Frozen Lock

How Changes in Temperature Affect Locks

We usually only stop to think about the importance of locks when they’re not functioning as they should. Surprisingly, one of the most common causes of lock issues is the changing weather. As temperatures fluctuate, residential and commercial door locks may jam and not work properly.

During the Summer

As temperatures warm up in the summer, many homeowners and business owners experience jam locks. This usually affects exterior doors, as increasing temperatures can cause the door to expand slightly. As a result, locks can become difficult to turn or get stuck entirely in one position.

This effect is more common in the following situations:

  • For closed deadbolt locks, which are compressed in the door as the door frame swells around it.
  • For wooden exterior doors and door frames, because wood material is more prone to swelling and contracting in extreme temperatures.

During the Winter

In areas like Pennsylvania, lock problems often manifest themselves during the cold months of the year. When temperatures fall below freezing, the door frame tends to contract. This causes a poor fit between the lock and the door itself.

This effect is more common in the following situations:

  • For wooden exterior doors and/or door frames, which are affected by the rising humidity levels.
  • For door frames made of wood which tends to contract in colder temperatures.

You may find that it’s difficult to turn the key in a deadbolt when locking or unlocking exterior doors. For a quick fix, try pulling in on the door handle from the outside to re-center the lock within the door frame. However, this shouldn’t be considered a permanent solution, as it will likely get worse over time and eventually make it impossible to lock or unlock the door.

A Note About Car Locks

Cold temperatures can be a real pain when they affect car door locks. Moisture inside the lock can freeze if temperatures drop low enough. This renders it impossible for a key to turn the lock or even for a remote door opener to function properly.

In most situations, the best way to fix the problem is to carefully heat up the car’s key (using an open flame) before inserting it into the lock. If your car has a remote-start function, try heating up the car by letting the engine run for a few minutes. The locks will eventually unfreeze.

Get more information here: How to Open a Frozen Door Lock.

Preventative Measures

Fortunately, there are some preventative measures you can take to avoid these issues.

  • Whenever you have new locks installed, be sure you’re working with an experienced locksmith. These professionals will ensure that the lock is properly fitted to the door frame, thus reducing problems with the changing weather.
  • Consider replacing wooden exterior doors and frames with a more durable option that is more resistant in extreme temperatures. There are lots of options available, including aluminum, fiberglass and steel.
  • Take the time to maintain locks by oiling regularly. This will make it easier to turn—even when the weather changes. To lubricate properly, you’ll need to take the lock apart first.
  • Keep the lock dry. Ensure that overhangs, eaves and gutters are sufficient to keep rain and snow away from the door.

When to Call a Locksmith

If extreme hot or cold temperatures have made it difficult for you to operate the exterior door locks at your home or business, they may need to be re-fitted within the frame. This is a job best left to a professional locksmith, as it will likely involve fully removing the door and modifying it to ensure a perfect fit. Depending on the condition of the existing lock, it may be time to replace it altogether.

If you find yourself stuck with car door locks frozen shut, it’s in your best interest to contact a locksmith. Many quick, DIY fixes can damage the lock if not done properly. Call a locksmith to have your car door locks defrosted and avoid expensive damage.

Contact Great Valley Lockshop for expert assistance: (610) 644-5334 or fill out our online estimate request.

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