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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

How To Fix A Door Lock That Is Jammed

by Hugo Reed March 29, 2017
Fixing Door Lock

Locks are an integral part of any home, and they are one of the most efficient methods of keeping unauthorized individuals out. This is what makes them the backbone of so many home security plans, and this is one of the main reasons why they are so important. However, as important as locks are, they are not immune to damage. Sometimes, this damage accumulates over time and manifests in the form of dust build up, or wear and tear to your lock cylinder (which could lead to breaking a key in your lock).

When this damage manifests, it most often appears that your lock has jammed, or is no longer functioning the way it was intended. There are several reasons why this might occur. These range from lack of proper lock maintenance, broken keys in locks, misalignment of the lock mechanism to the door frame being offset. No matter what the reason is, if you are going to take a crack at how to fix a door lock that is jammed, you need to start with a diagnosis of the problem.

Diagnosing The Door Lock Jam

The first step in learning how to fix a door lock that is jammed is diagnosing the cause of the problem. A proper diagnosis will help you figure out a course which course of action you should pursue. In some cases, the door lock jam can be resolved in a matter of minutes. This is not always the case, as the time it will take to figure out how to fix a door lock that is jammed depends on the issues you are experiencing. Once you have the diagnosis, the time to make repairs to the lock will vary as well. For instance, if a key breaks off in a lock, it will take longer to solve the problem as compared to a door lock that is jammed because the keyway is filled with some dirt and grime.

In order to effectively diagnose your door lock, you have to pay attention to the way it is behaving, on its own and in conjunction with the rest of your door assembly. This is the easiest part of this entire process, but it still needs to be done correctly. This will reduce the amount of time you use trying to figure out how to fix a door lock that is jammed. It is also important to make sure this is done right, so that you do not use the wrong solution for the problem that you have.

Begin by examining your keyway to see if there is anything blocking it. Also, examine how your handle turns and how the latch bolt of your lock mechanism extends or retracts. As was mentioned earlier, a door lock will jam for any number of reasons. For instance, if your door lock is jammed due to an accumulation of dirt and grime, you can restore it by cleaning it and applying some lubricant. However, you cannot use the same method if your key is broken in the lock. Let’s take a look at how to fix a door lock that is jammed.

Fixing A Jammed Door Lock

Now, this section is going to be structured according to the possible causes of a door lock jam. This will help me walk you through some solutions on how to fix a door lock that is jammed.

1. Key broken in the lock

Jammed Key in Lock

If the key is broken in the lock, you need to get the broken section of the key out if you wish to restore the lock or repair the lock. Keep in mind that you can no longer use they key that you have anymore, so continuously trying to insert the broken end into the keyway will yield no successful results. If anything, this only serves to damage your lock further. A broken key extractor is one of the easiest ways how to fix a door lock that is jammed in this way to open. If you do not have a proper broken key extractor, you can use a jigsaw blade or a pair of tweezers.

When you are trying to figure out how to fix a door lock that is jammed, it is necessary to stay patient to avoid causing further damage. Before you use any of these tools to attempt to extract the key piece, make sure you properly lubricate the keyway. This is a necessary step because it makes the key extraction process much easier. This is usually done to prevent any damage that friction might cause while you attempt to remove the broken piece of the key. The tools that you will use are essentially trying to catch on to the bitting of the key so that it can be pried out.

2. Keyway blocked by dirt buildup

Lack of proper door maintenance can also lead to jammed door locks. I know that many homeowners have never gone through the process of cleaning their locks, so it is very common for door locks to jam due to a buildup of dirt. The simple answer to how to fix a door lock that is jammed is to clean it. Ideally, cleaning your door locks should be a regular practice, but if you had been doing that, you wouldn’t be looking for answers to “how to clean a door lock that is jammed”.

It is always best to use a lubricant to clear the keyway of your door locks. A lubricant helps clean the lock without causing any further damage. This can be done with WD-40 or a Teflon-based lubricant like Tri-Flow. Make sure that you do not use any household products (like oil) to lubricate your locks because this will only compound your problem rather than rectifying it.

