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Stuck in a frozen jam? Keys to avoiding winter lock woes

The Lock Shop in Thunder Bay, Ont., receives two to three calls per week from homeowners who are having trouble unlocking their doors in the winter, says owner and manager Debi Sveinsson.

Lubricate your locks but don't use oil, expert says

The owner and manager of The Lock Shop in Thunder Bay, says using a fine lubricant on your locks, several times a year, should keep them operating smoothly. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

If the lock on your house is sticking this winter, you're not alone.

The Lock Shop in Thunder Bay, Ont., receives two to three calls per week, at this time of year, from homeowners who are having trouble unlocking their doors, says owner and manager Debi Sveinsson.

She offered this key advice to keeping your locks turning smoothly:

Lubricate

"Locks dry out, and there's brass pins inside a lock and they're soft and they need lubrication, just like anything else," said Sveinsson.

She recommends lubricating the locks in your home several times each year, but don't use oil, which is too heavy for the mechanism.

"It just gums things up, and it will totally seize them up," said Sveinsson.

She advises using WD-40, or other lubricants which leave a fine coating on the inside of the lock as they dry.

Check your keys

Keys, like the locks they're used in, can wear down over time, says The Lock Shop owner and manager, Debi Sveinsson in Thunder Bay. (Cathy Alex/CBC)
There are many moving parts in the lock which wear down over time, said Sveinsson, adding that keys can also wear out.

"If you're duplicating a worn-out key over and over again, it's a domino effect and keys will start to stick. They'll start to stick going in. They'll start to stick turning. They'll start to stick pulling out," said Sveinsson. 

There is an alternative to reproducing that old key, said Sveinssson, and explained that many keys now have a number on them, which can be cut by code.

Is the foundation firm?

Another common problem is foundations which move and shift said Sveinsson, offering examples like front porches, or additions.

"If you're on a foundation that moves, your locks will bind, and it's not a matter of the key, it's a matter of we need to open up the holes in the bolt and latch in order for them to work smoothly," she said.

Look at your locks

Regular maintenance, such as lubricating several times a year, will solve most lock problems, said Sveinsson.

But she said it's always a good idea to take a closer look at your lock.

"Check your doors. A lot of people walk through your doors every day and they don't look at the hardware, but if something's not working well, or it's closing differently, the time to address that is sooner than later," said Sveinsson.

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