When it’s Not the Lock

Sometimes, a homeowner will start to have problems with a lock that won’t turn, sticks, or won’t latch properly. He heads down to the Big Box store, grabs another lock, installs it himself--and has the exact same problem. Because the lock itself wasn’t the problem.

Today, we’re going to look at some components of a door and lock assembly which might be causing a door not to latch properly, or a lock to malfunction.

The Door Hinge Problem

Doors are attached to the frame through the door jamb with screws through the hinges. These hinges are mounted to the door frame with a series of screws--four for each of the three hinges on a standard door. If the screws are too short, improperly installed and/or become loose over time, the door can shift or sag. This causes the alignment of the door to be off and the lock can’t work properly.  

The strike plate problem

The strike plate needs to be mounted so that it’s directly across from the matching latch or deadbolt. The purpose of a strike plate is to hold the latch and protect the material (usually wood) into which it’s installed from being damaged by the latch or deadbolt.  A strike plate is only effective during a break-in if it has three-inch screws, which means they do into the actual door frame instead of just the jamb. If the strike isn’t screwed into the frame, a hard donkey kick to the door can splinter the wood of the door jamb and break open a door.

If a strike plate is aligned incorrectly, the dead latch plunger can fall into the opening of the strike. How will you know? Sometimes, you can see it when you shut the door. Another method is to listen carefully: when you close the door, you might be able to hear two clicks instead of one.

The key problem

A lock generally comes with a key which is designed to fit that lock. A duplicate key will be a close approximation of the original key. A duplicate of the duplicate will be a close approximation of the copy, but not so much the original. 

Making duplicates of keys is a lot like playing Chinese Whispers, that came where a whispered message starts at one end of a line of people, and changes as it travels through the group.

The easiest way to solve the problem of poor-quality copies is to have a locksmith rekey the lock, and make as many copies are needed at that time.

If you’re having a problem with a lock, you might be able to determine if the problem is one of the things listed above.  If you need a locksmith service, we’re happy to help.