The deadbolt from hell - how do I open it?
August 2, 2005 12:56 PM   Subscribe

So, I've broken my deadbolt- and it's locked. How do I get the damn thing out again?

As I was installing the new deadbolt on the back door, I gave it a couple of whacks to get it to seat properly. This was dumb, because it broke the pin that retracts the bolt. Thus, the lock would push the bolt out for locking but wouldn't be able to retract, because it had nothing to pull against.

However, I could simply push the bolt in by hand - so it was simply an insecure lock. I decided not to worry about it until tomorrow, shut the door, and locked the bolt. This was also dumb, because now I can't retract the bolt again.


It seems that the mechanism that prevents you from shimmying the bolt open is also broken - and now prevents retraction even when the bolt should be in the unlocked position. So now the door is VERY locked; I can't unlock it with the key, nor the internal latch, nor by taking the whole thing apart and using a screwdriver. And even though I have access to the outside and inside, I can't dismantle it without opening the door.

I guess I have to go to a locksmith, or take the door off it's hinges or somesuch. But I'm not sure there's enough space to do even that, with the bolt in this far. Any hints, o you handy handy people? Save me from the fate of a locksmith!
posted by metaculpa to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Total failure. I KNEW I should have asked my other question.
posted by metaculpa at 1:37 PM on August 2, 2005

Can you unscrew the cover of the locking mechanism from the inside? If so remove it, poke the outside half off through the hole (you don't even have to go around to the other side!) and then use your screwdriver to fish the bolt.

If no luck there, try wiggling the door and see if you can loosen the bolt. Still no luck?

Try super gluing a nail to the back of the bolt, when it sets pull the nail. Don't use any excess glue or you may have to live with the door closed forever!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2005

You can always drill the lock out (the unprofessional way)... In this case since you'll be discarding it when you're done, nothing to worry about. Well, apart from the elbow grease and time drilling will take.

Be careful you don't damage the door.

I've done this several times to some of the more sturdy (read: difficult to pick real locks, not joke $24.99 plastic case locks) computer locks they put on computer servers that dumb people lock and lose the keys to. I can't imagine a deadbolt will be any more complicated, just more difficult.

If you spent extra money on an anti-drill deadbolt, sorry to hear that.

* by drilling out I don't mean professionally drilling it so you can read the pins for making new keys, I mean get a 1" drill bit and drill enough of it out so you can get some pliers in there and pull the bolt out.
posted by shepd at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2005

It's difficult to visualize the lock mechanism. Maybe bend Pollomacho's nail at a right angle before gluing it, so you can lever it with a screwdriver. It doesn't sound like you have access to do this, however.

Could you drill a hole into the door frame just above or below the bolt, then insert and turn a round file to grip and "rack and pinion" the bolt out?

If you can't do it any other way, you might try neatly cutting away the wood moulding on the inside of the door frame with a Dremel tool to expose the bolt and free it. You could repair the cutout with a steel plate, and cover that with wood.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:17 PM on August 2, 2005

I'd take the door off the hinges, then slide it out. I've done this before on a glass door when I was 14, which was probably far heavier than the door you're working with, so it should be no problem. Just insert a flathead screwdriver under the pins in the hinges, use a hammer to wedge it in, then shimmy it off. There will be some resistance because pulling the door out will apply pressure to the deadbolt/cavity, but it can be done.

Once you've done that, open up the lock, push the bolt in like you did before, and remove the lock. Next, insert old lock into garbage bin and get new deadbolt.

Putting the door back on the hinges is pretty straightforward.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:19 PM on August 2, 2005

If there's a significant gap between the door frame and the edge of the door, try this:

Snap a hacksaw blade in half, or cut it with tinsnips. (You don't need to do this if you can slide the blade in past the bolt far enough to rest the teeth of the blade on the bolt.)

Slide the blade into the gap at the door edge above the bolt, with the teeth down and angled away from the door.

Press the sawblade teeth onto the bolt, and twist the blade so the teeth move toward the door. If you're lucky, the bolt will move with the teeth.


You might want to grab the sawblade with vice-grips, if the bolt doesn't move easily. You also might use a second blade below the bolt (with the teeth up), so you're not pushing the bolt down to where it binds on the opening in its plate.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:34 PM on August 2, 2005

How about this, for a minimum of damage: Drill a small (1/8th inch) angled (45 degree) hole in the door frame, such that it ends up close to the end of the bolt (angled left to right in this view). Aim for the small gap between the wood and the bolt end. Insert a six to eight inch section of coat hanger wire into the hole (you might need to bend the end of the wire to coax it to turn perpendicular to the bolt end, or use a softer wire). A few light taps with a hammer, and the bolt should slide back back into the lock. You could fill the hole with a section of bamboo skewer, and sand off the end.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:54 PM on August 2, 2005

If you can't take the door off the hinges, and have to drill, get to it via the frame rather than the door. It's easier to repair a frame than a door.
posted by handee at 1:26 AM on August 3, 2005

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