Deadbolt Stuck In A Locked Position? (Here's What You Can Do!)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team
Deadbolts do a great job of protecting your and your family and providing peace of mind, that is unless they are stuck. It is common for deadbolts to get stuck in the locked position, but you can lubricate and free it with graphite spray. Whether it be simple tools such as a screwdriver and hammer or graphite spray, let’s see how you can fix a deadbolt that’s stuck in the locked position.

Deadbolts help secure our homes from any potential intruders. They’re strong and reliable, which is why it’s a good idea to have them installed on your front door. Unfortunately, deadbolts do have times when they fail to operate properly. Your deadbolt can get stuck in a locked position, preventing you from entering or exiting through that door.

To fix a deadbolt stuck in the locked position, lubricate the keyhole with graphite spray or Teflon spray, and tap it with a hammer to get the internal parts moving. s you tap, turn the key to help spring the lock loose. If it’s still stuck, remove the lock from the door completely, examine the inner parts, and make sure everything lines up.

Doorknobs alone may not be enough to secure your home, which is why so many people consider adding a deadbolt. With the tips included in this article, you should be able to solve problems that may emerge concerning your deadbolt.

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How To Fix A Deadbolt Stuck In Locked Position

Learning that your front door is stuck because of a stubborn deadbolt can be a bit scary. The good news is that you should be able to fix this kind of issue on your own easily. You may even have the items needed to free up the deadbolt already, saving you time and money.

Step 1: Use A Dry Spray To Loosen Up A Deadbolt Stuck In Locked Position

The first thing you want to do if you encounter a stuck deadbolt is to lubricate it with some graphite spray. To be more specific, you want to use something known as a dry or solid lubricant.

Dry lubricants are capable of effectively reducing the amount of friction between two items or surfaces. They manage to do that even as they remain solid.

Different kinds of dry lubricants are available, but graphite sprays are recommended for locks. Make sure you pick up some graphite spray the next time you go to the hardware store.

After using the graphite spray, try turning the key in the deadbolt to see if it opens up. Apply more spray if needed to further loosen up the deadbolt. Another good option for lubricating the lock is a dry Teflon spray. This spray goes on wet to really soak into the lock, but then it evaporates. Therefore, you won’t have any wet residue left behind.

Only Use A Liquid Lubricant In Emergency Situations

Graphite sprays are best at lubricating deadbolts, but they aren’t exactly considered household items. So, can you use a more commonly found lubricant like WD-40 instead?

In an emergency situation, yes you can use WD-40 to help loosen up the deadbolt on your door. Do note however that using the WD-40 means you’ll have to be more diligent when caring for the deadbolt. The issue with using a liquid lubricant like WD-40 on a deadbolt is that small particles can get stuck in it.

Dust particles and other types of debris could get lodged inside the deadbolt due to the presence of the WD-40. You’ll have to keep spraying the lock with compressed air moving forward to prevent the liquid lubricant from causing additional problems.

Just like with the graphite spray, you should turn the key immediately after applying the WD-40. As much as possible though, try to limit your usage of this lubricant.

Step 2: Lube The Bolt Mechanism Of Deadbolt Stuck In Locked Position

You might also need to add lubricant to the bolt mechanism. If so, remove the screws holding the lock cylinder in place.

Pull it from the door and saturate the bolt mechanism with the spray lube. Twist the mechanism back and forth using a flat-head screwdriver, then reinstall the lock cylinder.

Step 3: Tap The Deadbolt To Move Internal Parts

Hopefully, the lubricant will be enough to spring the deadbolt free from its locked position. If it wasn’t, you’ll probably need to do something else to solve the problem.

Get your hammer or the handle of a screwdriver and use that to gently strike the area around the keyhole. Keep turning your key as you continue striking the deadbolt with the hammer.

Hitting the deadbolt could help free up certain components of it that have gotten stuck. Change the spots where you’re hitting the deadbolt if the lock still isn’t opening. Continue striking the deadbolt for a while because it may take more than a few hits to free the components.

Step 4: Remove The Deadbolt

If using lubricant and hitting the deadbolt was not enough to open it up, you’re in for a longer repair job. Your only move now is to remove the deadbolt from the door.

Grab your screwdriver and start detaching the deadbolt. Remember to place the screws you remove in one container to prevent them from getting lost.

Take a closer look at the deadbolt now and see where the inner deadbolt rod is located. That inner deadbolt rod is supposed to align with the slot nearby. If the deadbolt rod and slot aren’t aligned, the lock itself will not open.

You want to slide that deadbolt rod back into its proper position. That should allow the deadbolt to work like normal again.

Step 5: Re-attach The Deadbolt To Your Door

The deadbolt should be open now, so re-attach it to your door. Screw everything back into place, but don’t put away your tools just yet.

