Monday 22 April 2019

Stiff Locks on Easter Sunday

We had a call from our latest guest on Easter Sunday afternoon. She just arrived, obtained the key from the keysafe, but thought she'd jammed the back door lock at the cottage in Wirksworth.  We'd had our handyman install new 5-lever locks when we took on the cottage six years ago, but they always been a bit cranky and needed a bit of key jiggling to unlock/lock the doors. Possibly quality issue on low cost locks from a builders merchant? I offered my apologies to our friends who'd come for lunch, grabbed some tools and jumped into the car to drive over to Wirksworth.

On the way as I drove over, she called and said she'd been able to get into the cottage, but the lock was still difficult to use.  Ten minutes later I'd arrived at the cottage and started to diagnose the problem. Of course when I used my own copy of the key, the lock worked okay. I tried the cottage key and the lock worked okay, so I asked our guest to show me her using  the key on the door and the problems returned, even when I tried using the key. I checked the key, using vernier calipers to make sure it was correctly cut and it was okay.  I then tried my key again, but the lock was very stiff.

Our guest left to take her dog for a walk, leaving me to resolve the problems. I decided to lubricate the lock with Graphite dust.  This involved removing the sash lock mechanism from the door. When I inspected the lock I realised the anti-pick shield in the key way prevented easy lubrication. It was time to open the lock body to lubricate the internal key levers. I did think about purchasing a new lock, but as it was late Easter Sunday afternoon there was no chance at finding a locksmith shop open.

As I released the three retaining screws of the lock case and opened it there was a ping noise as a spring under tension dislodged an internal part of the lock. Ooops!

I spayed some silicone lubricant and graphite dust on the levers and other moving parts of the lock and attempted to reassemble the lock. After the first attempt I replaced the case retaining screws and tested the lock. It didn't work! When I reopened the case I found one of the lock levers had become displaced.  It took an extra hour's worth of fiddling to reassemble the lock in a working condition and replace it in the door.  I SMS messaged our guests with the good news and left the cottage in a locked up state. Since then, no further complaints. It seems some lubricant has improved matters.

The following morning I was on the Internet to order two replacement security locks and spare keys. This time I've purchased high quality, British manufactured, security locks. They are supplied as "keyed alike", so the same key will be able to open both the back and front doors. This arrangement will simplify locking up for the guests and reduce the number of keys required in the cottage.The new locks will replace the existing cottage door locks. I'll retain the old locks as spares as spares. 

We keep plenty of spare keys. The 5-lever lock keys need to be cut by a good locksmith, not just by a cheap shoe repair shop key copying. The cheap keys often don't work well in security locks. We had one unidentified guest who'd lost one of the cottage keys and had had a low cost copy made in a shoe repair booth. It gave endless problems and took us a while to work out the cause. Since then we have instituted a policy of charging for lost keys.

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