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Spring is here: DIY door locks and hardware maintenance

Spring is here: DIY door locks seasonal maintenance

Spring is here and it’s time to clean the house, work on the garden and do other maintenance around the property. What people never pay attention to is the door locks and door hardware. Just like anything else mechanical, like your car and appliances, door locks also need regular maintenance.

Did you know that most door locks are made of brass? Brass is a mixture of natural materials like copper and zinc. Brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used since the 10th century BC in Judea, and was widespread by the 7th century BC in Ancient Greece. While this metal is non-magnetic, it’s also a fairly light material compared to other metals. Brass can easily crack, especially under extreme temperatures. When brass gets really cold and pressure is applied to the metal it may break. I have been a locksmith in New York City for over 10 years and the one thing I’ve seen happen the most when the temperature dropped dramatically was that the internal locking mechanisms would malfunction. This will cause a person to be locked in or out of the premises in very cold weather, requiring an emergency locksmith to open the door for them. I always advise my customers to give maintenance to their locks once every season.

So you’re probably wondering by now, how do I maintain my locks? Is it something I can do myself? Luckily, it’s fairly simple. I will discuss in detail what you will need and how you can ensure the longevity of your door hardware.

Having the right tools

First we will discuss what tools are needed to perform door lock maintenance by yourself. You will want to start by grabbing a Phillips number 2 screwdriver and a flat-head screw driver. Additionally you’ll want to have a set of hex keys, also known as Allen keys. Finally, you want to get a can of WD-40 lubricant with the straw and a dry rag to clean up after spraying.

DIY door lock maintenance

Our main focus is always on the exterior doors as they bear the most force of weather and traffic. However, let’s not forget to take a look at the interior doors as well. Most private homes have three entrances/exits: front door, side door, and back door. Some houses with an attached garage will have a garage door entrance to the house, but this door can be considered exterior as well, since most garages aren’t heated and receive a fair amount of traffic.

The first thing we want to do it tighten up all the loose screws. Screws have a tendency to get loose after a while, especially after locks have been used a lot. You will use either your Phillips head or flat head to do so. Remember, turn clockwise to tighten those screws.

Next, some of your door handles might still feel loose. Whether you have a door knob or lever, you’ll find another screw that you can tighten up on the neck of the knob. In many locks you will need to use the hex keys to tighten that screw. There is one thing I want you to keep in mind when tightening up any screw: you do not want to tighten up and screw too hard. When tightening up any screw too hard, you risk ruining the threading or breaking the screw. Also, some links may not close or lock well if they are too tight. Remember you are stronger than one little 1 inch screw (screw sizes may vary from ¼” - 3”).

Finally, you want to lubricate all the locks well, as most likely the grease inside the locks has dried up. Just like you know not to put 2 pieces of glass on top of each other without a newspaper or cloth separator between them, the same applies to certain metals. It’s the grease and/or lubricant that act as the separator. When you hear that squeaky noise, that's lack of lubrication. What you want to do is depress the latch and bolt of the lock and use the straw to get the lubrication into the interior mechanism. There’s no sense in spraying the lock from the outside as it’s not going to do much. Use the dry rag to clean up the dripping oils. You do not want to leave it wet as this can stain your door, especially if it’s wood.

Well there you have it. Wasn’t that simple enough, tightening up some loose screws and lubricating the locks? Oh, by the way I recommend doing this to the door hinges as well. With the door hinge, once you spray the lubricant swing the door back and forth a few times so that the oils will leak into the internal pin. If your door has that squeaky sound when opening and closing the door, this should definitely solve your noisy problem. The only issue is now you won’t be able to tell when your kids are coming home late at night, unless the wooden floor is squeaking too!

One last tip. If you see that your locks are starting to malfunction and the following quick maintenance tricks don't help, then it’s time to call a locksmith. Amerikey is a full-service locksmith company that specializes in door hardware maintenance, installations and door security consultation. Check out our full list of locksmith services.

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