What To Do If Your Door Latch Is Stuck?

November 7, 2021

A stuck door latch can be a frustrating problem that no one wants to deal with or think about. However, it is essential to know how to address this if it happens to you. A stuck door latch can range from being a quick, easy fix you can do yourself to taking a bit longer with the need for a locksmith to assist. This all depends on why your door latch is stuck and the different decisions in choosing a solution. 

Determining the Issue

There are three main reasons your door latch could be stuck, which we will cover in-depth later. First, we will discuss the tests you should do to help you determine what the issue is. These tests, while not difficult, are very important so that you can find out the problem that needs to be corrected.

Testing

First Test

The first test involves trying a series of movements and adjustments while your door is closed. Start first by closing the door in question. Then try the following movements and note if there is any difficulty in completing them:

  • Is the latch not properly retracting when you turn the handle?
  • Is the knob refusing to turn?
  • Does the door latch fail to extend before you rotate the knob?
  • Does the knob need to be jiggled to work?
  • Does it take excessive force to turn the knob and release the latch?

Second Test

Once you complete the first series of tests, you will need to open the door to complete the next set. If your door doesn’t open, you may need to use a thin object to lift your latch to allow it to open. 

If a strike plate or other obstruction prevents you from lifting the latch, you should remove the lock to open the door. If, at this point, you feel uncomfortable proceeding, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a locksmith. They will know what to do and have your problem fixed quickly.

If you have been successfully able to open the door, then you can now try the following tests:

  • Try to turn the handle as if you were opening the door and see how your latch reacts. 
  • Check for differences in reaction by completing the above tests on your now open door. 
  • Make sure to determine these answers:
    1. Does the latch work when the door is open but not closed? 
    2. Does the door latch remain stuck if the door is open or closed?
    3. Does the door latch fail to work in either situation? 

Third Test

In this last test, you are just going to be testing your latch alone. Leave the door open and use your fingers to apply pressure to the latch directly.

Note the reaction and determine which of the following describes it best:

  • The latch needs a small amount of pressure to retract.
  • The latch needs to be wiggled to work correctly. 
  • The latch works properly and moves freely.
  • The latch doesn’t stick when it should to secure the door.

Analysis

Now that you have completed all of the tests, it is time to analyze your results and find out what the issue is to know how to fix the problem. As mentioned before, there are three main reasons your door latch will be stuck. We will now cover those in detail. 

Misaligned Door

If your door is misaligned, this can cause your latch to stick. This can also happen if your strike plate is misaligned. If this is the issue, your latch will work fine in the open door tests but will stick when closed. 

This problem can occur because of moisture buildup. Excessive moisture can cause your doors to become misshapen where they no longer line up correctly. This problem can also be caused because of issues with your home’s foundation. Due to the environmental factors causing these problems, it is quite possible this can reoccur if you do not take some preventative steps.

Latch Is Jammed

A jammed latch is also a common culprit for this issue. If this is the problem, then your door latch will work the same in each scenario. This is because, with this issue, the problem isn’t with your door. It is with the internal components of the latch. The components are suffering from oxidation buildup, causing them to stick.

Broken Internal Components

This particular problem can manifest in many different ways, but most commonly, this is the issue if your latch only sticks when using the handle. When the latch is pressed directly, it usually works. This is one problem that is hard to diagnose because so many different things could be broken. It could be one small but a vital internal component that is causing the issue. 

Solutions

ASAP Locksmith

Once you have determined the issue you are dealing with, you are ready to solve it. Depending on the issue, repair may be simple, or it may be complex. You can attempt to do it yourself, or you can call a locksmith. Whichever route you decide to take in getting your door latch fixed, be sure to do your research beforehand, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. 

Labor Options

If you wish to repair yourself, it may be slightly more affordable, but you run the risk of causing further damage if the project gets out of hand. It also may be time-consuming and frustrating depending on how in-depth the task becomes. If you choose to go ahead with the self-repair, make sure to do your research and know-how to handle any potential problems that could arise. 

If you call a locksmith, they will diagnose the problem much quicker and get it solved for you. They also know what to expect and can handle any situation that could happen, even unexpected occurrences. They will also save you time as they will get this run efficiently get this run an efficient manner. 

Repairs

In this section, we will cover the different repairs to the main problems we discussed earlier. We will cover both short-term and long-term solutions for the issues and whether this is an easy fix for a beginner or better left up to the professionals. 

If your door is misaligned, temporary fix:

Move your strike plate back into alignment with your door latch. To determine the correct position of the strike plate, close your door and mark the spot on the door frame that the latch connects with. Then you can either widen the existing hole or remove the plate and reinstall it at the correct point.

If your door is misaligned due to excessive moisture:

You will want to sand down and reshape the door so that it latches correctly. Once complete, you will then want to refinish your door to help prevent further moisture buildup. 

If your door is misaligned due to your foundation:

You will need to get your foundation inspected and see if there is a way to repair the damage.

If your latch is jammed due to oxidation buildup:

Disassemble your lock entirely and soak all parts in vinegar for 24 hours. Scrub any internal components thoroughly to remove rust. After this, dry all the pieces and apply a wax polish to discourage any future rusting. Once dry, reinstall the lock back into the door.

If your latch has broken internal components:

It will not be probable for you to attempt to determine which part is damaged. The parts are too small and difficult to handle. If this is your issue, you will want to replace your lock with a new one.

Conclusion

We hope this article has been helpful and informative for any of our customers dealing with a stuck door latch. We know this problem is aggravating, but we hope understanding the causes and the ways to fix them helps ease any undue stress. As always, please let us know if we can be of any assistance; we are here to help!

Article written by Dustin Fernandez
I am Dustin Fernandez, and I'm the owner of ASAP Locksmith in Dallas. My company is a family business, and we provide locksmith services to residential, commercial, and automotive customers. I’ve been in the locksmith industry since 1995, when I was just 20 years old. I started by working for another locksmith company before eventually starting my own. Over time, my father joined me as a partner in this venture, which made him proud to help his son succeed at something he loved doing!

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