How to fix a door latch

Written by darcy logan
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How to fix a door latch
Broken door latches are usually easy to fix. (Creative Commons: GrahamBones)

A door latch that is not working properly can be caused by several different things. Start your investigation by moving through the following steps.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Graphite spray
  • Screwdriver
  • Lipstick
  • Metal file or rotary tool
  • Chisel
  • Wood putty
  • Shims

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Instructions

    When the Latch Sticks

  1. 1

    Tighten the screws on the door knob with a screwdriver. If the screws are too loose, it could be causing the latch to stick.

  2. 2

    Spray the latch with graphite spray. Do not use oil to lubricate your door latch.

  3. 3

    Work the latch back and forth, adding additional graphite spray as needed.

  4. 4

    Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until the latch moves freely and easily.

    When the Door Won't Latch

  1. 1

    Prop the end of the door on a few magazines and tighten the hinge screws. The magazines will help support the door. Loose screws could have pushed the latch out of alignment with the switch plate.

  2. 2

    Look inside the hole of the strike plate to see if there is anything that might be obstructing the latch. If so, remove it.

  3. 3

    Tighten the screws on the latch plate.

  4. 4

    Check the door. If it is still won't latch, then there might be a problem with the alignment of the latch to the strike plate. This is addressed in the next section.

    Adjusting the Strike Plate

  1. 1

    Rub a bit of lipstick onto the end of the latch and close and open the door. Then look at the strike plate to see where the lipstick is. You can also use petroleum jelly or a similar substance for this test. If you have not worked through the steps under "When the Door Won't Latch," do so now. You don't want to adjust the strike plate if the problem is caused by loose screws.

  2. 2

    If the lipstick is above or below the hole on the strike plate, raise or lower the strike plate. Slight movements (less than 1/8 of an inch) can be done by filing the strike plate with a file or a rotary tool and a metal-cutting carbide bit. Larger movements (more than 1/8 of an inch) should be done by raising the strike plate up or down. This will involve chiselling out an extra area for the door latch. Fill in any gaps with wood putty.

  3. 3

    If the lipstick mark appears in front of the hole on the strike plate, move the strike plate toward you. Slight movements (less than 1/8 of an inch) can be done by filing the strike plate with a file or a rotary tool and a metal-cutting carbide bit. Larger movements (more than 1/8 of an inch) should be done by chiselling out the strike plate mortise and moving the strike plate. This will involve chiselling out extra area for the door latch. Fill in any gaps with wood putty.

  4. 4

    If the lipstick is after the hole on the strike plate, move the strike plate away from you. Slight movements (less than 1/8 of an inch) can be done by filing the strike plate with a file or a rotary tool and a metal-cutting carbide bit. Larger movements (more than 1/8 of an inch) should be done by chiselling out the strike plate mortise and moving the strike plate. This will involve chiselling out extra area for the hole. Fill in any gaps with wood putty.

  5. 5

    If there is no mark on the strike plate at all, then your latch may not be reaching it. Extend the strike plate from the door by adding an additional strike plate underneath. Or shim (add thin pieces of wood) the strike plate out until it reaches the latch.

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