When your key sticks in the lock, calling a residential locksmith might be your first reaction. However, it is often possible to resolve the issue with household tools, saving yourself the call-out fee. Follow this troubleshooting guide before you call a locksmith.
1. Check You Have the Right Key
Before diving into technical solutions, it is always best to check for obvious mistakes such as trying to open the lock with a wrong key. Modern door keys have a standard shape, so it is easy to mistake one for another. Even if you are sure you are using the correct key, look carefully to check it is right before you move onto the next step.
2. Try Lubrication
Lubricating the lock can help to persuade the mechanism to turn when you insert the key. The easiest way is to remove the key from the lock, squirt lubricant onto the keyhole and then slide the key into the lock and out again a few times to push lubricant deep inside.
3. Try a New Key
If your key is very old, its teeth might be too worn to properly engage with the locking mechanism. You could try using a freshly cut key to see whether that helps.
4. File Down Your New Key
Although old keys are responsible for many cases of sticky locks, new keys sometimes also cause problems. Sometimes a new key has tiny metal burrs on the teeth, which prevent it from fitting correctly into the lock. When you get a new key, carefully examine it. If you spot any metal burrs, ask the key cutter to file them down. You can also file the key yourself using a metal file, but be sure to test the key every time you remove a tiny sliver of material to be sure you do not remove too much.
5. Realign the Lock
Sometimes, the problem with a residential lock does not lie with either the lock or the key, but rather with the door. Wooden doors warp in response to changes in weather, which means the bolt of the lock can end up out of alignment with the plate attached to the door jamb. If misalignment is the source of your sticky lock problems, you will probably notice dents in the strike plate where the bolt has failed to slot correctly into the hole. The easiest way to resolve this problem is to remove the strike plate, drill a new hole in the correct place and then reaffix the strike plate to the door jamb.
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