Why is my door handle stiff? How to Fix Door Knob Sticking

Troubleshooting a Door Knob Sticking

Is your front door handle sticking? You can try removing it from the door. This will give you better leverage and help you to get things moving. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the handle. In some instances, the door handle might be secured with bolts instead. Set the extra parts aside in a small storage container or bag to avoid losing them while you work.

Look at the rear of the door handle’s plates to see whether there is any obvious dent, breakage or other sign of malfunction. If not, take a look at the spring on the door handle to be sure it isn’t damaged.

If you find that the door handle looks intact, you can apply some WD-40 to try to get it moving again. It could simply be that the handle is seized, says More Handles. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace the door handle.


Tools required for fixing door knobs and handles

No matter what type of door handle you’re working with, a loose knob can typically be fixed with a simple tightening of the inner screws.

Here’s what you need to fix a loose door knob:

  • Screwdriver – that’s compatible with your handle
  • Small flathead screwdriver (or straightened paperclip depending on the type of handle)
  • Rag for wiping away any residue
  • Loctite Threadlocker Blue 242

Replace your set screws

Perhaps one (or both) of your set screws is worn down to the point that that it doesn’t hold the knob on the shaft securely. These should be pretty easy to replace. There are lots of suppliers online that sell replacement doorknob set screws, also known as grub screws. You may also be able to find them at your local hardware store. If you think your set screws are the issue, replacing them should cost less than $5. If you are still experience problems after this fix, there are still a few more simple things to try.


Popular Types of Doorknobs

Exposed set-screw Doorknob

This doorknob has a set of exposed screws which secure the handle to the threaded spindle and is often the most common way of attaching a doorknob. This version is often easier to tighten up a loose doorknob over that of a concealed screw doorknob as you can easily see how the doorknob is secured into place and how all the parts will fit together.

Hidden screw Doorknob

Although the screws cannot be seen there are still screws holding the doorknob to the spindle, much like the exposed set-screw doorknob. The major difference between the two is that all of the screws that hold together the doorknob are concealed behind a cosmetic faceplate.

Why Should You Hire a Locksmith?

  • Guarantee that the problem will be fixed

  • Saves time, frustration, and energy

  • Can provide extra advice on maintenance and upkeep

  • Should a mechanism or lock need to be replaced it can be done immediately whilst the Locksmith is on site

4. Door Maintenance


The door handle is not always the source of your trouble. Sometimes in order to fix door handles, you need to make adjustments on the door itself. Issues with the door can affect a door handle’s functionality. Everything from latches not locking to sticking door handles can be caused by a problem with the door. Most often the issue with the door is that it is misaligned. Doors naturally misalign as either the foundation of the property, the door, or the door frame, changes.

When doors lose their finish, the weather can cause them to change sizes. A buildup of moisture or even extreme dryness can incrementally affect the wood. Moving foundations can cause the bottom of entry ways to slant, interfering with how the door handles operate. To fix these issues, you can choose to work on the door and reshape it (removing wood until it fits in the doorway). In some cases, you can also adjust the strike plate on the door. Foundation issues should be addressed by a professional, but if the issues is with the deformation of the wooden door or frame, be sure to refinish the wood so that you can reduce the chances of needing to fix door handles in this way again.


The type of work you will have to do can vary quite a bit. It is also very difficult for an untrained eye to make these types of assessments without a bit of trial and error. However, there are a few things to remember when you are trying to fix door handles in this way:

  • Make measurements before you cut.
  • Sand down all areas that are cut until they are smooth.
  • Refinish the door and/or door frame after completing the work (especially after sanding).
  • Do not be afraid to remove the door to position yourself better with this work.

Recent Posts

Door Lock Is Frozen or Works Slowly

Exterior door locks can freeze, interior locks get dirty, and small internal parts eventually wear out or break. Before you buy a replacement door knob or lock, try some quick remedies:

Put some graphite into the lock’s keyhole, either by squeezing it from a tube or dusting it onto a key and pushing the key in and out. Then operate the door lock a few times to work the graphite into the mechanism.

Lock de-icers contain alcohol and other lubricants that help to dissolve gummy, dirty deposits. The last resort is to disassemble the lock to see if something has jammed or is broken—you may be able to set it straight or replace the part without buying a whole new lock. Lock de-icers are available on Amazon.

Aerosol lock de-icer thaws and lubricates a frozen
Aerosol lock de-icer thaws and lubricates a frozen lock. Victor

1. Removing Rust



Rusted parts in a door handle can lead to many types of mechanical failures. Most often people will seek to fix door handles that are not operating smoothly by removing rust. This is a very recognizable issue because often rust is outwardly visible on the door handle. When something looks old, it is a popular idea to try and fix or replace the device. It is a good strategy, but external rust build up does not always coincide with internal oxidation. This is especially true if the outside of the doorknob has been cleaned without addressing the interior parts of the handle.

