Lock Troubleshooting and Repair Q&A

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Dear NH,

There must be some trick. It takes me about 30 minutes in order to line up the two screws that join the two halves (front and back of door) that comprise a simple exterior door knob. The screws go into tube-like extensions of the half that goes on the front of the door. Because both halves must be almost on the doors surface for the screws to reach it seems impossible to see the screws and extensions to line them up correctly. The knob is almost in the way and makes inserting the screws perfectly straight difficult.

Is there some special order to this? I'm a little klutzy but not this much.

AP from Connecticut


A trick? Honestly, I have struggled along with you and countless locksmiths with this problem. Today, it is common for a company to supply screws that just barely reach the threads! And the view ain't that good, either! So don't consider yourself "klutzy"... consider yourself against a formidable foe... the desk jockey hardware designer!!

I usually just keep on trying, and eventually they do engage. As with most things "handy", the more you do it, the better you get at it! However, if you don't have the patience, just go to the hardware store and buy screws that are a quarter of an inch longer... this should make it easier because you will have a little more screw to hold onto and a better view.

Be careful, though. If you get screws that are too long, they may bottom out and not pull the lock securely against the door.

Another off the cuff approach would be to get a screw that is quite a bit longer… an inch or so. Then you can insert it through the lockset and into the other side with lots of room to see the threaded shaft. Once you have the longer screw started, slide both halves of the lockset tight against the door and install the other normal length screw. It will be easier to engage. Once tight, remove the long screw and insert the second factory screw in the hole.

I must warn you of a potential problem with this approach… on some locksets the doorknob interferes with tightening the screws, forcing you to hold the Phillips screwdriver slightly off center. Too long a screw might not be removable once the second screw is in place. So just get the second screw started, and then immediately extract the long screw. Get the picture?

Dear NH,

I am from New Jersey… the climate is Ugh!! I found you through the "search" button on my Web TV. I have 2 questions.

1. I am trying to install a chain guard on front door, and don't know which side of the lock goes on the door??

2. I have a sliding door (hung on slider), and it gets stuck sometimes. Can I adjust the hanger, and how??

Thank you for a terrific site. I do appreciate your time and attention.


Dear TS,

Thanks for the kind words. You do know how to get on my good side!

The chain is mounted permanently on the interior molding on all the chain locks I have ever seen. The catch or slide is mounted on the interior of the door near the molding.

As far as the sliding doors go, go into the closet and take a good look at the mechanism. There are different types. Some (Stanley) have a large knob that is turned to raise and lower the door. Others require you to loosen screws to make this adjustment.

Look closely at the wheels and the hanger holding the wheels. Are the wheels worn or wobbly? Is the hanger bent? You will want to replace the hanger if either of these situations exist.

Sliding door hangers have a backset. The inside doors are often set further back than the front doors to prevent rubbing, so they have slightly different hangers. Bring the old hanger as a sample to the hardware store, and replace the hangers on either or both doors as a pair.

The door should clear the floor or carpet. If you have raised the door to its highest position and it still drags, you will probably have to cut a small amount of wood off the bottom of the door.

Dear NH,

I have a security iron storm door that was installed with a MARKS day lock and deadbolt. MARKS was touted as one of the best locks of this type which is why I opted for it.

Although the bolt is aligned correctly with the receiver opening, it turns only so far with the key and then resists movement any further. This resistance is present both when locking and unlocking it. Both locking and unlocking can be accomplished if the key is turned in one continuous quick motion through the point of resistance.

The lock has been thoroughly spray cleaned with WD-40 and subsequently lubricated with a silicone spray. Dirt in the mechanism appears not to be the problem. It simply resists smooth locking and unlocking as if something within the lock itself is misaligned but I have never disassembled such a lock and would therefore appreciate some advice on this.



Have you tried the deadbolt with the door open? You did not mention whether you did or not, but this would eliminate the mechanism itself from consideration. Some locksets will bind internally if the mounting screws that connect the inside and outside plates of the lock are overtightened. Loosen them a few turns and see if this frees up the mechanism.

If the deadbolt otherwise works properly, the bolt must be rubbing on the strike plate as it extends into the pocket. Though you may have the bolt centered vertically, the opening in the plate must also be centered horizontally. It is quite possible that the bolt is rubbing on either the inside or outside edge of the hole.

To test this hypothesis, try to activate the deadbolt with the spring latch held in by turning the handle/knob on the lock. Is there a position that the deadbolt works smoothly? If so, then you need to either adjust the position of the strike plate inwards or outwards or, if there is no adjustment in this particular strike plate, use a metal file to slightly enlarge the strike plate opening so the bolt moves freely.

Sometimes, a bolt may not travel straight out, causing rubbing on the inside of the pocket in the door frame. Therefore, you must also look for any obstruction within the pocket and clean it out!