Problems with the door lock cylinder are some of the most common reasons for door-lock-related problems. The cylinder is the seat of your door’s locking mechanism, so any issues with it can be a major inconvenience, or worse, a security loophole.

So how can you fix a door lock cylinder? To fix a door lock cylinder, you need to, first of all, determine the problem. If the lock cylinder is loose and turning, you can fix it by doing the following:

  1. Remove the lock faceplate.
  2. Disassemble the lock to view the placement of screws.
  3. Tighten the set screws.

If the door lock cylinder is badly damaged, it may be time to get a new one (or look for alternative ways to lock a door). The rest of the article will show how to change your door lock cylinder and when to call in a locksmith. First, here’s a deeper look at the points above.

How to Fix a Loose Door Lock Cylinder

Inserting your key into your door should allow you to lock and unlock your door with ease.

However, if the door lock cylinder is loose, you’ll meet little to no resistance when you are implementing the locking or unlocking mechanism. This suggests that the set screws are either damaged or loose. The ease of fixing this problem is dependent on the type of lock in the cylinder.

If you have a lock that is a blend of mortise locks and deadbolts, the process might be a bit more complicated.

Even if you have a complicated lock, you shouldn’t ignore your loose lock cylinder. It can make the locking and unlocking process harder than it should be. This means there’ll be some days when you may be forced to leave your door open, or risk being stranded outside your home.

To fix the problem, you have to gain access to the set screw and tighten it. Here’s how to do that.

1. Remove the Lock Faceplate

To fix the loose door lock cylinder, you need access to the set screws holding the cylinder in the lock. In many cases, removing the faceplate is enough, but in some cases, you may also need to remove parts of the lock from the door.

2. Disassemble the Lock to View the Placement of the Screws

You need to disassemble the lock to see how the set screws are positioned.

Different lock types will have them positioned in different ways. Rim locks, for example, will position the set screws in such a way you can access them easily once you pop out the outer case.

In a mortise lockset, on the other hand, you will only be able to reach the set screws after you’ve removed the faceplate.

3. Tighten the Set Screws

Once you’ve found the set screws, tighten them with the right screwdriver, and return the faceplate to its original position.

If you find any broken or rusted screws, get them replaced. If you choose to go with only the working screws, you may find yourself repeating this process in a few weeks.

Once you are done tightening the screws, close the faceplate and test the lock to see if the cylinder is tight enough.

However, if you find out that your door lock cylinder is damaged beyond repair, it is time for you to install a new one. How can you do this?

Changing a Damaged Door Lock Cylinder

Here’s how you can change a damaged door lock cylinder on your own.

Take Out the Old Cylinder

To do this, you have to unscrew the main lock screws. You can find them just below and above the latch.

Once the screws are out, push the cylinder out of the lock. If you are finding it hard to push out the screw, insert the key into the lock and turn it in any direction before pushing out the cylinder.

Get the Measurement of the Cylinder

This is how you will know the exact type of cylinder to buy. Use your tape to measure from the middle of the cylinder to the right, and again to the left. The typical measurement you’ll get is 30-30, which is 30mm from the middle of the cylinder to the left, and 30mm from the middle to the right.

Buy a New Cylinder Using Your Measurements

You can find your ideal door lock cylinder in home improvement stores. Some of the popular brands you’ll find easily include:

Don’t forget to choose an option that matches your desired safety level. A safety cylinder is harder to duplicate by a third party in comparison to a standard cylinder.

If you can’t get the measurement of your cylinder, you may have to buy a replacement at your local hardware store. Take the cylinder while going to the store to find the right match.

Pacific Doorware Storefront Door Mortise Lock Hook Deadbolt & Cylinder Combo,...
  • Choose 31/32" or 1-1/8" Backset (see pictures)
  • Backset: The distance between the edge of the door and...
  • Five-ply laminated steel bolt with concealed hardened...
  • Includes Hook bolt Lock, Faceplate, 1 Thumbturn, 1 Lock...

Install the New Cylinder

Once you’re ready to install the new cylinder, you can do so by following these steps:

  1. Insert the key inside your cylinder and turn it a bit to the left or right to ensure the carrier is aligned with the cylinder.
  2. Then place the cylinder inside the lock.
  3. Turn with the key to ensure the locking and unlocking mechanisms work as they should.
  4. If you find that the lock has some rust in it, consider using a lock spray to ensure there is no friction.
  5. Once you are satisfied, place the main screw holding the faceplate in its right position and tighten it.

When Should You Call a Locksmith to Fix a Door Lock Cylinder?

Technical DIY is not for everyone. If the processes described above seem overwhelming, you should probably call in a locksmith. Here are some legitimate reasons why you should allow a locksmith to fix your door lock cylinder instead of going it alone:

  • You don’t have the right tools. Even if you have something like this Kits Lock Repair Set, it may not be enough to get the job done. A professional locksmith will have all the right tools to get the job done.
  • You can’t find the time for the task. Door problems tend to happen at the worst possible times. If you are already dressed for work before your door cylinder broke loose, for example, you’ll most likely not have the time for a repair. You can call a locksmith you can trust to get the job done while you are away at work.
  • Your door lock is too complicated. The tips above can work with the cylinders in most basic door locks. However, if your door lock is nothing like the descriptions, consider calling in a locksmith to get the job done.
  • You want to get a professional opinion. Calling in a locksmith can end up saving you money in the long run. That damage you formerly thought is enough reason to replace your entire lock can be fixed with a few sprays of graphite. So, a professional opinion can help you make the right decision about the approach to take.
  • You need extra sets of keys. If you need more keys for your lock after installing the new cylinder, most professional locksmiths can produce them on the spot. Apart from saving you the trip to a shop, some of them will offer a discount if they were contracted for the door lock cylinder repair or replacement.


Fixing a door lock cylinder is straightforward as long as you know the problem, and have the right tools to work on the lock. If you don’t have the right screwdrivers, and other necessary equipment, don’t take on the process as you could cause further damage to your lock.

Don’t hesitate to call in a professional if you can’t get the job done properly in one attempt.

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