Door Latch Won’t Retract? Try These Fixes

Door Latch Won't Retract

Have you been having trouble with your door latch not retracting? Well, you are not alone as many people have had this issue as well. It can be genuinely irksome when a door latch will not work properly, as not only does a door provide privacy but also security.

If you live with roommates, you will know the importance of a functioning door latch. Lucky for you, we have some information on why this could be occurring and better yet, fixes for the said reasons.

Read along to find out why your door latch is not retracting and what you can do to fix the issue.

Why Won’t My Door Latch Retract?

1. Debris and Dirt

There are many possible reasons why your door latch is sticking and not retracting; however, the most common and most likely reason is that the latch is being stopped by something.

The something that is stopping your door latch from retracting is more than likely debris such as wood shavings, grime, and or dust/dirt. When you think about how much a door latch is exposed to every year, it makes sense why there would be build-up on the door latch.

Not only can there be build-up on the door latch but it could have also had wood shavings captured in the small spaces when the door along the latch was installed.

It is not uncommon to have debris such as wood shards loose and fall into the gears of the door latch, especially if the door handle hole was drilled into the door when it was installed.

Typically doors are prefabricated so that it makes for easier installation, this is even more common with houses that are constructed in mass.

So, if you have a model home, it is more than likely that the doors were ordered in bulk, which also means that the doors could have come without door handle holes pre-drilled into them.

In such a case, the door handle holes would most likely be drilled onsite, which presents even more of an opportunity for there to be wood shavings in the small components of the door latch.

Fix – Clean The Door Latch

If you believe that the cause of your door latch not retracting is because of debris such as dirt/dust, wood shavings, and or grime building up; you will want to thoroughly clean the door latch.

For the best outcome, you will likely want to remove the door latch so that you can clean the latch inside and out, which will also require removing the whole door handle.

While you could clean the door latch while it is still in the door, it may not have as much of an effect as it would to remove the latch and thoroughly clean it.

To perform the task of removing the door latch and cleaning it efficiently, you will need a couple of items.

  • A screwdriver that fits the screws on the door handle. (Typically a Phillips screwdriver, which has a pointed end in a cross shape)
  • A flat-head screwdriver.
  • A vacuum to suck up all of the debris, preferably a vacuum with a suction hose, also with a narrow end. You can find a suitable CRAFTSMAN shop vacuum on Amazon.
  • A soft paintbrush or cleaning brush, which we recommend the OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set – You can purchase these brushes on Amazon for $8.99 (US) and if you are a Prime member, you can enjoy Free shipping on this item.

How to Remove Door Latch, Bolt, and Handle

Step 1. The first thing you want to do is remove the actual handle, which you can do by using your flathead screwdriver. Now, gently pull and turn the door handle and look for a small slit or button, once you find it press it with your flathead screwdriver. This should release the doorknob.

Step 2. Next, remove the trim ring by inserting your flathead screwdriver into the small slot on the side and twist, which should pop the trim ring right off.

Step 3. With the door latch now exposed, you can take your Phillips screwdriver and loosen the two screws that hold the latch assembly together, then gently pull it right out.

Step 4. Now, you can remove the two screws that hold the door bolt in place with your Phillips screwdriver.

Now that you have the door latch removed, you can clean it thoroughly, which we will guide you through. You will need an optional extra item to clean the door latch, the extra item being a can of WD-40, which you can also purchase on Amazon for only $6.78 (US) or you can pick a can up at your local hardware store or department store.

How to Clean Your Removed Door Latch

Step 1. The first thing you will want to do is clean the door handle hole to make sure it is free of all debris and with it being exposed, you can do this quite easily. So, take your soft bristle brush and brush all of the areas you can reach.

Step 2. Now that you have brushed all of the exposed areas of the door handle hole, you can take the shop vac with a reducing fitting so that you may reach all of the tight spaces, go ahead and suction all of the exposed areas of the door handle hole.

Step 3. With the door handle hole cleaned out. Now, you can move to cleaning the door latch (door bolt), which you can do by taking your soft bristle brush and brushing the latch thoroughly being sure to get in all of the crevices.

Step 4. With the door latch cleaned of all debris. Now, you can place the door latch on a rag or a couple of paper towels and spray it down with the WD-40, be sure to flip the latch over and cover all of the small spaces.

That is it! With the door latch all clean and lubed with the WD-40, you should have no issues with the latch (bolt) sticking. Simply repeat the steps you followed to remove the door handle to put it back into place in your door.

2. Your Door Latch is Broken

It is very possible that your door latch is broken or faulty, in such a scenario, you will want to replace your door handle.

Within a door handle, there is typically a spring system that triggers the door latch (or door bolt), which is what pulls the latch back into the door when you turn the door handle and it is also what ensures that the door latches when you close it.

It is very possible that the spring system within the door handle has either broken or is faulty. If you believe this is the case, you will need to replace the door handle, luckily, you can easily do this yourself, with no professional help required.

Fix – Replace Your Door Handle (Door Latch)

If you believe that your door handle’s spring system is broken or faulty, you will need to replace it to ensure that it will latch properly. You can find a variety of door handles on Amazon for reasonable prices such as the Probrico 6 Pack Matte Black Door Handles (view on Amazon).

The items/tools you will need to replace your door handle/latch.

  • A new door handle with according screws, which you can find on Amazon for a reasonable $29.99 (US).
  • A flathead screwdriver and in some cases, a Phillips screwdriver
  • A door wedge, which will hold the door steady and prevent it from closing

How to Replace Your Door Handle/Latch

Step 1. The first thing you will want to do is place the door wedge to hold the door open, then you can start to remove your existing door handle/latch. Also, you may be dealing with a door handle that has a plate cover, which will show no screws.

You can remove the plate cover by using your flathead screwdriver to ease off the plate, which you can do by finding the notch at the base of the plate or at the side of the fitting. If this is not the case, it is a screw-off plate, be sure to check which kind of fitting you are working with.

Step 2. Next, you can remove the cover plate by unscrewing the screws on the cover plate, using the coordinating screwdriver, then slide both of the handles off of the door. Also, remove the two screws from the bolt plate (if required) and carefully pull the door bolt out of the door.

Step 3. Now, you can grab your new door handle/latch and its accompanying screws. Next, slide the new door handle and latch mechanism through the door handle hole while making sure it lines up with the door latch.

When the latch mechanism is lined up and is showing on the other side of the door, you can attach the second door handle.

Step 3. Be sure to check that the handle and the latch mechanism are working before you secure the screws, which you can do by turning the handle and observing the latch.

Now, you can screw the new handles onto the door using your coordinating screwdriver. Once you have secured the screws into their respective spots, then you can test the door handle again by turning it a couple of times to ensure it is working properly.

If your new door handle has a cover plate, you can place it by simply pressing it over the door handle.

Now that you have a new door handle on your door, you should not have any issues with the door latch sticking or not retracting.

Not only are doors very necessary to maintain privacy and security but so is the door latch, which is why it is a great idea to make sure that your door latch is working properly.

As previously mentioned, if you have roommates, you will know just how important a working door latch is since it is what secures the door so that it stays closed when it is closed.

Lucky for you, with this guide in the palm of your hand, you will have no problem fixing the issue of your door latch not retracting.

It almost always brings a certain joy to do things yourself and replacing a door handle is certainly a project that anyone can learn to complete.

By following the steps provided in this feature, you can replace your door handle and feel that sense of accomplishment. Be sure to keep a can of WD-40 nearby, as it can work wonders on a troublesome door latch.


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