Any issue with your door, whether it be a structural issue such as a poorly installed door jamb, or a mechanical issue such as a stuck deadbolt, is a matter that requires immediate action. The importance of a functional, quality door for your safety is pretty clear.
If your deadbolt won’t turn, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we will discuss the potential causes for this issue, as well as the best long-term solutions that probably won’t require professional assistance.
Keep on reading to discover how to fix a stuck deadbolt and even prevent this from happening in the future.
Why won’t your deadbolt turn?
Deadbolts are the preferred door locking mechanism precisely for the security and resistance they offer compared to other options. Since they do not require a spring, they are almost impossible to be jimmied open using a crowbar, or a similar technique.
However, if the deadbolt won’t lock properly, you can no longer rely on the security of this mechanism. In the majority of cases, it is possible to repair the mechanism and get the deadbolt back to its functional state without having to replace it.
There are several factors that could affect the deadbolt mechanism, and each of them requires a different approach. This is precisely why it is important to detect the issue first, so you can find the most accurate solution and prevent this problem from happening again.
1. Poorly installed lock
Sometimes the problem isn’t in the mechanism or the product itself, but the installation of the lock. If the lock hasn’t been installed properly, it’s no wonder the key turns but the deadbolt won’t unlock, or there is another issue with the deadbolt mechanism.
2. Faulty deadbolt
In case you can’t detect any other issue with your deadbolt, the problem could be the deadbolt itself – especially if it is brand new. Once you’ve ruled out all the other problems and factors, take a closer look at the deadbolt and its components.
A manufacturing issue isn’t too common, but it could definitely happen, and it is necessary to detect it before you start repairing or replacing any component of the lock.
3. Damaged deadbolt
Perhaps you haven’t purchased a faulty deadbolt, but it got damaged in the process of use. Just like any other door element, the deadbolt is prone to normal wear and tear, and if you haven’t replaced it in years, it could be that it has reached its “expiration date”.
One of the common issues in the structure of the deadbolt could be a buildup of some kind of material, usually dirt or rust. While a buildup of dirt will not damage the structure, corrosion can certainly have that kind of damaging effect.
However, sometimes the problem isn’t the entire deadbolt mechanism, but a single element. This requires a thorough inspection of the deadbolt structure, which is best performed by a professional.
4. Jammed metal keeper plate
If the deadbolt won’t turn from inside, it could be that the core issue lies in a metal keeper plate jam. If the small opening in the metal keeper plate gets stuck, the entire lock mechanism will be compromised – including the deadbolt.
A jammed metal keeper plate may cause a stuck deadbolt in the unlocked position, which is a big risk to your safety.
How to fix a deadbolt that won’t turn
If your deadbolt won’t unlock, lock, or simply turn all the way, there could be a number of reasons causing this problem, as we’ve discussed.
Once you’ve detected the issue, you can proceed to the process of repairing or replacing the deadbolt – depending on the severity of the issue. However, even if you’re unable to recognize the core issue, some of these solutions could prove to be helpful.
1. Lubricate the lock
The first step you can take, and the first thing even a professional would recommend, is lubricating the lock. This is usually the best solution in case the lock is jammed due to a buildup of dirt or rust.
Of course, the best long-term solution to this problem would be to fully disassemble and clean the lock, but if you’re unable to do this, greasing up the key passage with some graphite spray should do the trick.
You may also need to lube the bolt mechanism itself for it to properly work again. Unscrew the lock cylinder and apply a generous amount of the spray lube onto the bolt mechanism while twisting it back and forth using a screwdriver.
2. Tap the lock with a hammer
Sometimes all it takes to fix a jammed lock is to tap it with a hammer, as it may help the disengaged lock components to return back into place. If this is the case, all you will need is the lock key and a small hammer.
Put the key into the lock, and keep twisting it back and forth while tapping the lock with a hammer. Make sure not to be too aggressive with the twisting and the tapping, as it may create an even bigger problem.
3. Clean and examine the deadbolt
As we’ve mentioned, the best long-term solution to many potential issues with your deadbolt is to remove it from the door and inspect it thoroughly. This is the only way to locate and remove any buildup, replace any damaged elements, or detect a faulty mechanism.
Unscrew the lock from the door and lay it on a flat surface. Inspect the deadbolt structure, including the inner rod, and make sure it is perfectly aligned with the slot in the lock. Any kind of misalignment in this area could be an issue.
Remove any dirt or rust buildup, and make sure the deadbolt is clean of any blockages. In case any of the elements are damaged or corroded, you may have to replace them individually, or purchase a new deadbolt if the damage is too severe.
4. Use a warm key
This trick may raise some eyebrows, but it does work in certain cases – especially in the winter months when the outside deadbolt freezes. If this is the case, you should definitely give a warm key a shot, but remember not to be too aggressive as you may break it!
You can warm up the key by using a hairdryer, or any other preferred source of heat. The warmer it is – the better, but remember to be careful with it and wear protective gloves. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to warm up the deadbolt itself.
5. Align the door
Often, the problem isn’t even in the lock system and the deadbolt mechanism, but the door – or more specifically, the door alignment. If the door isn’t properly aligned and secured, the lock will not be able to work properly.
Therefore, before proceeding with any of the above-mentioned methods, it is necessary to check the alignment of your door and fix any issues regarding its placement and stability.
F. A. Q.
How to fix a deadbolt that is stuck in a locked position?
If the deadbolt is stuck in a locked position, we recommend you try the hammer method. All you need to do is twist the key back and forth, while you lightly tap the lock with a small hammer.
The tapping should aid in returning the disengaged components back into place, as long as you’re not tapping too aggressively, as that could damage the lock and the key stuck in the deadbolt.
What makes a deadbolt hard to turn all the way?
As we’ve mentioned, there could be many reasons behind this issue, but one of the most common ones is a buildup of dirt or rust. In this case, it is necessary to clean the deadbolt mechanism thoroughly and remove the blockages for it to work properly.
In case of severe corrosion or damages, you will have to replace the deadbolt elements, or the deadbolt itself – especially if you’ve had it for years and it is no longer 100% functional. After all, a quality deadbolt is something you want to invest in for your safety.
While you’re at it, make sure to inspect the entire lock system, as well as the door alignment. Sometimes the issue isn’t in the deadbolt itself, but in bigger aspects that affect the deadbolt mechanism.
What’s more, in the winter months, the deadbolt on the outside door could be frozen. In this case, it is recommended to use a warm key, and also warm up the deadbolt area to prevent the key from breaking.
How do you lubricate a door lock?
Using a door lock lubricant, like the WD-40, is certainly one of the most efficient, yet easiest ways of fixing a jammed deadbolt.
The first thing you want to do is to lube the key passage. Of course, if there’s any blockage in this area, it should be removed for the best results.
The best way to remove dirt and rust from the door lock mechanism is to use some rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to clean the surface entirely. Also, you want to squirt some of the alcohol into the keyhole and repeat the process until you see no blockages.
The next step would be to do the same with the lock cylinder. Unscrew the lock cylinder and remove it from the door. Apply the lock lube all over the cylinder, place it back into the lock, and secure it with the screws. Test the lock with your key and see if the deadbolt is turning now.