It can be frustrating to come home after a long day and not be able to get in the door. If you have experienced this before, then you know the fear that comes over you when it happens. What are the possible causes?
If you suddenly find it hard to get your key in the lock, it’s likely that there’s something inside causing a blockage, such as dirt or dust. Check that you’re using the right key and that it’s not bent or dull. Also, consider that the lock itself may be dry, causing the pins to get stuck.
This article will explore the main reasons your key isn’t fitting your lock correctly and what you can do about it.
Why Is It Hard to Put Your Key in the Lock?
We mentioned some of the top reasons it’s hard for your key to get into the lock. Now we’ll look at them in more detail:
There Is Something Inside the Lock Causing Blockage
One of the first things you should check for is any blockage in your lock.
Sometimes debris can get inside the mechanism and make it nearly impossible for your key to fit as it once did.
Use a flashlight or even the light on your phone to look carefully inside the lock to determine if there is anything inside.
This can happen on purpose or accidentally, depending on the situation. For example, debris could be transferred from your key to the lock, or kids may put things inside, not realizing the harm they are causing.
Finally, it is possible that someone purposely sabotaged your lock.
There are plenty of possibilities for what caused this, but thankfully there are solutions as well. We’ll get to those shortly.
You May Be Using the Wrong Key
This one may seem obvious, but it can be hard to tell keys apart if they are the same color and have similar patterns. So it is worth double-checking just to make sure you don’t have the wrong key.
Similar to the lost sunglasses on your head, this can happen to the best of us. So, before you start to panic, make sure to double-check that you’re using the correct key.
Your Key May Be Bent or Dull
If your key is bent at all, it may not fit in the lock anymore. This is a common problem people face when they use keys for other things besides just opening the door.
For example, using a key to open a package may seem harmless, but there is a chance that you may bend the key, causing it to no longer work.
Similarly, your key may not work as well if it has become dull. This can happen to the tip of the key, which will mean that it no longer fits in your lock.
Using a key to replace a knife or scissors can be convenient at the moment, but it is not good for the key. So make sure you are not using your key for any other reason but to open a lock.
The Lock May Be Dry, Causing the Pins to Get Stuck
Just like anything else that works mechanically, a lock may be useless if it gets too dry. This can happen over time as weather changes or the lock gets used consistently.
Too much friction and dryness can cause the pins to no longer move. While your key may fit correctly, a stuck pin can cause your key to no longer go in the lock.
Dryness can also cause the pins to move incorrectly.
Normally when entering your key, the pins will move up to match the pattern on the key. However, when the pins are too dry, they will move to the side instead of moving up.
What to Do When Your Key Won’t Go Into the Lock
If your key won’t go into the lock, start by looking inside and cleaning out debris. Next, blow air into the lock to remove any dust and then lubricate the area to help with dryness. Finally, check the state of the key itself and consider getting a new one if you see any dents or signs of bluntness.
These are some basic suggestions to get your key working and get you safely in your home. If these suggestions aren’t effective, then you may need to consider purchasing a new lock.
But you should try these first.
Look Inside the Lock and Clear Out Debris
Use a flashlight or the light from your phone and hold it close to the lock, checking for anything that may seem off.
You may see something protruding or even a blockage inside the canal.
Next, find something small to stick into the lock to help clear out whatever is in there.
This can be a tiny metal piece or something sturdy enough to force something out of the lock. Things like bobby pins and metal guitar strings would work well here.
Blow Air Into the Lock to Remove Any Dust
Sometimes dust particles can get in your lock, causing it to dry out. This can sometimes be fixed by simply blowing into the lock to remove dust.
In a pinch, you can just use your mouth to blow into the lock and attempt to clear it.
If that doesn’t work, a can of compressed air will clear it out nicely for you. Try this Dust-Off Air Duster (from Amazon.com). It comes with a small extending tube that will help you direct the airflow into the lock mechanism.
If the air and dust combination dried out your lock, you might have further trouble getting it to work correctly. The next step will help with that.
Lubricate the Lock to Help With Dryness
Because dryness can cause pins to get stuck, you need to apply a lubricant to help them get moving again.
In a rush, any type of liquid like water will do. This will help you get into the house, but it won’t help long-term.
To properly lubricate your lock, you need a quality lubricant to get the job done.
WD-40 Multi-Use (from Amazon) works well and also comes with a small extender tube to help guide the lubricant into the lock. WD-40 is a very well-known and reasonably priced brand, but other great options will work just as well.
However, make sure you don’t mix your lubricants, as this can cause more trouble. Different lubricants can mix together to create a gel-like substance that will cause the lock to stick.
Fix the Key if It Was Altered
Bent or dull keys can become useless until you get them fixed.
Sometimes it is as simple as bending your key back to its original shape. Be careful when doing this, though, as it can snap with sudden, harsh pressure.
If you notice that your key tip is dull, use a small file to sharpen it slightly in an attempt to get it working again.
If your key cannot be repaired with these suggestions, it may be time for a new key.
You might also want to read: How to Unlock a Door Without a Key
How Do You Tell if Your Locks Have Been Tampered With?
The best way to tell if your locks have been tampered with is to look for any strange markings on the lock and the surrounding surface near the door handle. Forced entry will often leave markings, such as small scratches or dents around the entry hole to the lock.
Locks can be tampered with in many different ways. As discussed above, sometimes things can be inserted into locks which causes them to stop working properly. While this is probably harmless behavior from kids, it is always possible that someone is purposely tampering with your lock.
The easiest way to tell if someone has tried to enter your home by force is to check and see if the outer area of the lock has any dents or scratches. This is a sure sign that someone has attempted to break in.
If you don’t notice any markings on the outer area of the lock, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Lock picks will not usually leave markings on the outer part of the lock. However, they do leave markings on the inside.
These are more difficult to see but not impossible. Use a flashlight and a magnifying glass to see inside.
However, these can be unreliable. If you think your locks have been tampered with, you’d be better of simply changing the locks on the doors and getting all new keys.
In most cases, your key will slowly begin to show signs of wear and start resisting when you stick it into your lock.
Unless there is an outside factor, it’s unlikely that your key will stop working out of the blue.
Strong winds blowing debris into the door, kids playing with things they shouldn’t, or someone purposely tampering with your door are all possible reasons you may find it challenging to get your key into your lock.
The good news is that there are some easy solutions for you to try before you need to think about changing your locks.