Whether you have a deadbolt or spring-latch knob, you likely expect your door lock to work every time. However, wear and tear can cause mechanisms to jam up occasionally. If you’re having trouble opening a door, use the guide below to resolve the issue.

How to Address Common Causes of Door Lock Jams

1. Dirty Keyhole

When dirt and dust gather inside the lock, the particles may eventually make it hard for the mechanical components to move.

When you first encounter this issue, spray a small amount of lubricant—such as WD-40®—into the opening. Wait a few minutes and then insert a lubricated key inside the opening. Wiggle the key around to break up the debris and clean out the interior.  

2. Misalignment

Over time, temperature fluctuations can distort wooden doors. The bolt and the strike plate can become misaligned due to these physical changes.

door lockIf you still have trouble turning the lock, lifting or pressing down on the door while you twist the knob may help. To permanently fix the problem, a locksmith can re-align the door by tightening the hinges, repositioning the strike plate, and adjusting the deadbolt so it fits into the strike plate.

3. Freezing

During the winter, moisture can build up inside a lock and freeze. Frost compromises key fit and movement, preventing the door from opening.

If this happens, treat the frozen keyhole with de-icing spray, petroleum jelly, or rubbing alcohol to dissolve the ice. You can also try to heat the keyhole by breathing into it with a straw or using a blow-dryer.

4. Broken Mechanism

Internal metal components can wear out due to rust and old age. If the knob turns but the bolt doesn’t engage, broken mechanisms may be to blame. Typically, the only solution is to have a locksmith remove the lock and replace it.

5. Broken Key

An old key can snap and break inside a lock. If this happens, you might be able to remove the piece by inserting a key extractor or pair of tweezers into the keyhole and gently prying it out. However, since this process can damage internal mechanisms, it’s usually better to hire a professional.


If you need assistance opening a door lock, turn to A-Tri-County Lock. Serving Akron, Canton, and Cleveland, OH, these mobile locksmiths will come to your location and accurately diagnose the cause of the jam. They’re accredited by the Better Business Bureau® and have an A+ rating. For convenient service, call (330) 928-6222 in Akron, (330) 494-1188 in Canton, and (216) 481-2233 or (440) 552-1410 in Cleveland. Learn more about their work on their website.