Key Won’t Turn In Lock? Try These Fixes

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When you come home from a very long day, you do not want to put your key in your door and have it not turn. This is really a nightmare situation and seems to happen at the worst time. It is equally frustrating when the deadbolt lock in your bathroom is locked and stuck, or when the car door is stuck.

Read along to learn what to do when an outdoor keylock is not turning, when an indoor lock won’t spin, and when a car door lock is stuck. Each has its own set of recommendations.

Unfortunately, there are quite a handful of reasons that your key doesn’t turn in the door lock. Below you will find a list of problems and solutions that you can take care of yourself and others you may need to rely on a locksmith to help with.

Why Won’t My Key Turn In My Door

1. Key Has Broken Inside Lock

If your key breaks in your lock, then you know that you’re not getting into your home unless you have some spare tools and a spare key. Without that spare key, you’ll need a locksmith to change the entire key mechanism because the door is broken and so is the key. If this happens to you, don’t try to lock or unlock the door any further. Many people try to superglue the broken bit of key in the door to the key in their hand but as you can imagine, this is a recipe for disaster.

The glue isn’t going to be able to hold it together plus the residue is going to cause even more problems. If there’s enough of the key protruding. then you can use a set of strong grip pliers (view on Amazon) to pull it out carefully. If the key is unable to come out peacefully, don’t force it out as this could make the situation a lot worse. You’ll need to get a locksmith in to take care of the job.

2. Dirt and Dust In Lock

Dirt and dust can sometimes find their way into a lock and build up over time. This can clog up the locking mechanism making it difficult to turn. You can apply some graphite spay or silicone-based lubricant in the lock, put the key back in, and turn it a few times. Never use oil-based products such as WD-40 to lubricate locks because although they may help initially, they tend to cause problems with clogging later on.

If dirt and dust have built up into the keyhole, it can cause the key to jam inside the lock. debris can clog up the mock mechanics and make it difficult for the key to insert or for the key to turn. To get rid of the debris that’s making the lock hard to turn, you can spray graphite spray (view on Amazon) in the lock. Once in, turn the key in there a few times to see if you can get the lock to turn.

3. The Lock is Frozen

If you live in a cold climate, or that time of the year has come, chances are you’re dealing with a frozen lock. This happens when the water has managed to get into the lock mechanism and has frozen preventing your key from being able to go inside. To fix this, you can warm up the key by putting it in hot water, then take gloves and slowly insert it into the lock mechanic in an attempt to unlock the door. Make sure to dry the key before inserting it unless it might cause the same problem when it freezes.

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4. You’ve Just Got Your Keys Cut

If you’ve just got your keys cut and it’s unable to unlock your door, chances are your keyway cut poorly. A poorly cut key can prevent you from turning your lock which means you won’t be able to get in. Before you send your key back, make sure that you push your key in firmly and wiggle it around once it’s in slightly whilst also trying to turn it. Sometimes you just haven’t positioned your new key right in order for the turn to be made.

This is very common and you may think that it’s a useless tip, but it’s usually the case with newly cut keys. If this doesn’t work, get someone else to try it and you may just not get the hang of it. Remember that these people cut several keys every day so they clearly know what they’re doing. You need to make sure that you try to work your way around your lock with your new key before you give up.

5. Broken Lock Body

A very popular type of lock mechanism is a Yale lock also known as a night latch. It’s referred to as a Yale lock due to Yale being the biggest manufacturer of the nightlatch. If you can’t unlock your door, the mechanism inside your nightlatch might be broken which is why your key is unable to turn.

If it’s a case of the lock mechanism being screwed off the door completely, then you’ll need a replacement. If you’re not able to replace this lock mechanism sharpish, then you might need a different type of lock installed by yourself or you’ll need a locksmith to replace the nightlatch. Since specific holes need to be drilled and chiseled away on your wooden door for the lock to be installed, finding a quick replacement and installing it quickly is not an easy job since very few locks come in the exact same shape and size as each other. Once new holes are drilled, the new lock mechanism will be able to fit on your door comfortably.

6. Seized or Vandalised Pins In The Lock Cylinder

With your lock, there are a series of serrated pins that move up and down when the key is entered into the lock. These pins are cut specifically so that the key that is matched to those pins will open the lock. If you’re unable to turn your lock or put your key into the keyhole, it’s because there are pins that don’t have any lubrication and they’re not able to move up and down with ease. If you catch this early on, then you can spray some lubricant into the keyhole and this will coat the pins allowed them to move freely. If caught too late, then the pins can seize up or even fuse together. If it reaches this stage, then the lock needs to be replaced.

