7 Crucial Steps to Maintain Your Door Locks


Your door locks are essential to the security and safety of your home or business. Proper maintenance is critical to ensuring locks stay safe and functional. You can use these maintenance tips to do just that.

How Long Can a Door Lock Last?

An average door lock can last for about seven to ten years. Locksmiths recommend you replace your locks after that time, as a lock can experience fatigue from regular use.

The pins and other mechanisms inside a lock may stop working well from all those times when you keep inserting and removing your keys from the space, especially if you use the key with too much force.

Digital door locks last approximately less than 5 years. Of course, the quality of the lock, how gentle you are with it, how often you use it, and maintenance(!) all play an important role in determining a lock’s longevity.

1. Check if the Door is in Proper Alignment

Check your entire door on occasion to see how well it works. Your door lock will only work if your door is hung correctly and isn’t sagging or binding. A poorly aligned door will produce excess pressure on the lock latch and bolt, making it easier for the lock to fail.

Check your door to ensure it opens and closes nicely. A well-hung door will swing well without obstruction, as it won’t catch on anything or scrape a surface. The gaps on all parts should also be consistent, with a gap of about one-eighth an inch on the top and bottom parts and about a quarter-inch on the sides.

The door’s screws should be long enough to support the door and keep it in place, with the longest screws being near the center. The screws can be up to three inches long in these places.

The top hinge is the main part to review. The top hinge will prevent the door from sagging, ensuring the weight of your door will not drag it down and hurt the other hinges. Three-inch screws are necessary for the top hinge to protect and keep it in place.

2. Replace Your Door When Necessary

Sometimes a door lock will fail because the door is no longer functional. An older door will not attach well to its frame, as it will have experienced enough wear and tear to prevent it from staying in good position. An average door can last for about thirty years, although steel doors can last longer.

3. Check the Strike Plate and Its Screws

The strike plate is a metal plate where the latch-tongue or deadbolt-tongue on the lock enter. A well-installed strike plate will provide an additional barrier for your door where the door frame and lock cannot be opened by someone who tries pushing the door open from outside your building. The strike plate requires three-inch screws to secure it well and ensure it stays in place.

If you’re strike plate is malfunctioning, here’s a video tutorial on how to fix it:

4. Look At How the Deadlatch and Deadbolt Are Aligned

The deadlatch on your door is a feature on the doorknob that lets you close a door behind you without having to use a key to close the space. You can open the deadlatch from the outside with a key, but that key isn’t necessary for locking the deadlatch.

A deadbolt is a different mechanism that doesn’t use a spring for work. The material is a thicker metallic bar that turns through a knob or key to create an extra barrier that keeps a person from opening a door. The deadbolt works even when the deadlatch is not active.

Both of these features must stay well-aligned to keep your door secure. Check how well these two features operate on occasion to see that the door can open and close well. The deadbolt should be easy to operate without you having to pull or push the door to get it to work. The deadlatch must also align with the strike plate or it will not work well.

Also, any chips in a deadbolt or deadlatch could prevent the lock from working well and require replacing.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to fix a misaligned deadbolt.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to fix a malfunctioning door latch.

5. Clean and Lubricate Your Door Locks

Your lock will collect dust and debris after a while, eventually causing the inner locking feature to stick and produce friction. It becomes harder for the lock to work well when it isn’t clean.

Be sure you clean and lubricate your door locks at least once a year to ensure their safety and functionality. Use a pressurized air can like Blow Off (aff link to Amazon) to blow dust and other things out from a lock, then use a carburetor cleaner or another spray cleaner to clean the surface.

WD-40 water resistant spray is a valuable material to utilize here. You can then use an aerosol-based lubricant with an applicator tube to lubricate the surface. Allow the lock to air dry for a few hours after you finish.

Test the lock a few times after cleaning and lubricating it. This is good for getting the lubricant to move through more parts of the lock.

You don’t have to take apart the entire lock mechanism when cleaning and lubricating a lock. An applicator tube nozzle that attaches to a cleaning spray can fit inside the lock to help clean it out. But you can still open the lock if you feel comfortable or you suspect there is something sticking a little deeper inside the lock.

Be sure to avoid oil-based materials when cleaning and lubricating your locks. Oil compounds can attract dirt and dust, causing your lock to stop working well. The oil can also build up over the lock surface and create an obstruction that could make the lock harder to manage.

Avoid anything that may be abrasive like dry graphite as well. Abrasive materials can strip the protective coating features off a lock, making it prone to rust and other forms of damage.

6. Maintain Your Keys Well

Your door lock keys will wear faster than the locks themselves. A key will experience plenty of fatigue from regular use and impacts that occur during storage.

Be sure you replace your keys when they start wearing out, but keep one of your original keys on hand when you need to produce copies. A slight variation in your key could keep it from working well, as keys have various small grooves that match the spring-loaded cylinders inside a lock. You’ll require an unused duplicate of an original key to ensure any new key you create is safe and will not malfunction.

Watch how you use your keys, as improper use could harm your locks. Some of the common mistakes you might do when using your keys include pulling on a key inside the lock, forcing the key to work when you notice resistance, and jiggling or shaking the key while inside the lock.

The key, the cylinders and other interior mechanisms of the lock can all get damaged this way. Any situation where your key isn’t working well will require you to replace the key or possibly fix or repair the lock. Make sure to pay attention what key you are using, as attempting to use the wrong keys on a lock can also damage it.

Here’s a great video tutorial on how to clean and organize your keys.

7. Operate the Door Handles Gently

The next part of door lock maintenance to review involves the handle that links to the lock. Gentle handle usage is necessary for protecting the lock and the entire door.

You must stay gentle when using the handle, smoothly allowing the latch to release from the rest of the door before you push or pull on the door. Excess force or weight on the handle and stress when trying to open or close the door can also damage the lock and the hinges.

When Should You Contact a Locksmith?

Sometimes a locksmith may be necessary for helping you maintain your door well. But you should only hire a locksmith in situations where you have tried everything to clean or maintain your lock and nothing is working.

You may need to order a completely new door or lock to keep it secure. A local locksmith can assist you in finding a new lock and improving your overall door security.

In Conclusion

Be sure when handling any door that you’re not using excess force. Check whether the hinges and other features of your door are functioning properly, as they can influence how well the door lock functions. One misalignment creates many others.

Don’t forget to clean and lubricate the lock on occasion with suitable materials. Proper care and control for your locks will ensure that they work properly for many years.

Peter Boné

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 Boné family is usually on the Nintendo or on California's best hiking trails.

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