Expert DIY advice on how to repair door knob locks and deadbolts, including common problems like a stuck or frozen door lock, door that won’t latch, stuck deadbolt, or keys broken off in the door lock.

Many door knob and lockset problems can be corrected before they become so serious that you get locked out or the lock does not work at all. Often, a broken door latch assembly or door lock mechanism causes the problem.

Here we look at DIY repairs for locks and knobs. If you have a key that won’t work in the lock, please see How to Repair Keyed Door Locks.

Replacing an old cylindrical door knob with a new one is an easy job when you know how.
Replacing an old cylindrical door knob with a new one is an easy DIY job when you know how. Master Lock

Sometimes a door lock mechanism may not work simply because it’s dirty or needs to be lubricated with graphite (do not use any type of oil because this will gum-up the works). An improperly functioning door latch may be the result of a poorly fitting door. In this article, you’ll learn how to fix both of these door knob problems.

For serious lock problems, it is usually best to call a locksmith or, if you can get the door open, to replace the lock entirely. Most door knobs on interior doors are relatively inexpensive to replace—in fact, it doesn’t usually pay to have interior door knobs or locks repaired by locksmith services unless the knobs or locks are special or particularly expensive. Interior door knob replacement is more affordable (exterior latches and locksets can be very pricey). You can buy door knobs online at Amazon.

Diagram showing internal parts of a mortise locket and cylindrical lockset door knob assembly.
Diagram of Door Locks


light bulb clip art graphic for Don's AdviceI find that, when I need a professional locksmith to fix a high-quality door knob or lockset, it’s usually far less expensive to remove the hardware myself and take it to a locksmith as opposed to having the locksmith come to me. Of course, if it’s on an exterior door, I do this when the weather is nice and when it’s safe to leave the door unlocked.

Door Lock Doesn’t Latch Properly

When a door latch doesn’t click into position, it usually means the door latch and the strike plate on the door jamb are out of alignment. Tighten the door hinge screws and then, if necessary, adjust the strike plate by loosening its screws and shifting it slightly. Latch repairs range from making minor adjustments like this to completely repositioning the door.

If the latch does not catch, close the door slowly to watch how the latch bolt meets the strike plate. The latch bolt may be positioned above, below, or off to one side of the strike plate. (Scars on the strike plate may show where it is misaligned.)

It is also possible the door has shrunk because of changes in humidity, and the latch will no longer reach the strike plate. Once you have figured out whether this is the problem, try one of the methods shown here.

A hand using a screwdriver to adjust the position of the strike plate.
If door latch doesn’t align, adjust the position of the strike plate. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips


Author Image
About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort