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Fix locks that don't work yourself

Sometimes locks don’t work, or keys don’t work in the locks. See how you can fix or troubleshoot a problem so if you need a locksmith or joiner, you can tell them what the problem is before you take drastic action and kick the door in!

Yale dead lock with keys that work

Problem: Key's that don't work

Most customers would decide to get their keys cut ‘around the corner’ because they think it’s cheaper than ordering them from me when they buy a door. If you ordered them from me though I take the locks to an excellent locksmith that I know and he uses a costly machine to cut the keys correctly, then tests that they work in the locks.


Use a master locksmith with an excellent reputation when you’re getting keys cut, check reviews and make sure they cut lots of keys. See that they do commercial work and work with safes, then you know that they probably have the best machinery. Take the lock with you if you can so the new keys can be tested in them.

Fix: Use an original key

Should a key not turn the lock, don’t blame the lock until you’ve tested the original key. Keep the original out of use. Using this key will wear it down over the years, and you may even lose it. When I give the four sets of keys to a customer after fitting them a front door, one lot has red tags, so they know which ones are the originals.

Keys cut for locks that don't work

These days I don’t ask customers if they want extra sets, I give them four sets with my bespoke keyrings. The cut keys are the best they can be. If they are ever lost, maybe someone will return them to me because of the keyring, this has never happened yet though.
The local locksmith most likely doesn’t have such a sophisticated machine as my guy and can’t test the keys in your locks if they’re fitted on your door.

Have you ever got home and the cut key doesn’t work?

Checking that your original keys work

Open the door, turn your key in the lock. Should the key not turn the lock, or ‘throw the bolt’, then check that you are using an original Yale or Union key. You know what the problem is if it’s just the cut key that doesn’t work!

Problem: I can't get the key in the lock

When you can’t get the key into the lock, there’s either an obstruction or the key is bent. Sometimes the ‘collar’ in the lock has been moved around by a child poking around in there (or some such thing). Take a look in the keyhole, see if you can see right through, poke the collar so it turns and the opening is facing downward so the key can go in.

Sash locks with keys

Fix: Replace the key

When your key is twisted in some way, this should be obvious. A bent key can snap so be careful about merely straightening it and carrying on. Replacing it will probably be the most sensible option.

Fix: Remove the obstruction

Locks don’t work if there’s an obstruction, remove it. Don’t poke around with something that might break off and cause another obstruction, like a toothpick! If the blockage is the end of another key, then try some sharp-edged pliers or replace the lock.

Banham M2002 dead locks work

Problem: The deadlock isn't locking

The bolt in the lock goes into a hole in the door frame, that’s what locks the door. The hole is in the ‘receiver’ or ‘keep’. If the lock works when the door is open, we know the actual lock works. If it doesn’t work when the door is shut it is probably hitting something, this is usually the receiver because it’s not aligned to the lock bolt. This means that the door or frame has moved since it was fitted. Period homes!

Now don’t jump to conclusions, there may be something caught somewhere stopping the door from shutting correctly. Clean out the thresher on the floor under the door, check around the hinge edge of the door or a sliding bolt on the top/bottom of the door before taking a close look at the pin as you turn the key. Can you see that the lock isn’t going into the hole?

If all is well around the door and the bolt isn’t going into the receiver, then the receiver needs adjusting. This is a straight forward job that may take an hour at most. It’s not necessary to call a locksmith; he’s too expensive.

Fix: Move the lock's receiver

Is it less than 12 months since we fit your door? We’ll come and fix the problem for free without question. If not, or we didn’t install the door in the first place we can do it for a small charge, or it’s a straight forward job for a joiner.

Yale 77 Traditional Night Latch Locks

Problem: The deadlock isn't turning

When the key in the deadlock isn’t throwing the bolt even when the door is open, and you are using the original key, there’s an issue inside the lock.

Fix: Swap the lock

If the lock is a modern one and relatively inexpensive, you may be best swapping the lock. You can do this yourself and with the lock in hand have spare keys cut for it. If you’re replacing one of our locks some years after we fit it send me a photo of the lock plate and I can send you a link to buy another the same.

We don’t charge much to replace locks that don’t work. We can easily replace a lock like for like and can include as many spare keys as you require, all tested.

Any other problems aren’t worth mentioning here as they happen when there’s a blue moon.

Fix: Have a locksmith service the lock

When we restore an old door, we sometimes have the pleasure of working with an old rim lock. Folded steel locks that fit onto the surface of the door instead of inside a pocket, or mortise, are known as rim locks.

We’ve worked with locks that are hundreds of years old; they’re a delight. They’re not, however, Kitemarked, British Standard or any such standard. Therefore, your insurance won’t entertain them as a defence against the dark arts of burglary. Keep this in mind.

An old Georgian rim lock can look stunning on a front door though. The brass components polished up, the box sandblasted and matt painted. Class.

Let us get our hands on it. We can have it serviced, greased, parts replaced, and new keys made for it, often ‘vintage’ keys.

Working antique rim lock

Problem: The keys for the lock are lost

If you have lost all of your keys for a lock or didn’t have any in the first place (maybe the case when the lock is ancient), this can be remedied.

Brass sash lock restored and working

Fix: Get new keys made

I can take your lock away and come back with keys for it. The lock is taken apart, serviced, and new keys made. The cost of this might range from £45 to £200 if you wanted cast antique-looking keys. The lock is reconditioned at the same time. I will always do this with a lock that you are keeping on a door that I am restoring.


If it’s a Yale lock like the ones I fit as standard (photo above) it can easily be replaced.

Other problems with keys and locks

If you have any other problems with keys or locks or want to ask a question, don’t hesitate to comment below or drop me a line.

If you would like to buy the locks that we trust and use regularly have a look at the locks section in the shop.

#banhamlocks #locks #keys #doorwontlock #yale #yalelocks #locksmith #era #eralocks #union #unionlocks

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