Step 6: File Down The Inner Strike Plate If Necessary

After re-attaching the deadbolt to your door, try to open and close it a few times. See how smoothly the lock slides into place whenever you close or open the door.

If the deadbolt is now working fine, you can set your tools aside and move on to a different task. If the deadbolt is still snagging on the door, you’ll have to do one more thing.

Look for your metal file and use it to file down the deadbolt’s inner strike plate. Doing that should allow the deadbolt to work more reliably going forward.

Other Reasons Your Deadbolt Is Stuck In A Locked Position

In some cases, your deadbolt might be stuck in a locked position for other reasons.

1. The Weather Can Make Deadbolt Stuck In Locked Position

You’re probably not just imagining things if you think that your deadbolt becomes harder to open on certain days. The weather could be messing with the deadbolt without you noticing.

Folks who live in places known for cold weather may find that their deadbolts are harder to open during the winter. That’s likely because the cold has caused the door to contract and messed up its alignment with the deadbolt.

Warm weather can cause the same kind of problem, albeit for a different reason. If it’s hot outside, the door will expand and that too will cause misalignment with the lock.

Whether you’re dealing with changes brought about by cold or warm weather, pulling on the door prior to opening should help. Doing so will re-align the door with the lock and you’ll have an easier time opening it.

To minimize the impact weather has on your deadbolt, consider changing the type of door you’re using. Unlike wood, aluminum and steel doors are not quite as susceptible to the effects of extreme temperatures.

While installing the deadbolt, you should also make sure that it is aligned correctly on the door. Slight misalignments can be exacerbated by the weather.

2. The Deadbolt Has Succumbed To Wear And Tear

One more reason why your deadbolt is no longer working could be wear and tear. After years of service, the components inside the deadbolt may simply become incapable of working properly. The only fix there is to remove the deadbolt and replace it with something new.

Is Your Deadbolt Just Sticking?

If your deadbolt isn’t completely stuck, but it’s just getting harder to lock and unlock, do this first. Test your deadbolt to see if it is the part where the key goes in or the part where the bolt slides into the door.

You can do this easily by opening your door, then turning the key in the lock. If it operates the deadbolt easily, you know the lock cylinder isn’t the problem, it’s with the bolt sliding into the door. If you’re struggling to turn the key in the lock with the door open, the problem is with the key.

Once you’ve narrowed down the issue you can better solve the problem.

Video: Fixing A Sticky Deadbolt

What Are Other Deadbolt Problems?

The deadbolt getting stuck is just one of the issues you may encounter with this type of lock. Let’s take the time to talk about those other issues in this section.

Particles Have Accumulated Inside The Deadbolt

Using a liquid lubricant is not the only way to trap small particles inside the deadbolt. If you have a deadbolt on your workshop door, sawdust and other small particles could be lodged inside the lock. Winds blowing on your front door could also deliver debris to the deadbolt installed.

A Key Broke Inside The Deadbolt

Even if we know it’s not going to help, some of us still instinctively try to force deadbolts open. Upon doing so, your key may break inside the lock, thus leading to a bigger problem.

You can try to fix that problem yourself using a key extractor and some lubricant. Alternatively, you can also leave that job up to a locksmith.

Your Key Is No Longer Compatible With The Deadbolt

Sometimes, the issue plaguing your front door may have little to do with the deadbolt itself. The problematic component could be the key you’re using.

Keys are susceptible to getting worn down after numerous uses. There may come a time when the key you’ve been using is no longer compatible with the deadbolt. To double-check if the key is the problem, look for your spare and use that on the lock.

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Tips For Maintaing Your Deadbolt

Preserving the effectiveness of your deadbolt is possible. You just have to follow a few maintenance tips.

  • Start with regular lubrication. Use graphite spray to lubricate the interior of the deadbolt about once per year.
  • You can also try covering up the deadbolt to prevent particles from getting inside. This is particularly helpful when trying to protect workshop locks.
  • It’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on the deadbolt. As soon as you see signs of rust, remove it with some sandpaper. You can then use some sealant to patch up the previously corroded spot and keep it protected.
  • During the winter months, you should make a habit of wiping the deadbolt dry. Melted ice could seep into the deadbolt and cause problems so watch out for that.

In Conclusion

With proper maintenance, you won’t have to worry too often about a deadbolt stuck in the locked position. However, it does happen. To get the deadbolt working again, lubricate it with graphite spray and tap it with a hammer to loosen up the internal parts. Turn a key in the lock as you tap to help get things moving.

If the lock is still stuck, you’ll likely need to remove the deadbolt for a core examination to make sure the rod is in the correct position. Once everything is aligned properly, reinstall the deadbolt on the door. If it still isn’t working, normal wear and tear may have damaged the lock beyond repair. If this is the case, you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

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Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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