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My front door has been sticking for, well, months. And I’m not talking about the door itself, but rather the interior mechanism of the door latch. It’s essentially been a grip-strength test for anyone wishing to enter or exit my house from the front ever since it got sticky. The really sad part, though, is that it took a whopping half-hour to fix, twenty minutes of which I spent running to the local big-box to grab a couple of bucks in parts.

Bottom line: Don’t make the same mistake I did. Take a sec to fix it. Here’s how.

The mechanism inside doorknobs is actually called a latchbolt, as pictured at the top of this post. Over years of use — and a little moisture leakage from time to time — they tend to get a bit corroded. The springs can weaken as well, leaving you cranking the hell out of the knob (and/or wiggling it around) to get the pin back far enough to let you open the door.

You have two choices to repair the issue: Lubricate it or replace it. You can try lubrication — be sure to use graphite, as any wet lubricant will just attract even more crap into the mechanism over time — but honestly you can buy the whole thing for less than $5. Mine was a Kwikset model (link below) which set me back a whopping $4.27.

Installation is easy. Just remove the screws from the knob, pull off the front and rear knobs, unscrew the plate on the edge of the door, and pull the whole assembly out. You’ll need to assemble the new one before you stick it back in the hole. You’ll find a little switch to select the mounting depth. But if you’re replacing the old one with the same model, you don’t need to figure out anything. Just set the switch in the same place as the old one and assemble the new one to look the same.

Reverse the process and you’re done.

Kwikset Adjustable Interior Latchbolt [Lowe’s]


13 Responses to Quick Projects: Fix Your Sticky Door Knob

  1. Jerry says:

    $4.27….Really? For about $10 you can get the complete Kwikset Tylo entry set. In addition to the latch and strike, you get the inside and outside knobs with lock. There are springs in the knobs as well that can fail over time – especially if you have been “cranking” hard on them for a while.
    Of course, the Tylo isn’t the fanciest knob in town but it is as mechanically good as most of their other models – and you get a nice new shiny brass look for your door. Installation is about the same as replacing the latch only since you have to remove the existing lock set anyway.
    Just my thoughts.

  2. McSteve says:

    For the record, even graphite rubbed on vigorously from a pencil works wonders to unstick lock and latch bolts. My grandma was literally trapped in her house a couple months ago, because her deadbolt was sticking. I scraped a pencil against all the working parts of the bolt for a while, and it’s working almost like new again.

  3. fred says:

    Door latch designs and parts have come a long way over the centuries and many of the changes have made it simpler and quicker to install a latch set. Compared to a fully mortised-in latch set – the kind pictured here is a breeze to install – without setting up a lock-mortising machine. Over the centuries there has also been a lot of design and engineering that has been done to “improve” things. We learned that making all parts out of iron (as in blacksmith-made latches) could be improved upon by adding some brass or bronze – particularly to allow wearing surfaces to function smoothly. At some point the trend moved to value engineering – and maybe moving parts may now be more aluminum that is subject to galling and wear – perhaps with the thought that the moving parts will last just as long as the finish on the aluminum or pot-metal knob – so why waste money on better materials. So what’s the bottom line – well maybe some lubricant will work (and its certainly worth a try for a homeowner) – but if the moving parts are all galled up – then you either need to replace them or spend a fait bit of time with a needle file etc.

  4. Harvey says:

    @Jerry, Hey mate I’m a locksmith by trade.
    It’s true you can buy a nice brass-look knobset for under $10, but people don’t realize that if you protect a $?00,000 home with a $9 lock, you get exactly $9 worth of security and longevity.

    Buy a decent lock, and you’ll get longer life, and more resistance to any wayward travelers.

  5. Harvey says:

    @fred, The worst material most cheap locks (such as kwikset) are using is a die-cast zinc. Wears horribly, has little to no strength when used in a stressful area, and binds up more the longer it wears.

  6. Jerry says:

    @Harvey. Hey a fellow locksmith – actually, I retired from it. I guess my point was simply that the article was referring to replacing a part of a Kwikset lock rather than spending a bit more for the complete package (by Kwikset).
    Of course, security and cost work together but only to a small degree. Several years ago (in Portland,OR) there was a burglary of one of the mansions. Best locks, barred windows, steel security doors, etc. The burglars just used a cordless saw and cut through a wall – a bit of siding, insulation and drywall was the only barrier they faced.
    The longer life is likely the best arguyment for a truly quality lock. If the “wayward travelers” want in, they will find a way. Always.

  7. Geoff K. says:

    @Jerry: You got that right. Locks just keep honest people honest.

    The other factor that locks just don’t address is social engineering. Someone with nefarious intent can talk their way into a situation, seeming to be someone they’re not, gaining access — either physical access or access to information — and then committing some unwanted act.

    Security is not a place to try to save a couple of bucks. But security at any cost is also a problem. Balance is key. Make sure to address both the social and the physical engineering, but don’t break the bank just because…

  8. Harvey says:

    @Geoff: Very true mate. I often get people ask me “what’s the easiest way into a house?”

    My reply is always “Knock”

  9. Steve says:

    Kwikset’s are complete garbage. Go with Medeco.

  10. fred says:


    Does Medeco even market handle sets?
    I thought they only marketed tumblers and deadbolts.

  11. Steve says:


    They do! They’re called the Embassy series. You can see them on their website if you scroll down:


  12. fred says:


    Thanks for the info – learn something every day

    We usually alllow our clients to buy much their own materials – cutting out our markup and improving our cash flow. Sometimes we’re asked for advice or the client end up purchasing the hardware with their doors from a big box or local window/door supplier. We end up installing a mixed bag – from fulll-motise antique sets, high end Omnia and Baldwin sets – to Schlage, Wesier and Kwikset

  13. Mara LaCour says:

    I found that this did NOT actually fix my issue. The issue I’m having (I believe) is that there’s a little extra piece on the latch bolt itself… you know the one I’m talking about. You can even see the cutout for it on the plates in the pic above. This piece since it isn’t angled like a wedge, does not retract when I close the door, since it’s a metal security door with no angled latch plate. Hope this helps someone.

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