Door Latch Won’t Retract When Closing – What To Do?

A door latch holds the door closed, and if it doesn't retract, your privacy is diminished. But, of course, nobody wants to be locked out of their houses, so one has to do all that's possible to get it repaired by a locksmith or you. Yes, you. 

If you have the correct tools, repairing a stuck door is possible, but you first have to learn the basics and understand how door locks function. 

Before getting to the main business, it is important to understand the parts that make a door latch. With this knowledge at your fingertips, solving the problem by yourself is much simpler.

Opened wooden door with latch handle, Door Latch Won't Retract When Closing - What To Do?

Parts that make a door latch

Latch or bolt

The bolt is the piece of metal located inside the door, extending from the door to the frame. Its role is to hold the door closed. There are two main types:

Spring bolt

This type of bolt is held in place using a spring clip. It is compressed to unlock the bolt, and when released, it springs to the lock position.


This type of bolt has no spring mechanisms. Instead, it uses a key or a knob to unlock or lock from the inside.

The cylinder

The cylinder or lock body is where you insert the key. When the door is locked, the cylinder engages in a sequence of spring-loaded pins to prevent the cylinder from moving.

To open the door, you simply insert the key to push the pins up to fit the height of the key in the cylinder. When the keys land in the right preposition, the door easily opens.

The box and strike plate

The strike plate is a metal plate attached to the door flame intending to guide the bolt from the cylinder to the box of the frame. Its role  is to ensure that the bolt extends from the cylinder to a square-shaped hole called a box.

What causes a door latch not to retract?

The locksmith inserts the latch for the door handle lock into the hole in the chipboard shield

A couple of reasons cause a door latch not to retract, which you should first find out before finding a solution. First, open your closed door and detect the kind of resistance force you sense.

If the door latch doesn't retract unless you turn the knob or won't retract even when you turn, the latch could be the issue. 

Turning the knob may be harder, so you need to pull the doorknob to release the latch. If you're experiencing the above problems, the issue is on the latch, and you will need to repair or replace it. 

Regardless of the type of door latch you use or the type of mechanism, the following reasons could be the cause of the problem.

Jammed door latch

In this case, the latch does not work well when you turn the handle and apply pressure on the latch. This problem is mostly caused by the build-up of some materials, maybe rust, dust, or the accumulation of other particles. This blockage restricts the latch from going all ways. 

Faulty or broken  mechanism

Sometimes an issue inside the internal mechanism of the door latch could cause it not to retract properly. It could be a broken element such as the spindle hole or even the spindle itself.

This problem breaks the connection between the door latch and the handle, resulting in difficulties when closing the door.

Furthermore, if you notice the door latch lacks steadiness and is slipping in and out instead of automatically retracting, something inside the mechanism may be damaged or broken..

Misaligned strike plate

The locksmith mounts the door lock latch plate into the groove of the wooden surface


A misaligned plate causes the door latch to be blocked only when the door is closed. 

In most cases, this misalignment occurs due to friction, damaged or faulty installation of the strike hole plate or the door latch, which should be reinstalled again.

Another possible cause could be the foundation of your house, which could be imbalanced, causing misalignments in the elements, including the door latch.

Also, moisture penetrating  through the wood results in inflation, which could be a possible cause as well.

If the issue keeps on occurring even after repairs, then the problem could be the foundation of your house, which could be an issue on another level that requires assistance from experts.

What are the simple steps to fix a door that is not retracting?

Depending on the fury of your door latch problems, fixing may require less or more expertise. 

It is possible to take care of the issue by yourself in minor issues, but consider hiring an expert if you distrust your expertise.

Simpler issues, especially when you have identified the problem, are much easier to take care of; you have to get the required tools and apply some adjustments.

Use a hammer 

Hammer with nails and screwdriver

Using controlled motions, hitting the latch a couple of times using a hammer is a great way to fix a jammed door latch in the occurrence of a minor issue or defect. 

However, if the problem lies inside the inside mechanism, this trick will only help you for a short period.

Tighten the screws

Failure to tighten the screws is one of the common mistakes people make when installing the door lock. This causes instability which eventually results in a door latch.

 A screwdriver is best to use in inspecting each screw and ensuring all are tightened.

Worker replacing house door latch

Adjust the spindle

When the spindle is unaligned with the door latch, it prevents the door from retracting, an issue referred to as a sticky latch, meaning the door won't return.

To adjust the spindle, rotate the thumb a couple of times to position the spindle correctly.

If this doesn't work, consider reinstalling the latch and realign it with the spindle if it doesn't work.

Clean the door lock

 As discussed earlier, the build-up of material or rust can eventually cause a door latch. 

If this is the case with your door latch, consider disassembling the door lock completely to enable you to locate the dirt and clean each crevice thoroughly, ensuring you have removed all the build-up.

If the build-up is hard to get off, use an old toothbrush to get all the dirt off and if the problem persists, dip your elements in vinegar and let them sit until the gunk dissolves.

The cleaning often prevents the build-up from forming and your door latch from hindering.

Lubricate the door latch

Adjusting inner door lock using lubricating oil

If you haven't changed the door lock for years, then there might be no significant blockage to remove it. Just add some lubricant to make the door retract fully.

Lubricants such as LIQUIFIX help clean, protect and penetrate the areas, drying out the damaging moisture. In addition, this product comes with a flexible straw that makes it possible to reach the door latch with ease.

Replace the door lock

If the internal mechanism of your door lock is broken or damaged, the best decision is to replace it altogether. 

Repairing a mechanical issue on your door lock, especially when you have used it for a long time, will cost you more, so the best advice is to invest in a new one.

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