can look into how to change a door knob. But if the cause has to do with alignment, the issue may persist.

Who can I call when my door knob won’t turn?

In most cases, calling a locksmith will be your best solution when your door knob won’t turn. Locksmiths offer both house lockout services and lock change services that can solve both the main concerns relating to a door knob not turning as well as advise other solutions.

Can WD-40 fix a door knob not turning?

You may be able to temporarily fix a door knob that won’t turn with classic WD-40, but this will lead to the issue worsening over time. The grease from all oil-based lubricants collects dirt, and the lock will bind more severely later. But there are several better options for door lock lubricants.

1. Wrong Key

I know you think you are using the right key, but a very common reason that a door knob won’t turn is simply that the wrong key is being used. As long as two locks are made by the same manufacturer, one key will fit both. This is how it is possible to make keyed alike door locks.

Even if keys are not exactly the same size or brand, sometimes smaller keys can still fit into larger keyways. A good sign that you may be using the wrong key is that the key won’t turn. However, this is not a guaranteed way of getting to the bottom of why the door knob won’t turn.

Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #1:

Double-check your key ring and make sure that you are using the correct key. This is even more important if these are new keys or have just been lent to you. If you have any doubts, work your way through the various keys, even using ones you are sure are not correct.

2. Broken Key 

A broken key can will give similar indications as using the wrong key. However, this is certainly the correct key, only broken. When a key “breaks,” it does not have to be severe enough where you will be trying to get the broken key out of the lock. It may just have worn down to be unusable.

Keys wear out as the metal grooves grind against the lock internals, or as rotational torque from each key turn bending the key slightly. Feel the teeth of the key and see if they are pointy or smooth. Smooth is a good sign of wear. It is rarely possible to fix a broken key with this type of wear.

Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #2:

Do not attempt to copy a broken key, as you will only be copying a key that does not work. A locksmith can decode your worn key or the lock itself. So a key can be made from the original factory specifications. Alternatively, copy a working key or change the lock.

3. Lock Jam

When a door knob won’t turn, it may be due to the lock jamming. Most often, debris such as rust or dirt fills the gaps that allow different components the range of motion they need. With those tolerances diminished, the lock will jam until the debris is removed.

This accumulated detritus can be between the latch bolt and the housing, causing a stuck door latch. The keyway may be blocked, so the key cannot insert fully. The lock can be blocked deeper inside, which jams actuators that allow the knob to turn or the latch to retract.

The latch bolt may also be getting stuck on the strike plate. This issue has less to do with the lock and more to do with alignment, which has its own section. If something in the lock has broken and is not jamming up the internals, check out the section on lock damage.

Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #3:

For a door knob not turning due to internal jamming, your mission is cleaning. Begin by using a lubricant that is not oil-based to temporarily get the door knob turning. Then take the lock apart. Clean parts more thoroughly with a water and ammonia blend. Then end with a metal polish.

4. Lock Alignment

Locks lose their alignment when hinges sag or the foundation of a building lifts or shifts. Whether you have solid core doors or hollow core doors, they can change their positioning in relation to the door frame, so the lock does not work, or at least the door knob won’t turn.

The misalignment of a lock is also going to cause jamming, but the sets of potential solutions are quite different. However, a lubricant may still be useful in getting the door open even though it is not clearing any blockage. Once the door is open, you need to focus on realignment.

It is not enough to change locks, as this issue goes beyond the lock. Any lock re-installed in the same slot, mortise, or other pre-cut door holes will still have the same alignment issue. Even if you replace a door knob with a deadbolt, there will be a problem with turning the cylinder.

Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #4:

Along with lubrication, you can lift or adjust the door as you turn the knob to get the door open. How you have to move the door to allow the door knob to turn will inform you as to how to adjust the door strike plate or door. If the door has to be lifted, the strike is too high, or the door is low.

5. Lock Damage

When a door knob suddenly won’t turn, or the minor issue has escalated to this extreme state, there is a good chance there has been damage. Any part of your lock can be damaged abruptly or slowly over time. You will then need to look into solutions for a broken lock.

Repairs are viable when the cost of the fix does not exceed the price of replacing the lock. With very extensive damage, the best option may be a replacement. What is most important with solving lock damage is determining the extent of the damage, which allows you to choose the fix.

If the key keeps turning in the lock, this is often an indication that the cam or tailpiece at the back of the cylinder is broken. The cylinder not moving at all can result from snapped or compressed springs. But with cheap locks, new lock installation may still be comparable to repair service prices.

Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #5:

Access to replacement parts must be factored into whether repair is a viable solution. Not all lock components are widely available for purchase independent of buying a new lock. This means that small parts breaking can still necessitate a full lock replacement.

In Closing

A door knob not turning can result from many different factors. Besides checking the lock itself, investigate your keys and how the door is hanging. Changing your lock may not be the fix when a door knob won’t turn if the door is not properly aligning. So don’t reach for a new lock right away.

If your door knob won’t turn, and you would like a professional to diagnose and/or fix the problem, call a locksmith. United Locksmith is here to help! Check to see if we have a technician in your area, or leave a general question or your thoughts in the comments section below.

Category: Commercial, How To's, Residential

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