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What happened to the lock on this door?
August 21, 2012 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Why does my apartment door no longer lock the way it did?

The main door to my apartment (the one facing the street) has the sort of lock that's built into the doorknob. From the inside, you can lock the door by turning/pressing a small button in the knob itself. (looks very roughly like this). From the outside, of course, you need a key.

It used to be that if you locked the door by depressing the button, the door would stay locked unless you manually unlocked it by turning that button, even if you went in and out, or used a key.

That is - if I came home to locked door, unlocked it with my key, and closed it behind me, the door would be locked. Similarly - if the door was locked, and I stepped outside and closed the door behind me, the door would be locked.

Now it seems that if I open the door in any way, it unlocks itself, and remains unlocked unless I turn that little button on the knob to lock it. That is: If I come home to an locked door, unlock it with my key, and close it behind me, it is now unlocked and stays unlocked. And if the door is locked and I step outside and close it behind me, it is now unlocked and stays unlocked.

Why would this happen? Is the lock broken? Has is accidentally been set into some sort of different locking/unlocking behavior? I want it to act the way it did before.
posted by ManInSuit to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
 
Your picture doesn't work, but if what you're describing is what I'm thinking of...

I think these kind of locks work in two ways: pressed in (locked all the time, regardless of turn) and popped out (turn to lock and unlock). Sometimes the bits inside just get old and worn down and fall out of place, and something may have shifted.

Try depressing the lock mechanism button while jiggling the handle and see if that gets it to stick back in its place again. (This highly scientific method can also be used for car doors, plumbing, and blenders.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your picure doesn't work, but I think I know the type of lock you're referring to.

I think you just need to reframe how you're thinking about the lock. The door is locked any time the button is pressed in, regardless of which way it's rotated. The rotation controls whether the button will pop out when you open the door, or if it will stay depressed (and thus stay locked). If it's unlocking every time you open the door, rotate the buton to the other position and it should work the way you want it to.
posted by yuwtze at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2012


Another place to look would be the actual strikeplate and deadlatch (I looked those terms up, they're the things on the narrow edge of the door that go into the frame). If there is something there that looks like maybe a button or switch, you can try pushing that to see if it changes the behavior back to the way you want it. Similar to the things labeled "lock buttons" in the picture on the bottom left of this page.
posted by Grither at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you certain the door is actually closing properly?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:36 AM on August 21, 2012


Hmm. Not sure what happened to the button image. Here is another one.

The rotation controls whether the button will pop out when you open the door, or if it will stay depressed (and thus stay locked). If it's unlocking every time you open the door, rotate the buton to the other position and it should work the way you want it to.


Yeah. I think that's how it used to work. Now, it seems that no matter what I do, the button pops open whenever I open the door.

Try depressing the lock mechanism button while jiggling the handle
Just tried. No luck.

Another place to look would be the actual strikeplate and deadlatch
Just had a look. Nothing looks super-obvious. On the linked diagram, it looks like I might have to remove the strike plate to get at those buttons if they exist. I am a tiny bit wary of taking a screwdriver to this lock (shared by a few people etc), on the very small chance that something goes wrong....
posted by ManInSuit at 10:42 AM on August 21, 2012


Are you certain the door is actually closing properly?

The problem seems to happen independent of the closing of the door. That is - with the door held open, I can pub in and turn the button, and then it'll pop out if I unlock it with a key, or turn the knob from inside. This suggests to me that the problem isn't related to how the door is closing, but I could be missing something...
posted by ManInSuit at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2012


Similarly - if the door was locked, and I stepped outside and closed the door behind me, the door would be locked.

How did you exit if the door was locked? You mean if the door was locked but open? It is extremely unusual for these locks to stay locked but allow you to open them from the inside. This is to prevent people from accidentally locking themselves out. If you open these locked doors from the inside, either the button pops out automatically and stays unlocked, or you must turn the center button to the unlocked position in order to turn the doorknob to exit. If it is the latter type, you may have changed the way you use the key to enter from the outside. If you unlock the door by turning the key to the left, then turn the key to the upright position and pull it out, the door will stay unlocked. If you open the door and turn your key full right before turning to the upright position and pulling your key out, you will have locked the door again.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:45 AM on August 21, 2012


ManInSuit: "On the linked diagram, it looks like I might have to remove the strike plate to get at those buttons if they exist."

Nope, that other plate is the one on the frame itself in that picture... if it's not just there on your door, then it's just not there. And upon seeing your picture, I doubt there would be a lock button on there anyway. Just threw it out there in case your doors were like ones I've had in the past, which have suddenly stopped locking (someone bumped into or accidentally depressed that lock button) Took a while to figure out, but it's certainly not a "feature" on all doors.
posted by Grither at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2012


How did you exit if the door was locked? You mean if the door was locked but open? It is extremely unusual for these locks to stay locked but allow you to open them from the inside. This is to prevent people from accidentally locking themselves out. If you open these locked doors from the inside, either the button pops out automatically and stays unlocked, or you must turn the center button to the unlocked position in order to turn the doorknob to exit.

I think that this "extremely unusual" behaviour is how the door used to work. I suppose it's possible that I'm remembering wrong. But the door to my apartment (as opposed to the door leading out into the street) works exactly in the way I remember the front door working: if the lock button is in, it doesn't pop out automatically when you open it. True - that makes it possible to lock yourself out. But, to my mind, on the shared front door of an small apartment (3 units) that seems the way things should be....
posted by ManInSuit at 10:55 AM on August 21, 2012


Nope, that other plate is the one on the frame itself in that picture... if it's not just there on your door, then it's just not there.

Duh... Thanks. I totally misunderstood the diagram.
posted by ManInSuit at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2012


The problem seems to happen independent of the closing of the door. That is - with the door held open, I can pub in and turn the button, and then it'll pop out if I unlock it with a key, or turn the knob from inside. This suggests to me that the problem isn't related to how the door is closing, but I could be missing something...

Thing is, in order for the door to shut, the bit that sticks out of the door and into the frame to do all the locking has to retract when the door is in the act of shutting. If the door doesn't shut all the way, that thing will stay retracted and won't be able to actually do its job.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:03 AM on August 21, 2012


It is extremely unusual for these locks to stay locked but allow you to open them from the inside.

Nope.

This is an extremely common type of lock, and one that I've had some version of in fully half of the apartments I've lived in.
posted by phunniemee at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2012


Does it have to do with how you use the key? The doors in my office building have a different type of button, but if I rotate the key clockwise, it unlatches while I hold the key in the lock and turn the handle but locks behind me, whereas if I rotate it counterclockwise the locking mechanism disengages and the door remains unlocked when I shut it.
posted by aimedwander at 11:22 AM on August 21, 2012


The idea between these two settings is one is more secure (door locks behind you) the other prevents you from locking yourself out of the house when you go to grab your mail.

Sometimes you'll see a (not particularly obvious) button on the part of the lock that faces the door jamb; sometimes it has to do with how you turn the lock with and when you extract your key.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:07 PM on August 21, 2012


Locks wear out, and cheap locks (and this sounds like a cheap lock) wear out quickly. I've owned a 2 family for about 5 years & have had to replace the front door lock twice.
posted by mr vino at 3:17 PM on August 21, 2012


Thanks! These answers are all very helpful! My thought had been that there was maybe some obvious setting or thing-to-do that I was missing. But my sense from all this is that the lock is just broken. I'll get it fixed/replaced.
posted by ManInSuit at 7:30 PM on August 21, 2012


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