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How to Fix a Broken Lock on a Door? – 6 Issues & Solutions

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to fix a broken lock on a door

Repairing locks of your door can be expensive, especially if you realize later that the issue is just minor. Sometimes, the repair service fee is even more expensive than the replacement of hardware.

As such, knowing how to fix a broken lock on a door would save you a few bucks. Plus, you’ll earn a skill that will help your household and that of others. Maybe you can earn a little, too, if you’re that good. Locksmiths should watch out.

Ways to Fix a Broken Lock on a Door

Issue 1: Lock won’t latch


One common door issue is when the door locks but won’t latch. This usually happens due to a lower strike plate caused by wear and tear. To solve this, you need to adjust the strike plate.

What to prepare

  • Channel lock pliers
  • Rotary tool
  • Drill
  • File
  • Vise
  • Marker or pencil
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Toothpicks
  • Super glue
  • Knife or cutter
  • Nail
  • Chisel

Lift the strike plate

For a quick fix, grab channel lock pliers or any other similar tool, which you can use to squeeze and lightly lift the strike plate. This is a minor adjustment that will solve the latching issue. Otherwise, you will need to file or reposition the strike plate.

 File the plate

Another way to resolve the wear and tear issue of the strike plate is by filing its side or lower lips. It’s recommended to unscrew the plate from the door jamb and work with a vise, so you can file it quickly and accurately.

First, identify where the strike plate is wearing by slowly closing it and then marking it. You can file beyond the mark, but not that it reaches the lower screw hole.

Alternatively, you can use a rotary tool with a carbide cutter or a drill with a carbide bit so you can file the plate in place.

If you don’t have such tools, you can strike the plate down by hammering it. Just grab a screwdriver and position it on the lower lip of the plate. You can lower the plate with a few hammer strikes. Test the door and deliver more strikes if needed.

Reposition the plate

The most demanding fix on latching issues is repositioning the strike plate instead of a mere adjustment.

  • Step 1: Remove the strike plate and mark the new position

Unscrew the strike plate from its position. Position it a few centimeters lower from its original position, preferably between the original screw and latch holes.

Don’t position it too low because it will be misaligned with the deadbolt. Mark the new screw holes and the lower edge of the plate.

  • Step 2: Fill in the old screw holes

Put super glue on one end of the toothpicks and insert them as tightly as possible into the old screw holes. You can use at least two toothpicks for each hole, but you can add more depending on the thickness of the toothpicks.

Leave them for 10 minutes to dry, and then cut the excess filler using a knife or cutter.

  • Step 3: Hammer the old holes

To flatten the surface of the old holes, use a hammer and lightly tap their surfaces. The goal of hammering is to clean the excess fillers.

  • Step 4: Mark and drill new holes

With a hammer, use a nail to create a little hole where your drill bit goes. Afterward, use a drill to make the actual screw holes. Use a drill bit that matches the screws of your strike plate.

  • Step 5: Cut the excess wood

Use a cutter or knife and trace the mark deep enough for the chisel. Slowly hammer the chisel into the lower end until you reach the depth where you will put the strike plate. Next, gently chisel the upper part to remove the bit of wood. Use the chisel, too, to clean the new edge.

  • Step 7: Remove excess wood in the latch hole

Temporarily install the plate and screw it in place so you can mark the excess wood in the latch hole. You must remove the remaining wood so the deadbolt can easily latch on the plate.

  • Step 8: Cut the excess wood

Use your knife or cutter to remove the excess wood. To clean it, use a rotary tool with a carbide cutter if you have one. Otherwise, use your regular drill to clean the latch hole.

  • Step 9: Install the plate and fill the top gap

Screw the plate and then use a wood filler or caulk to fill the gap on the top of the plate. Even the surface and let the first coat dry. Add more coating, and you can repaint it if you want. Afterward, your latch is good to go.

Issue 2: Loose knob


Another door issue is a loose knob brought by wear and tear. A quick doorknob repair can be done for this with your reliable screwdriver.

First, hold one knob with your one hand and position it in such a way that you’ll cover the wearing circle. Basically, place the knob in its original position. Hold it still so you can tighten the set screws. Tighten the screws just right, and don’t over-tighten it as it might bind the latching system.

If this simple screwdriver trick doesn’t work, you might need to fix broken door knob by removing it altogether (without moving the latching system). Just remove parts of a door knob, then reinstall them with the aim of tightening them.