Rust is not always the reason for jammed door handles, sticking latch bolts, etc., but if you do see rust, it is best to fix door handles that are affected. All forms of rust on any type of door handle can create complications to functionality, but the largest issues can arise with keyed door handles. When there is a locking mechanism, many of the small internal parts can rust or become jammed due to rust. When you fix door handles that are rusted, be sure to address the smaller components of any locking mechanisms.


  • Vinegar (Preferably with 5% Acidity)
  • Baking soda
  • Metal clear coat spray
  • Container(s) (enough or large enough to submerge every part of the door handle)
  • Water
  • Water basin (dry to start)
  • Phillips Head Screwdriver (if the handle is secured with screws)
  • Rose Catch Tool (if the screws are concealed under a rose plate)
  • A Rag or Piece of Cloth
  • Scrub brush and/or toothbrush


  1. Expose the set screws on the door handle.
    • If screws are already exposed, proceed to next step.
    • If the knob or rose plate itself is screwed on with threading on the hardware, there will be no screws to expose.
  2. Take the handle off of the door.
  3. Carefully take the handle apart.
    • Deconstruct the handle to the full extent possible.
  4. Place all pieces of the door handle in the containers.
    • Make sure that no part extends past the lip of the container it is placed in.
  5. Pour vinegar into the container(s).
    • Pour enough to submerge each part entirely.
  6. Leave the door handle parts to sit in for one day.
  7. Drain the vinegar for the containers.
  8. Move the parts to the dry basin.
  9. Coat the parts with baking soda
    • This neutralizes the acidity of the vinegar.
  10. Pour water onto the baking soda covered components.
  11. Scrub remaining residue off the components.
  12. Dry with the towel.
  13. Coat the dry door handle components with your metal clear coat spray.
  14. Spray one side at a time, and allow each side to dry before doing the next.
    • This clear coat will keep the metal from re-rusting quickly.
  15. Reassemble the door handle in the door.
  16. Tighten the screws.
    • If the knob or rose plate is threaded, turn the hardware to the right in order to fix door handles.
    • If an additional tool is needed to grip the handle so that torque can be applied effectively, place a cloth or rag over between the tool and the handle to prevent scuffing or damage to the finish.
  17. Reinstall any covers.
    • If the screws were exposed already or the door handle assembly was rotated to fix the door handle, there will be no covers to reinstall.
  18. Test to make sure the door handle actuates the latch correctly.
    • If the door handle uses locking mechanism, test all the ways of locking.

Fixing the Loose Doorknob or Handle

Fortunately, fixing a loose handle or knob is not hard and can be done by following four simple steps once you have determined the types of door knob or handle your company has.

1. Remove the Knob or Handle

Exposed screws If exposed screws are being used, you will have to find the set screw, which is normally found on the inside of the door. Using either a screwdriver or Allen key, loosen the set screw and remove the handle, which will uncover the shaft. If it is a threaded shaft, you will have to twist the shaft’s handle to make it flush with the door. Provide a little space for the knob to spin correctly by backing it up a bit. Then tighten up the set screw. For an unthreaded shaft, you can easily set the knob or handle back on the shaft and up to the door face before you tighten the set screw down.

Hidden Screws To display the hidden screws, you will have to determine where the detent access hole is when looking at the knob. The detent is a pin that is spring-activated and sticks out of the little hole in the knob preventing it from rotating. When you locate the pin, using a flathead screwdriver, press down on the pin and from the spindle shaft, remove the handle.

2. Remove the Base

After you have separated the doorknob from the spindle shaft, remove the base. Carefully pry the ring loose slowly using a flathead screwdriver and avoid damaging the backing plate since it could be destructive to the whole lockset.

3. Find the Screws and Tighten

After you have removed the ring successfully, you should be able to see the set of screws. They run through the door from the inside backing plate into the outside backing plate which holds the whole assembly together. Holding the outside backing plate to keep it from moving, tighten each screw separately.

4. Restore the Base and Put the Handle Back On

Snap the ring back on the backing plate. You can now put the handle back over the spindle shaft. Once completely on the spindle shaft, turn the handle to line the holes up with the detent and click into place.

After following these steps, you find the handle or doorknob is still loose or continues to fall off, it might be time to call us here at Great Valley Lockshop by calling (610) 644-5334, emailing [email protected], or filling out our contact form . We’ve been helping Chester County businesses and homeowners with their locksmith needs since 1973, and we can help you too!

Install a new doorknob

If none of these fixes work, maybe it’s time to buy a doorknob kit at the hardware store. Luckily, installation is pretty simple. Remove the knob as previously instructed, and then unscrew and remove the plate that goes against the edge of the door. You will then be able to remove the old hardware and install the new hardware by reversing the process. Check the labels on the new hardware to make sure it’s the same type as the old one. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to bring the old hardware to the store with you for comparison. And with that, you’ll finally be able to close the door on another successful home repair.




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