If your lock mechanism has been vandalized, then it can make getting the key inside hard. If something has been done to the lock, for example, someone has put a foreign object into the keyhole, this can cause the pins to be stiff and not lift when the key is put inside. Once the lock mechanism has been vandalized and the pins are unable to lift correctly, the lock has to be replaced with a new one. If the door is open, you can buy a  new cylinder from a hardware store and swap the damaged cylinder for a new one. If the door is locked, you’ll need to call a locksmith.

7. Bent Key

If you’ve had your key for a while, or it’s suffered some type of trauma, then it can lead to wear. Some situations you might have put your key in can include :

  • Used your key to open a bottle as a can opener
  • Used your key to cut something
  • Used your key to stretch things
  • Used your key to open a box as a lever
  • Used your key to open a door as a handle

If putting your key in certain situations has caused it to bend, it’ll be jammed in your lock when trying to get into your house. In this situation, you’ll need to straighten the key as much as possible in an attempt to insert it inside the lock. To straighten your key, grab a hammer and a vice bench if you have one and hammer the key on the hard surface.

You can use the angle of the hammer to target the part that’s bent the most. Make sure the hits are gentle and slow. You want your only intention to be to remove the bend. If you flatten the happen, you won’t be able to insert it into the lock. To really avoid this, you can place a piece of wood between the key and the hammer. If you don’t have a vice bench, trying to straighten out your key might be trickier than you think. Wherever you decide, make sure that it’s completely flat and you’re willing to get scuffs on it.

Once you’ve straightened out the key, it should be able to go into the lock smoothly with no problems. Make sure to use more force than usually if the key isn’t budging. If needed and you have it, apply some lubricant so that it has a higher chance of lifting the pins. If there’s too much damage done to the key, you’ll need to get it replaced if you have spare. If you don’t, the entire mechanism will need replacing.

8. Blunt Key Tip

Your key has a specific shape to it that allows only that key to fit into the lock. The shape is made when the key is made and the more complex the key is which is known as the key profile, the higher the security of the lock. If you’ve abused your key by doing the following:
  • Used your key to open a bottle as a can opener
  • Used your key to cut something
  • Used your key to stretch things
  • Used your key to open a box as a lever
  • Used your key to open a door as a handle

then the key profile will be damaged, specifically at the top. A damaged key profile is thicker in certain areas than it is others which means that it can’t fit into the lock properly. The tip may be dull due to trauma or the key profile might be completely damaged.

A damaged key profile presents thicker parts that can’t fit in the (inverse) profile of the lock. The tip of the key might get blunt or dull due to abuse, or the profile of the key flattened.

You need to assess your key and check for a damaged tip. You should put it near some light and look at it from the front and this is the best way to look at the profile. You might notice certain parts protruding, or the tip is damaged. If you can see certain parts of the key aren’t matching the original profile, you can use a bastard file (view on Amazon) to get rid of excess metal. Make sure to remove as little as possible as you can always take more off but you can’t add to it. If you’re using a nail file, this is going to take a lot more time. Once you’re done, you can use some lubricant to see if the key will fit in properly.

9. Wrong Key

There’s a chance you could be using the wrong key. Make sure that you double-check the key that you’re using. Sometimes you may be tired and you confuse the key you’re meant to be using.

What to Do If Your Outdoor House Key Won’t Turn in the Lock

Outdoor locks that won’t turn are quite a different issue than indoor locks. Outdoor locks are susceptible to collecting dirt and debris since they are subjected to the elements. The lock cylinder can get filled with this grime and make it impossible to turn the lock. With debris in the lock, the pins in the lock can get stuck and prohibit the key from turning.

Spray the Lock with Lubricant to Remove Dirt and Dust

If your outdoor lock does not turn to open, it is easy to fix. You can use a dry lubricant spray on the lock. (Find Dry Lubricant On Amazon). When you spray the lubricant in the keyhole, it can move and free up the plug to allow you to turn the key and open the door.

If this approach doesn’t work right away, try spraying the dry lubricant in the keyhole, and then insert the key 4-5 times. This will help you get the grease moved in and around the key lock mechanism. This should help loosen the plug area and help you to turn the key.