Issue 3: Lock works slowly or frozen


Among the easiest to fix front door lock problems is when the lock works slowly or is frozen. Weather affects the locking mechanism, and to solve this, you need some lubrication.

What to prepare

  • Graphite spray or any other lubricant
  • Lock de-icer
  • Hairspray

If you have one, you can use a graphite spray, which you will direct into the keyway. If this won’t work, you can buy lock de-icers, which usually solves the issue.

If those two items failed, try heating a key and then inserting it in the keyway or using a hairspray. The goal is to defrost the keyway, and if said solutions don’t work, you can opt to disassemble the frame to manually fix lock on door.

Issue 4: Door knob stuck in locked position

A door knob is prone to be stuck even as it’s used daily. As previously mentioned, you can try using a graphite spray to solve this sticky issue. If that doesn’t work, you need to disassemble the lock.

Once the lock mechanism diagram is exposed, spray it with your preferred lubricant and use a screwdriver to test the lock. Add more lubricant if needed. Make sure that it works well before you assemble the unit.

If the problem is related to the latching of the deadbolt, you can try doing the previously mentioned tips on solving latching woes.

Issue 5: Entire lock cylinder turns


Screws and other parts of the lock get loose over time due to weather and wear and tear, and sometimes, the entire cylinder rotates when you use the key, so the door lock won’t turn from inside.

What to prepare

  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Back plate

For a rim cylinder, you need to remove the back set to expose the back plate that holds it – or the lever or knob. Afterward, adjust the plate to level it with the front set and tighten the screws.

Otherwise, you can drill new holes in the back plate to add more screws to tighten it. Alternatively, you can install a new back plate with more screw holes.

Just like with a rim cylinder, you can also either tighten or replace the plate if you’re working with a mortise lockset or a surface-mounted rim lock. It’s easy to fix a door lock cylinder that turns with the key as you just need to tighten or replace its back plate.

Issue 6: Key stuck in keyway


If by any chance the key is stuck or broke off and jammed in the keyway, fret not as there’s a fix to it.

What to prepare

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Tweezers
  • Knife or knives
  • Fishing hook
  • Broken key extractor set
  • Graphite spray and other lubricants

What to do

If the key did not break off, use a graphite spray or any other lubricant that might let you easily pull the key from the cylinder. If it won’t budge, try using needle-nose pliers, tweezers, or a knife or two to extract it.

With the help of pliers, you can even use a fishing hook, a hacksaw blade, and a screw to pull the key.

  • For the first one, as the name suggests, you just need to hook it off the cylinder.
  • For the blade, cut a part of it so only the teeth remain, which you will insert into the keyhole to extract the key.
  • For the screw, insert its tip in the keyway and then use the pliers to turn it a little, with its ridges acting as teeth for extraction (pun intended). A more complicated trick is using a drill with a small bit to drill the side of the key. The groove you created will help you extract the key.

If both remedies failed, lucky for you because you can now buy a broken key extractor set online. The set comes with barbed wires and hooks of varying thicknesses. It’s like a lock-picking set that works with the ridges of the jammed key.

  • First, use a lubricant in the keyway.
  • For the wires, use the one that fits into the keyhole and pull it when you feel that the barbs bit the key. For the hook, insert it into the keyhole and pull it at a certain angle until you can extract the key.

If you’ve tried anything and are unsuccessful, open a broken lock and, with a sturdy wire or pick, push the jammed key from the cylinder.


Why is my door lock loose?

When you have a loose door lock cylinder, it’s probably because of wear and tear or the weather, depending on the type of door. The hardware is prone to such issues, but it can easily be fixed, so check them first before buying a replacement.

How much does it cost to fix a broken door lock?

Prepare at least $50 to $200 when you want to fix a broken door lock mechanism. The service fee depends on the type of hardware, and you might shell out a few more bucks for replacement items.

So if you don’t want to break the bank when your door lock is not working, inspect it first before calling the locksmith because it might be a minor issue you can easily fix.


It’s such a source of stress and discomfort when you can’t open a jammed door lock from the outside or the inside. Luckily, there are many ready items you can use to solve this dilemma.

Knowing how to fix a broken lock on a door will save you headaches and unnecessary expenses. Knobs and levers are prone to minor issues because of frequent use, but there are ready solutions for the resourceful person.

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