With this process of how to fix a door lock that is jammed, you simply need to spray the keyway with the lubricant and then spray the key as well. After this, insert the key into the keyway so that the lubricant can spread and begin to take effect. In some cases, this light cleaning will not be enough to fix a door lock that is jammed, and you will have to resort to unscrewing the entire lock and cleaning the whole assembly. This same process can also be replicated by substituting WD-40 with powdered graphite, which also acts as a suitable lubricant.

3. Frozen Locks

Frozen Door Lock

This is a less common problem for homeowners because it is heavily dependent on changes in the climate and temperature. The way your locks function is susceptible to change based on the temperate conditions that they might be exposed to. It is really simple physics when you think about it and sometimes, severely cold temperature causes locks to freeze. How to fix a door lock that is jammed due to freezing comes down to the type of freezing. Locks can essentially be frozen in two different ways.

It could be that the external section of the lock is frozen up, which prevents you from even gaining access to the keyway. Another variation occurs when the internal mechanism of the locks is frozen. In a situation like this, the door lock will not be able to function properly and will effectively be jammed. To solve this problem, you can make use of some handy DIY tips that will save you some time and money. The basics of how to fix a door lock that is jammed in this way, comes down to heat. You can heat your key or use a blow dryer to thaw the door lock. In some cases, you will have to use a de-icer on your locks to resolve the problem.

4. Misaligned Locks

There are times when you are trying to figure out how to fix a door lock that is jammed, and find that it is due to the bolt and the door being misaligned. This prevents the lock from smoothly opening and/or locking, in the way that it is supposed to. This is a common problem for deadbolts and for single latch locks as well, but they both have some relatively easy remedies. To solve the misalignment, you need to first examine the lock and try and figure out what might have caused the misalignment.

A misalignment can sometimes be a symptom of a completely different issue. But the symptom will prescribe the precise way of how to fix a door lock that is jammed. Whatever the case may be, you now have the opportunity to diagnose your locks. This gives you the chance to check if there is anything blocking the throat of the strike plate, which might cause your lock to be misaligned. It also gives you the chance to change your locks, if you are using the lock incorrectly. At this point, you can check for any faulty parts within the locking mechanism.

In many homes, the problem is often the fact that door locks are old. Given enough time, doors begin to settle, expand, or shrink, which means that the locks installed on them are prone to misalignment. If the issue is not handled in a timely manner, it usually leads to a door lock jam. Another common reason is that the door hinges might be loose which causes the door to sag and throws the lock and the strike plate out of alignment, therefore causing the door lock to occasionally jam.

In some cases, the misalignment might be minor and can be easily solved by filing off a small section of the bolt so that it can fit flush into the strike plate or by setting your door and tightening your hinges. When you are looking for the answer of how to fix a door lock that is jammed, when the symptom has nothing to do with the lock, the solution will be to fix the door.

5. Rusted Locks

Rusted Door Lock

It is a very common occurrence for locks to begin to rust, especially if they have been installed, and in use, for extended periods of time. This happens more frequently to exterior locks than it does to interior door locks. The reason behind this is simply the fact that exterior door locks come into contact with more elements that lead to rust. In this case, the process of figuring out how to fix a door lock that is jammed is very similar to the steps that are used when your keyway is blocked by the buildup of dirt. Homeowners can take advantage of lubricants and powdered graphite to help reduce the effects that rust has on a door lock.

However, it is important to be mindful of the fact that this solution only works on door locks that are not heavily rusted. If your door lock is completely rusted, you should look into replacing your door locks so that your security is not compromised. Also, this will help reduce the possibility of future house lockouts.


I hope that by the end of this article you have uncovered the answer to how to fix a door lock that is jammed. At the very least, I hope it has set you down the right path to fixing your door lock. Keep in mind, your door will usually offer up some signs and symptoms before it ultimately jams. If you know what to look out for, you will be able to avoid looking for answers to how to fix a door lock that is jammed.

Category: How To's, Residential, Safety & Security

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