Expanding Door Frames and Frozen Locks: How Changes in Temperature Can Affect Your Locks

How Weather Affects Your Locks

We don’t often stop to consider just how much we rely on locks in our everyday lives. More than likely, you rely on your locks to function properly when you enter and leave your home, get in and out of your car, and even lock up at your office each night. Unfortunately, we only tend to consider the importance of locks when they’re not functioning as they should. One of the most common causes of lock issues, believe it or not, is changing weather. As temperatures fluctuate, the function of your home, business, and vehicle locks can be compromised in a number of ways.

During the Summer Months

As temperatures warm up during the summer, many homeowners experience jammed-up locks. This occurs most commonly on exterior doors for homes and businesses, as increasing temperatures can cause door frames to expand ever so slightly. As a result, locks can become “stuck” in one position and may require a lot of elbow grease to turn. This is especially common on closed deadbolt locks, which can become compressed in the door itself as the door frame swells around it. Keep in mind that if you have wooden exterior doors and/or door frames, you’ll be much more prone to running into this problem because wood easily swells and contracts in extreme temperatures.

During the Winter Months

More often, however, lock-related issues manifest themselves during the cold months of winter than during the warmer summer months. Usually, the problem occurs when temperatures fall below freezing. Rather than expanding, the door frame has a tendency to contract, which can result in a poor fit between the lock and the door itself. Home and business owners may find that they have a hard time getting the key to turn in a deadbolt lock when both locking and unlocking exterior doors, which can be very frustrating. In the short-term, you may be able to get your locks to work by pulling in on the door handle from the outside to re-center the lock with the door frame. However, this should not be considered a permanent solution, as it will only get worse over time and it will eventually get to the point that you cannot lock or unlock the door.

A Note About Car Locks

Cold temperatures can have an especially frustrating effect on car door locks, which can actually become frozen shut, if temperatures drop low enough. When this occurs, moisture forms within the door lock itself, making it impossible for a key to turn the lock or even for a remote door opener to function properly. Usually, the best way to remedy this issue is to carefully heat up the car’s key (using an open flame) before inserting it into the lock. This doesn’t always work, however. If your car has a remote-start function, you may want to try this; as your car heats up from having the engine running, the door locks may eventually unfreeze.

Preventative Measures

There’s no denying that running into problems with your door locks due to weather can be a very annoying experience. Fortunately, however, there are some preventative measures you can take to avoid these issues in the first place. For starters, whenever you have new locks installed, be sure you’re working with an experienced and reputable locksmith; these professionals will ensure that the lock is properly fitted to the door frame, thus reducing your chances of running into problems with changing weather.

If you have wooden exterior doors/door frames at your home or place of business, you may also want to consider having them replaced with a more durable option that won’t be as prone to expansion/contraction in extreme temperatures. There are lots of options available here, ranging from fiberglass to steel and everything in between.

Furthermore, you should take the time to lubricate your locks every so often, which will make them easier to turn—even as weather changes. In order to do this properly, however, you’ll need to take your lock apart before lubricating it. If you don’t have experience with taking locks apart and putting them back together, it’s highly recommended that you have a locksmith take care of this for you.

When to Call a Locksmith

Of course, there are other situations in which you may need to call a locksmith over a weather-related lock issue. If extreme hot or cold temperatures have made it difficult for you to operate your exterior door locks at your home or business, there’s a good chance that your door’s locks will need to be re-fit within the door frame itself. This is a job best left to a professional locksmith, as it will likely involve fully removing the door, removing the old lock, and re-installing everything to ensure a perfect fit. Depending on the condition of your existing locks, it may also be necessary to replace your lock altogether.

Furthermore, if you find yourself in a situation where your car door locks are frozen shut, it’s likely in your best interest to contact a locksmith as well. While the heated key method can work if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to wait for a locksmith, it can also damage your door lock if not done properly. If you have the time, then, call a locksmith to have your car door locks defrosted so as to avoid expensive damage.

As you can see, there are many ways in which the weather can affect the doors and locks at your home, place of business, or even in your vehicle. This is especially true when it comes to extreme temperatures—both hot and cold. If you find yourself experiencing weather-related lock issues, be sure to contact us here at Great Valley Lockshop; our professional locksmiths would be happy to assist you. Call us at (610) 644-5334 or fill out our free online estimate request!

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