Quick fixes for locks and keys

Clean and lubricate your locks and lock cases about every six months to keep them well maintained. If you do happen to have problems with them, though, here are some quick fixes to keep in mind.

Quick fixes for locks and keys

Basic maintenance

  • Apply powdered graphite to locks every six months.
  • Alternatively, rub a very soft 4B or 6B graphite pencil along both sides of your key, insert the key in the lock and work the bolt back and forth to help the graphite penetrate the lock.

Spray lubricate a lock

  • You could also try a petroleum-based lubricant spray.
  • Fix the plastic straw that comes with the lubricant in the nozzle to focus the spray into the keyhole and around the bolt.
  • Spray liberally to saturate the assembly, then wipe off the excess with a rag.
  • Never mix petroleum-based lubricant and graphite powder in the same lock.
  • Mixing lubricants can gum up the lock, requiring you to disassemble and clean it.

Broken key in the lock

  • If a key breaks in a lock, try to pull it out with a pair of long-nose pliers or a fine, stiff wire bent at the end.
  • Alternatively, insert the blade of a coping saw into the lock, then pull the key out very carefully and slowly. Don't tug at the key stem or you might damage the lock.

Frozen out?

  • In very cold weather, moisture inside a lock may freeze and jam the pins.
  • In these conditions put on some gloves and heat the key's teeth with a match or lighter before inserting the key.
  • Spraying de-icer into the lock might also help.

Straighten a bent key

  • To straighten a bent key, put it on a solid flat metal surface (like an overturned iron skillet) and hammer it lightly.

No more fumbling

  • Drill a second hole near the edge of your house key so that it will hang at an angle from the others on your keyring.
  • That way you won't have to fumble in the dark for your house key any more.

Keep these quick fixes in mind and you'll open up an easier way to deal with problems with your keys and locks.

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