The door latch is one of the most important elements of any door, whether it be interior, exterior, or any other kind of door. Without a properly functioning door latch, you cannot rely on the security and safety your door is supposed to provide.
Basically, the main role of a door latch is to ensure that the door closes properly – and remains closed. It is the main mechanism of any door, and in case it won’t retract, it is necessary to repair or replace it for the door to close properly.
Why is the door latch sticking? And how can you fix it? Keep on reading to find out.
Why does my door latch won’t retract?
If your door latch won’t retract fully, there’s a couple of potential reasons, and it is of utmost importance to detect the issue before proceeding to any repairing process. Before we list these potential causes, let’s go over some troubleshooting tips that could help.
The best test you can perform on your door is attempting to open your closed door and detect the type of resistance you feel when doing this. In case the door latch won’t retract unless the knob is turned, or it won’t retract even when you turn the knob, the latch is the issue.
It may also be harder to turn the knob, or you may need to pull/wiggle the door handle/knob in order to release the latch. Sometimes the door latch won’t extend before rotating the knob, or you’ll find it hard to even turn the knob or the handle.
In case you’re experiencing any of the mentioned problems, it is quite probable that the issue is in the door latch and you may need to repair or replace it.
Regardless of the type of door latch you have and the complexity of its mechanism, there are some common causes that prevent the door latch from working properly, and the door from shutting completely.
Here’s what could be the reason behind your door latch not springing back.
1. Broken mechanism
Sometimes the door latch won’t retract completely if there is an issue inside the internal mechanism of the door latch. It could be a damaged or broken element causing a problem, such as a spindle.
A faulty or broken spindle, or a damaged spindle hole, will result in difficulty when closing the door, and there will be a lack of connection between the door latch and the handle. What’s more, there could also be an issue inside the door lock itself.
Also, if you notice that the door latch is lacking stability and it is easily sliding in and out instead of retracting automatically, it is quite probable that something in the mechanism is seriously damaged or broken.
2. Jammed door latch
If your latch is jammed, it will be easy to recognize this issue. In this case, the door latch won’t work properly when you turn the handle and apply some pressure on the latch. While some people may associate this problem with a faulty door knob, it isn’t the case.
The reason behind this problem is usually a buildup of some kind of material, whether it be dust, rust, or accumulation of any other kind of particles. This kind of blockage will is usually the reason the door latch doesn’t go in all the way.
What’s more, this kind of buildup can cause other kinds of problems, as well. If the metal pieces are struggling to properly function, it could cause friction and seriously damage the internal elements.
3. Misaligned strike plate
If the strike plate is misaligned, you’ll notice that the door latch is blocked only when the door is closed and you’re trying to open it. Simply put, you’ll notice a misalignment between the strike plate hole and the door latch which is supposed to fit into it.
Sometimes, this misalignment can occur as a consequence of some damage or friction. However, it could be that the strike hole plate or the door latch haven’t been installed properly, which definitely requires the process to be repeated.
Another potential issue could be that the very foundation of your house isn’t properly balanced, which can cause misalignment in all elements of your home, including the door latch. Moisture penetrating into the wood and inflating it is a probable root cause, as well.
In case the problem occurs multiple times a year even after you’ve readjusted the door latch and the strike plate hole, the problem lies in the foundation of your home, which is a much bigger issue than everything we’ve mentioned so far.
How to fix a door latch not retracting
Depending on the severity of the issue, fixing your door latch may require more or less expertise. However, in the majority of cases, you will be able to take care of this problem on your own.
If you feel like you’re not experienced enough to do it yourself, leave the work to a professional.
Bigger underlying issues, such as an unstable home foundation, are something you have no/little control over, and this will require a complete inspection of your home and a consultation with a professional.
Other issues we’ve mentioned, on the other hand, are relatively easy to take care of, especially if you’ve identified the problem successfully. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the solutions.
1. Use a hammer
Sometimes, all you need to do to fix a door latch that won’t retract is grab a hammer and hit the latch a couple of times. Of course, you want your door open for this step, so you can easily locate the door latch.
Needless to say, you should make sure to use controlled motions and not destroy the door handle or knob completely. This trick is a great way to fix a jammed door latch in case of a minor defect or issue.
However, if the issue lies in the internal mechanism, this will only help for a short period of time.
2. Adjust the spindle
The spindle, which is located on the chassis, can often be unaligned with the door latch, which can cause issues with the door latch retracting all the way. Professionals often refer to this issue as a sticky latch, meaning that it won’t go all the way back.
It is actually very easy to adjust the spindle and align it with the door latch. All you need to do is rotate the thumb a couple of times to position the spindle correctly. If this doesn’t do the trick, it is necessary to reinstall the latch and realign it with the spindle.
3. Lubricate the door latch
If you haven’t changed the door lock for years, and there isn’t any significant blockage that you should remove, sometimes it will be enough to add some lubricant for the door latch to retract fully.
Door latch lubricants, such as the WD-40, often come with a flexible straw which makes it easy to reach the door latch and apply the product. In addition to lubricating the door latch, this product also protects, cleans, and penetrates the area drying out the damaging moisture.
4. Tighten the screws
One of the common mistakes people make when it comes to installing the door lock is not tightening the screws enough. This lack of stability in a door lock will surely result in a door latch issue, and it will not be able to retract properly.
All you need is a screwdriver and a couple of minutes to fully inspect each screw and tighten it if necessary.
5. Clean the door lock
As we’ve explained, a door latch is generally jammed due to a buildup of a certain material, whether it be dirt, debris, and particles, or grime that gets accumulated over time. If this is the case with your door latch, it is necessary to disassemble the door lock completely.
Only once you’ve separated all the elements will you be able to locate all the dirt and clean each crevice thoroughly, making sure you’ve removed all the buildup. It is necessary to leave the mechanism clean and dirt-free for it to work properly again.
If the buildup is persistent and hard to get off the elements, what you do can is dunk them into plain vinegar and let them sit until you notice the gunk dissolving. In some cases, you may have to use an old toothbrush to get all the dirt off the door latch.
Regular and thorough cleaning of your door elements will prevent the buildup from forming and the door latch from blocking.
6. Realign the strike plate
In order to align the strike plate with the door latch, all you need to do is mark the spot where the door latch is landing onto the frame. That will help you adjust the hole accordingly, or reposition the strike plate so that it aligns with the door latch.
However, this will only be a semi-permanent solution if you’re experiencing other problems such as moisture penetrating into the wooden elements. If this is the case, you may need to find the source of the moisture or redo the door finish to prevent the moisture.
In case the issue is deeper, such as sinking or imbalanced house foundation, you will need to contact a professional and have them inspect the foundation and hopefully come up with a permanent solution.
7. Replace the door lock
In case there is a problem with the internal mechanism, whether it be a broken or a damaged element, or something else, the best decision you can make is to replace the door lock altogether.
Any kind of work on a faulty internal mechanism could cost more than the new mechanism itself, and it is always better to invest in a new one, especially if you’ve had that door lock for a long time.
Even when you invest in a quality door lock, it is still subject to wear and tear, and with time, the mechanism could break or slow down. After all, a functioning door lock is one of the biggest factors in your safety, so do not hesitate to invest in a new one.