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Getting Your Locks Ready For Winter

The Winter is coming! The Winter is coming!

No need to be alarmed, I hope.
With the onset of Winter, come unique problems that can affect your locks on your home and your car.

The most common is “Lock Freezing”.coldlock1

Because of the climate in the South, with all the humidity which can make outdoor activities down right miserable on our 98° days (and sometimes nights). In the Winter, when temperatures dip below freezing, the water in the air, as it condenses on surfaces, freezes as well.

snowmageddon14 Because most of our locks are exposed to the outside air, the humidity enters them, usually via the keyway, on  a  constant basis. As it cools, it condenses into a microscopic layer over the pins and springs inside your lock.

This, then freezes, effectively “locking” your lock, by freezing the springs and pins in place. For some unknown cosmic reason, this tends to happen just when you get home from work, it’s dark out, and you have just spent hour crawling through Rush Hour traffic. Not fun.

Sometimes while out shopping, in the lot at work, in just driving, or even in your own driveway – you will encounter, rain, puddles, splashes and even snow cast off from a snowplow. Although, if last Winter is any yardstick, a snowplow may NEVER come your way. Even melting and re-freezing ice can be a problem.coldlock3

These can have the effect of forcing water, sometimes under pressure, inside your vehicle locks. The mercury drops and then, you have an icy mess inside your lock.

This problem crops up more often in older vehicles. Auto locks generally have a spring-loaded dust shutter over the keyway, it is designed specifically to keep dust and moisture out. Older vehicles, with locks which have seen a lot of use, may lose a small amount of ‘spring integrity’. The spring might be weakened, broken or in any case, just loose enough to allow water to enter the lock.coldlock2

Some Preventative Maintenance is in order. My favorite Stand-By and Go-To solution happens to be – Good Ol WD-40®.  (see the post “Lubrication: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya”)  WD-40® is a lubricant, a cleaner AND, it repels water. wd40

Almost everybody has a can laying around in a drawer, a closet or out in the garage. It’s a good solution and readily available. So here’s how to apply it to your home and car locks:
1) You can use the provided straw (IF you can find it, the ALWAYS get lost somehow) and spray a SMALL burst into the keyway. It needs to be small, since WD-40® can clean away some of the lithium grease which is necessary for the automobile-lock wafers and linkages inside a car door to operate smoothly.

2) You can slather a bunch onto your key. This is actually the BEST way.

Either way, you will need to insert your key into the keyway and draw it in and out a few times, remembering to turn the key in both directions for the ENTIRE range of the turning radius.
This will put a very fine film overlay on the pins or wafers in the lock and effectively repel moisture.

Here are some Bonus Tips:

1) Make sure you have a rag handy to wipe off any fluid that might drip out of the lock. WD-40® can cause stains on your paint and wood, so clean it off promptly. You should also wipe any excess off of your key when you are done.

2) Depending on the weather conditions, you most likely will need to repeat this periodically through the season.

3) If you do have broken or missing dust shutters on your car locks, it is very important to replace them to keep your locks in good working order.

4) Check the weather-stripping on your car. Cracked, broken or missing weather-stripping can allow water to enter between the door and the car body. This too can freeze into ice and not allow your car door to open at all. Additionally, dripping water can foul or short out your vehicle electronics, such as electric door locks, mirrors and windows. This goes doubly so for weather-stripping on your windows.

So, let’s all get prepared for Winter, winterizing your locks is easy and quick and can save you lots of time and trouble later on. Don’t forget to stock up on necessities before the next “Snowmageddon”!

SnowstormKitWhat? No Cheetos?


Lubrication: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya

A lock will usually last you a life time. Occasionally, with a great deal of use, parts might break. There are a lot of parts inside your lockset. Springs, clips, latches etc. Now, some of the Major Brands are cutting down on manufacturing costs by using less metal in their residential series. Parts that were once solid are now being made with a skeleton like appearance. Something tells me they are not as strong and durable as they used to be. Some are even inserting PLASTIC and NYLON parts where they once were metal. Most of the ‘store brand’ and ‘builder’ hardware manufacturers are NOT doing this however. Also,locks available for sale from your Locksmith are ‘generally’ a little better quality than what is available in the big box hardware stores.

Still, I have seen residential locks lasting 50 years and more. I have some old warded mortise-locks on some of my doors at home. They use a bit-key, what is commonly known as a ‘skeleton-key’. They will be 90 years old next year, and they still operate smoothly.

2011723600So, besides the “Lifetime Finish” meeting an early demise, the most common problem you might encounter, will most likely be a ‘sticky lock’.
When you purchase a new lockset from the hardware store, it comes packed with lithium grease as a lubricant. This will normally last for several years. Direct sunlight, freezing temperatures all serve to break this down and even harden the lithium. 5 or 10 years from purchase may require a fresh application of lithium to the interior of the handles.

You’ll probably want to call a Locksmith for this, since we know where the lithium grease should be applied.

BUT … there are some steps you can take yourself to keep your lock cylinders and latches operating smoothly.

1)Teflon Powder. This is the absolute best! Liquid sprays with Teflon in them are not the same thing though. Teflon actually bonds to the metal and offers some protection from oxidation too. It is rather expensive,and Teflon is poisonous. But it works.

2)WD-40. Really, regular ol’ WD-40. It is a “cleaning lubricant” you need very little of it. It takes a single small ‘burst’ in the key-way, or just spray some on the key itself. Stick the key in and turn the lock back and forth a few times, wipe off the key and you’re done. WD-40will clean out the lock and lubricate it, but it will also attract dirt too. So repeat this once about every 6 months or so.

3)Aero-Kroil is similar to WD-40, it is used when there is severe corrosion. It is hard to get as it is industrial, but a single can could last you for years.

WD-40 is probably the easiest and most available, almost everyone has a can somewhere around the house. A little dab’ll do ya!

Now, here are some things to NEVER DO.

1) Oil. There is actually an oil sold for locks. It should never be used.

3N1Years ago there were little picture icons on the can, a sewing machine, hinges and a padlock. Oil, as it ages and is subjected to temperature changes (especially heat) will eventually turn into a hard shellac-like substance. It turns gummy and can actually destroy your lock. I have had to soak antique locks in kerosene to remove the film and clean them. 2)Graphite. Well, graphite isn’t TOO terribly bad. But, here in Georgia, however, with the humidity, it tends to clump up inside the lock. Also, it’s the same material that pencil ‘leads’ are made of nowadays, the dust can leave marks on your door and be transferred from the lock to your hands or even your pockets. Some folks swear by it. I don’t recommend it though.


3)Improper Installation. This actually accelerates the corrosion process.
When your lock is upside down you now have the pins inside your lock sitting on top of the springs. Eventually they will compress the springs down until they no longer ‘spring’ back. Also, any moisture or grime which enters the lock will now fall into the pin-stack and cake up and cause even more corrosion and oxidation than would occur with a properly installed, right side up lock.

inside-lockWith many locks, you just need to remove the 2 screws holding it to the door and reverse the position. Some locks require you to also reverse the latch or the bolt too. There are some locks which require tools to reverse the lock. Your Locksmith will have these tools and the ability to do this for you. Also, make sure your lockset is screwed down tight on the door, little gaps created when your lock is loose allow water, dirt and even insects in.

As always, Ariel – Reliable Locksmith is available to you, either to perform the work for you, or to consult on the phone with you with good and tested advice.

Remember, call, even if you just have a question.