How to repair a deadbolt lock
May 13, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

There is a pebble (I think) stuck in the lock to my house! Can I get this out myself?

After a big storm, I could no longer get my key into the lock for my deadbolt on one of the doors of my house. It goes in partway, then stops. The lock still turns just fine from the inside, so the house is safely locked, but not being able to use that door is getting annoying. Is this something I can fix myself, or should I just call a locksmith?
posted by runnergirl to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First thing I'd try is a vacuum hose over the lock.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:29 AM on May 13, 2011

How about a paperclip which you bent the end into a small hook? The paperclip would have to be rather thin, but sturdy enough to pull out whatever is lodged within.
posted by Splunge at 7:38 AM on May 13, 2011

How are you with a screwdriver? The hardest thing about dealing with a lock is the placement and drilling. Removing and replacing the exact same one is pretty easy. You might want to take this one out so you can hold it keyhole-down and tap it, perhaps blow some compressed air in it, lock and unlock it - just generally agitate it and see if any obstruction comes out.

That said, I have a hard time thinking a rock just blew into your door. Are there folks around who might like giving you (or anyone) some trouble? They might have shoved some crap in there like a bit of metal or other crud, in which case it might be harder to get out. Or you might have shoved it further in trying the key.

You may want to just call a locksmith. They're cheaper than you might think (often because there's so much competition in the field) and I've had them come out and rekey locks to match for less than $150 soup to nuts. Not nothing money but they solve problems in minutes that I'd have spent hours on.
posted by phearlez at 8:41 AM on May 13, 2011

I replaced my front door knob in about 20 minutes and for less than $20 - it was dead easy. You can get the whole kit, knob, keys, and all, at a hardware store.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:50 AM on May 13, 2011

If it's a pebble, a dental tool might work if a paper clip doesn't.

I agree that a pebble that far down seems very unlikely. Is there someone who might have broken a key in the lock and neglected to tell you? Can you see anything with a flashlight?
posted by hydrophonic at 9:22 AM on May 13, 2011

It is probably a stuck pin, the pins are hanging down from the top of the cylinder in a row and when you push the key in they all rise up against small springs. If one gets stuck and doesn't rise it blocks the key from going all the way in. Give the lock ( right into the key way) a shot of wd40 and then try to jiggle the key in, if you have a small piece of metal,( those scraps you see in the street from street sweepers are perfect but a large unfolded paper clip might be firm enough), reach into the key way with it and try and poke at all the pins at the top, try to push them upward. If you look into the key way you will see the first pin and you will have to just feel for the pins in a row behind it.
posted by InkaLomax at 10:04 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm just guessing it's a pebble - could be any sort of debris. (I'm tempted to blame the evil squirrels that make my yard their home.) My fear is that putting the key in could have pushed whatever it is in further. Shouldn't be a broken off key - Roommate doesn't use that particular door. Would be surprised to have it be vandals, as it's the most visible door second to the front door.
posted by runnergirl at 10:23 AM on May 13, 2011

I broke a key off in my front door lock recently. It was 5 minutes work to unscrew it to remove the barrel. On the hidden reverse of the barrel there was a hole that admitted a paperclip, so I could push the broken key clear. YMMV, but it's surely worth a go at dislodging any debris that way before splashing out on a locksmith.
posted by roofus at 11:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't use WD-40 on the lock - graphite is often used to lubricate locks. WD-40 is great at water displacement and attracting dirt, so usually it just ends up gumming up the lock down the road. Otherwise I'd agree with InkaLomax , its likely a stuck pin unless you have some mean neighbors. Try just a little powdered graphite and see if that frees it up. Might also help to use a paperclip and see if you can push each pin up and dislodge the stuck one.
posted by cftarnas at 11:25 AM on May 13, 2011

Get a small bottle or tube of graphite from your hardware store (dry or wet is fine) and squeeze some into the lock via the keyhole. Wait. Insert key, fiddle, and remove until the lock works effortlessly. Yes, it's that simple. Repeat once or twice a year as necessary.

I can't imagine a pebble getting in unless a prankster put it there, or you're in the habit of sticking your house keys in gravel and mushing them around.
posted by dhartung at 2:16 PM on May 13, 2011

You can unscrew the lock from the door easily from the inside.
Take it off and bang it against a hard, wooden surface to dislodge whatever is in there.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:21 PM on May 13, 2011

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