Front Door Gone Bad

Last night as usual, I let Katie out into the front yard to go to the bathroom before we go to bed. She doesn’t like to go in the backyard. Then she stands around for a while until I go get Austin. Austin goes right away and I let him back in. Then Katie will go and we will go back in. Except last night when Katie and I were going back in the door seemed to be locked. I wondered if maybe Austin had locked us out. Katie has done this before by jumping up on the door and hitting the deadbolt, but this was the door knob.

I went around to the back door to come back and unlock the front door and let Katie in. But there was nothing doing. I could turn the knob just fine, but couldn’t open the door because the latch wasn’t going back into the door. I messed around with it for a while before going back out to get Katie (who had been waiting on the front step the whole time) to come to the back door. I’ve never been very good at using a credit card to jimmy a door, but I did get a wire and run it around the latch to try and push the latch back in, but I couldn’t pull the wire through. This door functions pretty well otherwise, closing easily and the latch always catches easily, but I have been having a hard time turning the lock on the inside and sometimes there is some internal resistance when I try to turn the key.

I went to the internet to find some tips. Other than doing what I had done already, it was recommended to take the door knob off and break the latch mechanism, then slide the latch out through the door knob hole. Failing that they said you could unhinge the door and open the door from the hinge side, pulling the latch out along with the door. So I got a hacksaw out and cut through the latch hardware in the hole for the door knob, but I couldn’t pull the latch. I got a little bit smart and looked at my back door which has the exact same doorknob and noticed that the latch hardware is held in place from the side of the door, so there was no way I could pull the latch out. Then I removed the pins from the hinges and tried pulling that side of the door in. Nothing doing. So I went outside and tried pushing from the outside. Even bumping it pretty good with my shoulder, it wasn’t going anywhere. I think maybe the jamb is snug enough that somehow I couldn’t open it from that side.

Now it was really late so I decided to go to bed anyway, but I couldn’t get the door knob back in place. I could put the exterior knob in place, but when I tried to screw the interior knob in place it would push the exterior knob out just enough so that the screws wouldn’t catch. So I put some tape over the hole.

Today I did all that stuff again. I got nowhere. I really had no idea how to solve the problem, but Kwikset has a toll-free customer service number that I planned on calling, except that they are closed on Sunday. And while the door knob has a lifetime warranty on the finish and the mechanics, apparently you have to mail the knob back to them. Then maybe a few weeks later they might send you a new knob? So you just don’t have a door knob in the front door for a while, I guess. Pretty pathetic warranty in real life.

While I was looking at the back door latch, I noticed a pin that had been sticking out of the front door latch was still flush in the back door. So I think that pin may play a role in retracting the latch. I tried putting the pin back in and wound up pulling it out and replacing it with a nail, but still nothing.

This is kind of scary. I can’t get out of this door for anything. When I took the dogs for their morning walk, we went out the back door, and Austin didn’t want to go out back on a leash. They weren’t sure about going to the back door when we got back either.

Eventually I thought I could try to saw through the latch itself. It would take a while, but if I did it today I could be using weekend time instead of more valuable weeknight time. That’s a big piece of metal, probably designed not to be very easy to cut through. After a a few minutes of sawing, I had made a dent. So there was some potential. Then I remembered I have a saber saw and some blades for cutting metal. So I got that out. There was enough depth in the door jamb to get a full stroke in, so it worked surprisingly well, but was still pretty slow. Even when I was 95% of the way through and there was just a sliver of metal left, it still took a while (maybe 10-15 minutes). But with the latch cut out of the way, the door finally came open.

I really didn’t want to buy another Kwikset latch since the last one had let me down so bad, but I want to be able to use the same key as with the rest of the house, so I went with another Kwikset lock, which has a Smartkey system where you can train the lock to any key you want. Took about 5 minutes to install.

5 thoughts on “Front Door Gone Bad

  1. I called Kwikset’s customer support today to see what their lifetime warranty could do for me even though I’ve already bought a new doorknob. They said they would replace the part if I could fax them a copy of my receipt. So when I got home I started looking for a receipt from 10+ years ago. I have receipts in a few different places, but finally found it mixed in with the receipts from when I built the garage. So, yay, free doorknob! I think at first they wanted to just give me a new latch, but I told them the key would bind in the lock sometimes and I had a hard time turning the lock on the inside too. I have four exterior doors and my front door, which gets used the most, is the only one that has given me any trouble.

  2. After waiting a few weeks and not hearing anything or receiving anything in the mail, I called Kwikset back today. They said they got my fax, but apparently did nothing else. So while I was on the phone they ran the SKU number from the receipt. Since it was for an obsolete combination package that included the knob and dead bolt, they said they would send me a new combo set. I guess they usually charge postage, but since I had been waiting all this time, they waived that.

  3. I got the replacement knob today. It wasn’t a combo set of knob and deadlock, but some bizarre combination of a plain unkeyed knob for the outside and a turnbolt on the inside. No keys whatsoever! I will try calling again and see if I need to send them a picture of what an entry door knob looks like.

  4. I talked to customer service today and they said they would send a keyed entry lock this time. What they had sent before was for an interior door.

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