The key keeps turning in the lock but not unlocking – Locks Cabin

Locks are not airplanes, however, they have some moving parts such as tailpieces and cylinder tubes. Eventually, high usage might lead to different scenarios where lock replacement is required. We will break down the questions into a small fraction of possible outcomes

If the key keeps turning 360 degrees, but not unlocking then in 90% of cases it means that the tailpiece is broken or detached from the cylinder. If you are outside the door and have no other locks to open with your key, you will have to drill that failed lock. If you are inside the house and the key keeps turning, remove the screws from inside and replace the lock with a new one.

Whether it is a commercial or residential lock, mortise cylinder, or simple deadbolt – all of them have a tailpiece that moves the bolt back and sits inside a frame which in turn keeps the door shut.

How to unlock the door lock which keeps the key turning?

If you are on the other side of the door and the lock is a deadbolt that keeps turning then you have to drill it out. Either you can call a locksmith or drill yourself. Drilling yourself might be a little challenging because you really need to know where to drill. Pins must be drilled out so that cylinder can freely move.

If you are inside your house then it is good news for you. Just unscrew the bolts and remove the lock. Most of the time you don’t have to call a locksmith. Unless you want to match for the same key you might want to call a locksmith, however, there is also a great tip for saving money

Buy a lock and let it be re-keyed in the ACE hardware store. We are not sure if every Ace hardware provides in-store locksmith services, but some have a dedicated small corner that can cut a key, program some car keys and rekey locks. They are considered a light version of locksmiths since they cannot do something complicated that requires field expertise by facing many various challenges or having expensive tools. Therefore, they might not perform more advanced jobs but mostly simple locks rekey that customers bring to them. Guess that is what exactly needs most people do when it comes to saving money.

How to prevent key spinning (tailpiece failure) from happening?

The key turns without unlocking a lock happens when the tailpiece fails. There are two major possible reasons why this happens. You should fix the issues described below if you don’t want to get locked out and eventually replace the whole lock set.

Tension applied on tailpieces created by increased screw tightening. Most conventional locks have simple designs and structures. Two long screws are inserted from inside of the lock and screwed all the way until they meet another side of the deadbolt. You keep tightening screws until you feel it’s getting harder to push. Don’t use electric tools to screw the bolts.

The Key won’t turn smoothly when you try to lock or unlock the door. Those are the first signals that failure is coming. You either overtightened both screws which smashed the latch by the internal and external cylinders. Or common reason is a misalignment. The latch is not going smoothly into the frame hole simply because as time goes door tends to incline due to weight. So, once in a few years frame hole needs to be enlarged or the plate moved to fit the coming latch as a butter


I am Rauan, I have over 4 years of experience as a locksmith tech and then as the owner of my own company. I live in Houston, TX, and love to provide valuable insights related to locks. Enjoy reading

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