If a dry lubricant doesn’t do the trick, you can try a product like WD-40 (view on Amazon).

If you successfully unlock the lock but find it happens again and again, you may need to call a locksmith that can have the lock cylinder replaced.

When Lubricants Don’t Help The Key Turn In The Lock

What if you try using a lubricant, but there still seems to be something obstructing the key from entering the keyhole completely? What if your key is only going in halfway? Typically this means there is something in the keyhole that is jamming it, and this keeps the key from going all the way in.

In this case, when the lubricant did not work sufficiently, and you are concerned something is obstructing the access to the keyhole, you may want to call a locksmith to help you. You could damage the lock if you try to fix this with the wrong tools.

In fact, there are even more problems that can arise if lubricants aren’t helping. The pin chamber can get worn out, or the pin itself can get corroded. Only with the proper tools, a locksmith can fix these problems.

What to Do If Your Indoor House Key Won’t Turn in the Lock

Outdoor locks are more susceptible to dirt and grime, but indoor locks can also get stuck, unable to turn. The lock cylinder in an indoor door can also get filled with this grime, which makes it impossible to turn the lock. With debris in the lock, the pins in the lock can get stuck and prohibit the key from turning.

Spray the Lock with Lubricant to Remove Dirt and Dust

If your indoor lock does not turn to open, it is easy to fix. You can use a dry lubricant spray on the indoor lock. When you spray the lubricant in the keyhole, it can move and free up the plug to allow you to turn the key and open the door.

If this approach doesn’t work right away, try spraying the dry lubricant in the keyhole, and then insert the key 4-5 times. This will help you get the grease moved in and around the key lock mechanism. This should help loosen the plug area and help you to turn the key.

If a dry lubricant doesn’t do the trick, you can try a product like WD-40.

If you successfully unlock the lock but then find that it happens again, you may call a locksmith to help you get the lock cylinder replaced.

When Lubricants Don’t Help The Key Turn In The Lock

What if you try using a lubricant, but there still seems to be something obstructing the key from entering the keyhole completely? What if your key is only going in halfway? Typically this means there is something in the keyhole that is jamming it, and this keeps the key from going all the way in.

In this case, when the lubricant did not work sufficiently on your indoor lock, and you are concerned something is obstructing the access to the keyhole, you may want to call a locksmith to help you. Damage can occur to the lock if you try to fix this problem with the wrong tools.

In fact, there are even more problems that can arise if lubricants aren’t helping. The pin chamber can get worn-out over time, or the pin itself can become corroded. Only with their proper tools, a locksmith can fix these problems rather quickly.

What to Do If Your Car Key Won’t Turn in the Lock

If you get out of your car, lock it, and then find that your key cannot open the car door, what do you do?

Having your key not unlock your car door is significant pain, especially in the hot summer months, or the icy, cold winter months. Before you panic, follow these steps to understand how to unlock the car doors if the key does not function properly.

Unlike with a door lock in your home which is probably a deadbolt, car doors are costly to repair, so you should not hesitate to call a locksmith. They can often use a “slim jim” tool, which allows them to slide a device into the windowpane and unlock your door. It may not fix your car door lock forever, but it can at least let you get into your car to get it where it needs to go for a fix.

That said, there are some tips that you can use for simple problems with your car door lock. Follow these tips when you can get your key in, but the car door won’t unlock.

Thaw The Car Door Lock

Sometimes in a cold climate, a car door can get frozen from the snow and ice. You can use a de-icer on your car door lock to thaw the lock. You can also try blowing hot air with a blow dryer or the like to unfreeze the lock. This is especially helpful to use when you don’t have any de-icer on hand.

Lubricate The Car Door Lock

Even on a day with an average temperature, older cars can sometimes get stuck. In these cases, the old lock may need to use a lubricant to get it working again. If there is dust or grime, an oil can be beneficial to remove it. It is advisable that try using a professional-grade lubricant like W-D 40. This high-grade degreaser will get the gears in the lock working again.

Keyless Entry To Your Car Door

With new, modern cars, there is now an option to use keyless entry to your vehicle. If your car has a keyless entry system, you can avoid keyholes not working altogether. You can open the car door without even needing a key at all.

These three tips above will help you when the car key turns, but it won’t unlock the door.

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