Renter Advice

How to Fix a Sticky Lock

1999 views August 2, 2023 Angelina Zurzolo 4

Whether it is a new key that doesn’t quite glide or a mailbox key that always gets stuck, a sticky lock is always a hassle! Before you go through the trouble of getting duplicate keys or asking your landlord to change locks, here is a step-by-step guide to getting your lock working without busting the budget or upsetting the management.

  1. Clean the lock: The first step is to ensure there is no dirt, dust, or debris inside the lock that might be causing it to stick. Use a can of compressed air or a small brush to clean the keyhole thoroughly.
  2. Lubricate the lock: Sticky locks are often due to a lack of lubrication. Apply a graphite-based or silicone-based lubricant specifically designed for locks. Avoid using oil-based lubricants as they can attract more dust and grime.
  3. Insert and turn the key: Insert the key into the lock and gently turn it back and forth a few times. This helps the lubricant spread throughout the lock mechanism and loosens any stuck components.
  4. Try a different key: If you have multiple keys for the same lock, try using a different one. Sometimes, the issue may be with the key itself, not the lock.
  5. Remove excess lubricant: After applying the lubricant, wipe off any excess to prevent it from attracting more dirt and becoming a potential problem in the future.
  6. Check the door alignment: Sometimes, the lock can stick if the door is not properly aligned with the frame. Check if the door fits well into the frame and adjust it if necessary.
  7. Inspect for damaged parts: If the lock remains sticky after following the above steps, there may be some internal damage or wear in the lock mechanism. In such cases, it’s best to call a professional locksmith to inspect and repair the lock.

Remember to be patient while working on a sticky lock. Forcing the key or using excessive pressure may cause further damage. If you’re uncertain about how to proceed or the lock is particularly stubborn, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional locksmith. They have the expertise and tools to resolve more complex lock issues safely.

sticky lock

Loosen a lock in a pinch

If you are in a rush and need to remedy a sticky lock, the most convenient way is with olive oil from your pantry. In order to fix the lock using the olive oil, simply rub a small amount of the oil on your key and insert it in the lock. Once they key is inside the slot, make sure to turn it to both the right and the left. After you remove the key make sure to check the lock by both locking and unlocking the door.

This also works very well for pesky mailbox keys. However, oil isn’t always the best long term fix due to its propensity to catch grime and dust. The oil can eventually become hard, and dust and dirt can cause the lock to no longer function.

While this still happens to be a great short term solution to ease up stuck locks, for a long term fix consider something else for extra sticky situations.

sticky lock olive oil

For extra sticky situations

In instances where olive oil doesn’t work, liquid graphite is a good fix. Liquid graphite is purchasable at automotive shops and hardware stores and will generally run around six to ten dollars, making it a fairly affordable fix. The graphite comes in a bottle with a plastic tip that will need to be cut, so make sure to have scissors or a knife on hand in order to deal with this.

To use the graphite, cut the tip off of the nozzle and place the nozzle in the lock. Spray the graphite into the lock by squeezing the bottle—keep in mind that it doesn’t take much to get the lock moving. It is also a good idea to place some graphite on the actually lock mechanism and the area where the lock mechanism sits within the door jamb.

Doing this extra step will ensure that the lock is properly coated with the powdered graphite. After you spray the graphite into the lock, place your key in the lock. Slide it in and out a few times to make sure the lock is adequately lubricated. If needed, feel free to add more graphite until the lock is moving smoothly.

So there you have it! You can get yourself out of this sticky situation without having to call your landlord or property manager. A little extra knowledge goes a long way to make life easier when you’re renting a home.

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