5 Reasons Why Your Key Is Suddenly Hard to Get in the Lock

Key Takeaway

  • Common reasons for a key being hard to get in the lock include dirt or dust build-up, worn-out keys, frozen locks, tampering with the lock, and faulty lock cylinders. 
  • To troubleshoot the issue, you must clean your lock and defrost it, if frozen.
  • To ensure the security of your space, faulty lock or key should be repaired or replaced and the tampered lock must be rekeyed.

Imagine coming back home after a long day and while unlocking the lock, your key refuses to fit in the key hole! The same key that you’ve been using for a long time is now hard to get in the lock. Well, it can leave you all confused, but the issue is rather more common than you think it is. 

Whether it’s a door, locker, or anything else with a lock, the feeling of having difficulty while inserting the key is something that can happen to anyone. There are a few reasons why you might be facing the issue, so today, we will be going over what can make keys suddenly hard to get in a lock, as well as ways you can address this problem. 

So let’s get started.

Why Is Your Key Suddenly Not Working In Lock?

Here are a few possible reasons why your key won’t go in the lock or is hard to get all the way into the lock.

1) The Lock May Have Dust Or Dirt Build Up

The Lock May Have Dust Or Dirt Build Up

Sometimes the key won’t go all the way into the lock because there is dust or dirt building up inside the lock mechanism. It is one of the most common reasons behind the issue. 

In order to fix this issue, take a thin item, such as a paper clip or a needle, and insert it into the keyhole. Gently move the item around so that it can dislodge any debris that is stuck in the keyhole. Then use a vacuum cleaner to suck out any dust or dirt that has collected inside the lock. Finally, lubricate the area with some graphite lubricant spray or WD 40 spray and check if the key can now go in easily. If not, then you may have to look at other potential causes.

2) The Key May Have Worn Out

If your key won’t go in the lock, or it’s hard to get it all the way into the lock, another potential reason could be that the key may have worn out. If you’ve had the lock for a long time, or if you use the key often, it can wear out and start to fit less securely in the lock. A bent or blunt key may be hard to put in the lock or may not even pass through the keyhole.

If this is the case, you’ll need to get a replacement key or get a duplicate key cut from the locksmith. It’s important to get an exact match, so make sure you bring your old key with you when you shop for a new one. Once you have a new key, you should be able to insert it easily into the lock and open it with no trouble.

3) The Lock May Be Frozen

The Lock May Be Frozen

If your key doesn’t go all the way into the lock, it could be frozen due to cold weather. This is especially true if you live in a cold climate or if the lock has been exposed to a particularly cold temperature. This can happen if the lock has not been used for a while and condensation builds up inside the cylinder. When this happens, the moisture freezes and can prevent the key from being inserted all the way.

To fix this issue, use a hair dryer to warm up the keyhole area. Move the dryer around the keyhole until you feel that the metal is warm enough to thaw the moisture. If that doesn’t work, try using an aerosol lubricant such as WD-40 or graphite powder to break up any ice that might be inside the lock. Once you have done this, try to insert your key again and see if it goes in easier.

To learn more about how to deal with frozen locks, refer to one of my past articles.

4) The Lock May Have Been Tampered With

The Lock May Have Been Tampered With

If someone has tampered with your lock, the key won’t go in the lock or will be hard to get in the lock. It is noteworthy that tampering with a lock is a criminal offense and is a major threat to the security of your space, so if you believe this is the case, you should contact the authorities immediately.

It’s not uncommon for criminals to tamper with locks in order to gain access to your home or business. They may do this by drilling into the lock and manipulating the internal mechanism or by using special tools to pick the lock. In some cases, they may even replace the entire lock with one of their own.

You should inspect the lock carefully and look for any signs of tampering, such as scratches or gouges around the keyhole. If you see any suspicious signs, you should take action to have the lock repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

5) The Lock Cylinder May Be Faulty

The Lock Cylinder May Be Faulty

Another reason why your key won’t go all the way into the lock, or it’s hard to get in, may be because the lock cylinder is faulty. The lock cylinder is the part that contains the pins and tumblers, which allow the key to turn and open the lock. If there is an issue with the lock cylinder, then the key won’t go in properly.

To diagnose this issue, you can remove the lock cylinder and look at it carefully. If you see any signs of corrosion or wear and tear, then it’s likely that the lock cylinder needs to be replaced. 

Replacing a lock cylinder isn’t a complicated job, but it is best done by a professional locksmith who can assess the condition of your lock and ensure that it is secure.

Therefore I would recommend checking out all other potential reasons before getting the cylinder checked.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How to remove a broken key from a lock?

Answer – First, determine how deep your broken key has been inserted into the lock before attempting to extract it. You can remove the key if it can be seen through the keyhole by tapping the lock cylinder from behind. To remove the key, you can alternatively use a pair of tweezers. An extractor tool can be used to grip and remove the key from deep within the lock.

To learn about removing the broken key from a lock in detail, refer to one of my past articles.

Q2. Can I use hot water to defrost my frozen lock?

Answer – The lock can be defrosted by melting the ice using hot water, but I do not advise doing so since if water is trapped inside the lock, moisture could quickly cause erosion, making it difficult to open and close the lock. In reality, the locking mechanism of the lock may be completely destroyed by corrosion.


When your key won’t go all the way into the lock or is hard to get in the lock, it can be a sign of one of several issues. Before doing anything drastic, you should take a few minutes to assess the situation and determine what might be causing the problem. Dust and dirt buildup, a worn-out key, frozen locks, tampering, and faulty lock cylinders are all potential issues that could make it difficult for your key to fit into the lock. Depending on the cause, there are easy solutions that can fix the issue, so you can get your key to fit snugly back into the lock.

I hope the article was helpful to you. For more information on locks and home security, stay tuned!

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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.