Removing a Broken Key From a Lock

4 Steps to Fixing a Sticky Door Lock

When you put your key into your door lock and turn it, does the key rotate freely and the door swing open? Or does the lock stick, requiring you to wiggle the key around to get it to work? If your lock is sticky, you may not be sure why it is malfunctioning, but it is a good idea to find out before it jams up completely and you need to call an emergency locksmith. Use these steps to figure out what the problem is and repair the lock.

1. Lubricate the Lock

In many cases, all a sticky door lock needs to help it turn smoothly is a little lubrication. Spray lubricant into the lock and then insert the key. Turn the key a few times to work the lubricant into all internal parts of the lock.

2. Check Your Key

Don't assume that the problem lies within your door lock. It might be your key that is faulty. For example, tiny metal burrs on keys can cause them to catch in a lock. To test for an ill-fitting key, sprinkle some talcum powder onto your key, insert it into the lock and try to turn it as you usually do when opening the door. Take the key out and look for areas where the talcum powder has been rubbed away. These areas press too tightly against the internal parts of the lock, causing the lock to jam.

3. File Down Your Key

Use a metal file to remove tiny amounts of material from the parts of the key that lost their powder in the last step. Keep testing the key to see whether it turns more smoothly now you have filed down the problematic parts. Don't remove too much material at once between tests, as you may file down the key too far so it no longer works.

4. Check the Lock Alignment

Wooden doors swell and warp slightly in wet and warm conditions, leading to a poor alignment between the lock bolt and the strike plate attached to the door jamb. You can test for poor alignment by rubbing talcum powder onto the end of the bolt and then trying to lock the door. With the door open, check the location of the talcum powder on the strike plate. This should let you see whether the bolt is striking in the wrong place. To fix this problem, you will need to remove the strike plate and drill a new hole in the door jamb for the bolt to slide into.