How to fix a stuck front door lock latch that won’t retract

Do you have a door that won’t open because the lock latch won’t retract enough to open the door?  If so, here’s how you can fix it.

You will need the following:

Dead Latch
Dead Latch

Phillips Screwdriver
Can of WD40
Large flat head screw driver
Needle nose pliers
New dead latch – buy after you take yours out.

You might need (pray that you don’t):

Nail, or nail punch
Plastic coke bottle
Scissors or razor blade

First off, you’re going to have to take the door handle off.  You can do this by using the phillips head screw driver to unscrew both screws on the door handle.  Make sure the lock is unlocked before you do this.

Once you have the door handle off, you can now try to open the latch manually with either a large flathead screwdriver or pair of needle nose pliers.  You can see where the cylinder entered the dead latch mechanism and pulled the latch back.  On the Kwikset locks, this looks like two little teeth that the cylinder pushes back.  You may want to spray WD40 or other lubricant on the lock mechanism.

If this works, then you can open the door and it’s time to replace the dead latch.  To take yours out, just use your phillips screw driver again to take out the two screws in the face plate.  Now go to the hardware store and buy you a new dead latch.

If the method above didn’t work, then there is one last thing you can do before taking the door off of the hinges.  Take a 2 liter coke bottle and cut out a strip about 2 inches wide and 4 inches long.  Now, take that piece of plastic and try to insert it into the door from the outside directly where the latch is.  If you’re lucky, this will force the latch back.  You can try this step before taking the handle off.  If this doesn’t work, then you’re going to have to resort to removing the door from the hinges.  Here’s a video on how to do that properly:


15 thoughts on “How to fix a stuck front door lock latch that won’t retract

  1. You saved the day more than you know. my 10 year old’s door rod failed with her in her room on a day that is 105 outside. As her windows do not open (it’s a play area not a bedroom) and the only circulation is from a fan it can get hot FAST. The soda bottle trick worked like a charm. Rod mechanism being removed as we speak.

    1. I have a 9 year old, so I know how scary that would be. I’m glad I was able to provide a solution for you. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

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  3. I used a piece of bailing wire and formed it into a “U” shape to pass it around the rod mechanism (from the inside) and simply pulled it somewhat vigorously and as the latch retracted and I pulled on the door and it opened. Then I had to replace the rod mechanism.

    1. My laundry room door that goes out to the garage would not open as the door rod would not retract and the door would not open. I took a coat hanger and used the hook part to go between the door and trim and pulled it and wiggled the door and it open with ease.

      1. Thanks for the hanger comment. After trying so many other things this is what worked on my latch that would not retract.

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  6. My search brought me here. I have Weiser locks and handsets. My front door has a deadbolt that’s independent of the handle set. After three years, the handle set doesn’t retract the latch enough to open the door anymore. Fully pushed up or down handle brings the latch to about half open,which is not enough to open the door. It’s an exterior door so it should be an emergency exit, too. I used the Allen wrench to get the handles off but I don’t know how to get the rest of the covers off each side of the door. There are no screws showing on either side of the door…

  7. I have a replacement latch to go on a kwikset door set but it does not include strike plate. How do you remove the old strike plate from the latch?

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