I was very upset because I had to leave home in a hurry, but I couldn’t close the door, or lock the door. With an open door, like with a stuck door, we are stuck… That is why I investigated on most common doors or locks problems and how to fix them quickly.
Why can’t I close my door? 1. Door Misalignment. This is the most common reason. The door, is too high, low, in or out. Apply some force to try to compensate. 2. The lock also can be the problem with either dry barrel, stuck pins, loose mechanism. 3. Lastly, often the user is the problem and tries to lock the lock twice or use the wrong key.
Small details can have huge consequences when it comes to closing a door or a lock. You should read on because below I give all the details that will provide step by step guidance. You will be able to close and secure your door in no time.
1. Misalignment: my door won’t close enough
The door and its frame are usually made of wood. Wood is subject to changes in humidity level or temperature. Even in the case of doors made of aluminum or steel, the temperature can play an important role. Lastly, the wall itself around the frame can apply pressure on the door. All the above eventually cause misalignment, first between the door and its frame and also between the lock and its latch.
Before trying to bring a definitive repair, let’s see if there are ways to provide a quick and dirty solution first.
Above all, do not apply too much force on your key, because you might just break it. Thus you will be in another kind of problem, which you do not want, as a broken key in a lock is not always easy to repair.
The door sits too much forward. This is the most common misalignment. It is due to the door expanding due to heat or humidity. As you can’t shut it enough, even slightly, the latch doesn’t align anymore with the lock. Hold the door handle in one hand and pull as much as you can while turning the key with the other hand. You should manage to complete the turn and eventually lock the door.
2. Misalignment: my door closes too much
On the opposite, sometimes, the door doesn’t go far enough. This is much rarer. But it can happen. Usually when the structure of the frame itself is altered, by heat, cold, humidity or the wall itself that moves in awkward directions.
In this case, again the latch is not placed in front of the lock, even slightly, preventing to turn the key and close the door. The cure is simple: push the door slightly to be able to align it to the latch and close your home.
3. Misalignment: my door went either up or down on its hinges
Especially on wooden frames, but it can happen to aluminum or steel frames too, due to wear and tear. The hinges wear out due to the constant use of the door or warp due to its weight. So the door sits too low and again the latch is not in a position to receive the bolt of the lock.
What to do if the door is too low then? Usually, it doesn’t happen overnight so it should be only for a small amount. Then take the door up a little bit and lift it by the handle. If you lift enough, you should be able to turn the key.
In some rare circumstances, the opposite case can happen and the door is too high. When the hinges are hit and sit at an angle, this can happen. Only this time you just have to push down on the handle to take the door down.
4. Misalignment: there is something preventing my door from closing
This is occurring more often than not. A small stone or some gravel is in the frame of the door and prevents the door to close itself. Inspect closely till you find the problem. Use a light, because a small object can cause an issue. Even a falling blind, a loose screw, you name it, can be enough and we don’t notice it. Take a closer look and you might find out.
5. My door won’t latch: the lock might be the problem
This is not the main purpose of this article. You can further read what I have found are most common lock problems. I have detailed all of them in this post. Some really need some experience, you just can’t guess.
If you can’t take your key out of your lock, I might have the solution too. It is uncommon, weird, but might happen also.
But in a nutshell, a lubricant is the solution to many problems, albeit sometimes a temporary one.
First, blow in the barrel of the lock to extract as much dust as possible. Use compressed air if possible. This can be enough.
If not, use WD40 or equivalent to lubricate the lock. Whether the lock is too dry, too dusty, too worn out, this lubrication will help you to close your door.
Sometimes the lock is too loose. The barrel is unscrewed. The stator of the barrel turns with the key, even a little. Then you have to firmly hold it in place with one hand while making the whole turn with the key with the other hand.
I always remember that we, as users, are more often than not responsible for many technical problems. It occurs to me a lot. I think about many things, related to work or kids, and as a consequence, I do many simple gestures without thinking, on autopilot. And this happens a lot when it comes to using a key.
- Typically, we tend not to use the right key. We are sure that it is the right key, that we have always used it, but it doesn’t come in. And after a deep breath, no, it is not. We have to open our eyes on the reality around us at the present instant. Usually, it is enough to try and find the right key.
- If we have inserted a key that doesn’t turn, it is definitely a key of the same lock brand, but not actual lock. It inserts in but refuses to turn. Again, a deep breath, a couple of second of brain presence and open eyes will solve the problem.
- The wrong number of turns. Sometimes, we want to do an additional turn with the key (2 instead of 1, 3 instead of 2), we could swear we used to. But the lock is not built that way and it is the result of a ‘brain short.’
- On the same way, something unusually stuck in the door (a little stone, for example, see above) needs a little bit of concentration to troubleshoot.
How to solve misalignment problems for good
Above, I have listed all the reasons I have researched that can lead to a door being misaligned. This is one of the principal reasons that prevent a door from closing. I gave quick hacks, quick answers to be able to close the door in a hurry and leave. But if you want to give this problem a solution for good, here are the best ways to do so.
First, identify the problem clearly. Stay inside the door, where you have a better look at the lock and latch. If needed, take a close look with the help of a light, the light of your phone for example.
If you can’t see anything and you don’t know if your door is too high or low, or too close or not enough, there is a way. You just have to paint the latch with a tad of lipstick (or ink, or soft pencil, or burned cork) then try to lock the door by turning the key. You will feel resistance but apply a bit of force, though. You will see some lipstick on the opposite side of the lock, where it can’t get in.
Then you must know what to do:
- If the door is too high or low, the best way is to unscrew it and screw it again at the proper position. If that position is only a 1 or 2 millimeters (0,7 inches) different, then it can be hard to screw again in different emplacement, without falling back again in the same holes. The experience has taught me two additional ways: a good hammer blow can make you move the latch the desire (small) amount. Or alternatively, you can file and carve the latch with a Dremel or a hand bastard file.
- If the door doesn’t close itself enough, the only way is to use a wood spacer to put the latch in the good position. Using the lipstick technique, you just have to measure by how much the spacer has to be tall. Then unscrew the latch and screw it back again with the wood spacer.
If again one millimeter or two are the problems, the file a tad with a bastard file: this could be quicker.
- If the door closes itself too much, you probably will have to carve the frame of the door below the latch for the desired amount, unless once again, if the bastard file can provide enough help.
- If the door is not stable, if it moves during the seasons, then here are some ideas.
If you have a wooden door and humidity is the problem, you’d better use a good wood treatment. This will protect the wood, prevent humidity to go inside. The door will not expand anymore or not by the same amount.
- If the door sits too low, even after adjusting the latch, it will remain too low. Then you can either saw or plane off the bottom of the door. Alternately, you can put (copper) washers in the hinges. Choose the proper thickness and you will be good to go again.
- If you have a dark door, made of either aluminum or steel, maybe consider painting it in a bright color. Black or dark colors tend to keep the heat much more than white, by not reflecting sunbeams. Then the door dilates (expands) and can be difficult or impossible to close in strong heat. A white door will be cooler and easier to maneuver, even in direct sunlight in summer.