How to Fix a Door That Won’t Lock AND 4 Emergency Security Tips


The front door won’t lock and you’re afraid to go outside without fixing it first. Or perhaps it’s the bathroom door and you’re trying to avoid an awkward situation with your roomies? In any case, there’s a quick fix for a door that won’t lock.

Why your door won’t lock

When a door won’t lock it’s usually the door latch causing the issue. The striker doesn’t penetrate into the door jamb and so the door won’t lock. When the door is properly locking, the striker should slip past the striker plate into the receiving hole(s) in the jamb. Any time this doesn’t happen, the door won’t lock properly. In most cases it’s one of these three issues causing the problem:

  • the door or the door jamb become warped from use
  • the screws have loosened
  • the plate has moved out of position

Thankfully, these problems can often be easily fixed even without a locksmith. With some DIY skills and basic tools you will probably be able to fix a door that won’t latch.

Tools for fixing a door that won’t lock

  • a screwdriver
  • a chisel
  • a hammer

Quick fixes for a door that won’t lock

  1. Open the door to examine the striker plate. The striker plate is a small rectangular brass plate. It’s located and mortised into the jamb that the striker slips into. If the striker plate is loose or it has slipped out of the mortise, put it back into that position and tighten the screws with a matching screwdriver.
  2. Try shutting the door and locking it. If it still won’t lock, tap the end of a chisel under the door stop on the striker side of the jamb. Pry up on it until it’s loose, then remove it. Next, use the chisel to remoev the door stop on top as well.
  3. With diagonal pliers remove the nails from the door stop. Don’t throw the nails away because you can reuse them. Place the door stop back on the jamb. Set it back about 1/4 inch from it’s original location. There will be a visibly distinct line in the paint, stain or varnish where it came off. Use this line to align the door stop. Nail the side and top piece of door stop back on. The door should at last shut and lock properly.

What if my door still won’t lock?

If you follow these steps and the door is still acting up, you could be dealing with a more complicated problem.

Most commonly, the doorknob internal mechanism failure. This is an issue where a DIY set of skills and tools falls short. The doorknob will simply need to be changed.

Something that is even easier to diagnose is badly warped door. If the door itself is badly warped it may not seal properly regardless of the door jamb fix. Draft is a common symptom of a badly warped door along with the obvious warped appearance. If you can’t fix the door, consider replacing it altogether.

Things to avoid doing

Any time a door won’t lock can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re in a hurry. But there are certain things that can make the situation worse:

  • FORCING THE HANDLE OR LOCK: Never force a door to lock by forcefully moving the key or holding the door handle. This can damage the internal mechanism, the handle or door knob itself and potentially break the key as well.
  • LEAVING THE LOCK AS IT IS: We all know the saying that time heals all wounds. But this doesn’t apply to doors and locks. You will need to do something about this problem sooner or later. If the door is important for security and safety purposes, deal with the issue as soon as you can. If you don’t feel confident about fixing it yourself, contact a good locksmith to do it for you.

How to Lock a Door Without a Lock

Emergency tips for a door that won’t lock

If you’re in a bit of an emergency, the following tips can be used to secure the door until you’re able to fix it:

  • DOOR BARRICADE FOR INWARD OPENING DOORS: There are many professional door barricades available like this popular portable security bar from Amazon. Homemade barricade can be a closet or another heavy object that is heavy enough to block the door from opening. A small piece of wood placed underneath the door could act in the same way if properly positioned.
  • DOOR BARRICADE FOR OUTWARD OPENING DOORS: If you have an outward opening door, a different type of barricade is required, the outswing security bar. For home-made solutions, it’s best to use a piece of rope tied to a heavy object. Tie one end of the rope to the door handle/knob and the other end to a very heavy or immovable object like a closet or a refrigerator. When someone tries to pull the handle from the outside they won’t be able to move that object so the door won’t open. Of course, barricades will only work if you’re able to stay inside or have another door to move in and out. Here’s a full guide with more security tips for an outward opening door.
  • MOTION SENSOR SECURITY CAMERA: A security camera with a motion detector will scare away many would-be intruders. Others who approach the door will trigger the motion sensor. You will receive an alert through your app and will be able to act further. By calling the police, checking through the camera to see what’s going on etc. I recommend the Ring Floodlight Camera, because it’s high quality, combines all of these features AND floodlight that provides extra security and visibility benefits.
  • MOTION SENSOR ALARM SYSTEM: Even if your door won’t lock a motion triggered alarm will alert you of anyone opening or trying to open it. These very affordable, small and portable alarms are battery charged and can be easily placed on any door or window. With 120 dB of noise, both you and your neighbors will definitely hear if anyone is opening the door without your invitation.

Final Word

When your front door won’t lock you can be scared to leave your property or simply annoyed if it’s an inside door. In either case, it’s a problem that needs fixing sooner rather than later.

When the problem arises due to a poorly positioned internal mechanism it can usually be fixed with a simple screwdriver and/or a hammer.

But when you’re dealing with an issue of overuse, often the best solution is to contact a professional locksmith and/or replace the overused part(s).

If you’re not able to fix the door for some time, I recommend using one or more of the emergency solutions to secure your door better until the door is fixed and perhaps in the long run as well. Hope this helps!

Outswing Door Security: 5 Ways to Secure a Door That Opens Outward

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Luka Baron

Chief editor of Security Latest with 5 years of real security work experience. I'm also a family man with wife and two sons. When I'm not turning homes into fortresses, the Baron family is usually on the Nintendo or on California's best hiking trails.

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