Why Your Door Knob Won’t Turn and How to Fix It

We’ve all been there – you approach your door, insert the key, and turn the knob, but nothing happens. Your door knob won’t turn, and you find yourself locked out. Before you panic, it’s essential to investigate the issue rather than assume the worst. In this guide, we’ll explore the top reasons why your door knob won’t turn and provide effective solutions.

Common Causes of a Door Knob Not Turning

  1. Wrong Key: I know you think you are using the right key, but a very common reason that a door knob won’t turn is simply that the wrong key is being used. As long as two locks are made by the same manufacturer, one key will fit both. This is how it is possible to make keyed alike door locks. Even if keys are not exactly the same size or brand, sometimes smaller keys can still fit into larger keyways. A good sign that you may be using the wrong key is that the key won’t turn. However, this is not a guaranteed way of getting to the bottom of why the door knob won’t turn.
  2. Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #1: Double-check your key ring and make sure that you are using the correct key. This is even more important if these are new keys or have just been lent to you. If you have any doubts, work your way through the various keys, even using ones you are sure are not correct.
  3. Broken Key A broken key can give similar indications as using the wrong key. However, this is certainly the correct key, only broken. When a key “breaks,” it does not have to be severe enough where you will be trying to get the broken key out of the lock. It may just have worn down to be unusable. Keys wear out as the metal grooves grind against the lock internals, or as rotational torque from each key turn bending the key slightly. Feel the teeth of the key and see if they are pointy or smooth. Smooth is a good sign of wear. It is rarely possible to fix a broken key with this type of wear.
  4. Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #2: Do not attempt to copy a broken key, as you will only be copying a key that does not work. A locksmith can decode your worn key or the lock itself. So a key can be made from the original factory specifications. Alternatively, copy a working key or change the lock.
  5. Lock JamWhen a door knob won’t turn, it may be due to the lock jamming. Most often, debris such as rust or dirt fills the gaps that allow different components the range of motion they need. With those tolerances diminished, the lock will jam until the debris is removed.This accumulated detritus can be between the latch bolt and the housing, causing a stuck door latch. The keyway may be blocked, so the key cannot insert fully. The lock can be blocked deeper inside, which jams actuators that allow the knob to turn or the latch to retract.The latch bolt may also be getting stuck on the strike plate. This issue has less to do with the lock and more to do with alignment, which has its own section. If something in the lock has broken and is not jamming up the internals, check out the section on lock damage.
  6. Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #3: For a door knob not turning due to internal jamming, your mission is cleaning. Begin by using a lubricant that is not oil-based to temporarily get the door knob turning. Then take the lock apart. Clean parts more thoroughly with a water and ammonia blend. Then end with a metal polish.
  7. Lock Alignment Locks lose their alignment when hinges sag or the foundation of a building lifts or shifts. Whether you have solid core doors or hollow core doors, they can change their positioning in relation to the door frame, so the lock does not work, or at least the door knob won’t turn. The misalignment of a lock is also going to cause jamming, but the sets of potential solutions are quite different. However, a lubricant may still be useful in getting the door open even though it is not clearing any blockage. Once the door is open, you need to focus on realignment. It is not enough to change locks, as this issue goes beyond the lock. Any lock re-installed in the same slot, mortise, or other pre-cut door holes will still have the same alignment issue. Even if you replace a door knob with a deadbolt, there will be a problem with turning the cylinder.
  8. Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #4: Along with lubrication, you can lift or adjust the door as you turn the knob to get the door open. How you have to move the door to allow the door knob to turn will inform you as to how to adjust the door strike plate or door. If the door has to be lifted, the strike is too high, or the door is low.
  9. Lock Damage When a door knob suddenly won’t turn, or the minor issue has escalated to this extreme state, there is a good chance there has been damage. Any part of your lock can be damaged abruptly or slowly over time. You will then need to look into solutions for a broken lock. Repairs are viable when the cost of the fix does not exceed the price of replacing the lock. With very extensive damage, the best option may be a replacement. What is most important with solving lock damage is determining the extent of the damage, which allows you to choose the fix. If the key keeps turning in the lock, this is often an indication that the cam or tailpiece at the back of the cylinder is broken. The cylinder not moving at all can result from snapped or compressed springs. But with cheap locks, new lock installation may still be comparable to repair service prices.
  10. Door Knob Won’t Turn Tip #5: Access to replacement parts must be factored into whether repair is a viable solution. Not all lock components are widely available for purchase independent of buying a new lock. This means that small parts breaking can still necessitate a full lock replacement.

In Closing

A door knob not turning can result from many different factors. Besides checking the lock itself, investigate your keys and how the door is hanging. Changing your lock may not be the fix when a door knob won’t turn if the door is not properly aligning. So don’t reach for a new lock right away.