Quick fixes for common door lock problems (© David Madison/Getty Images)

In the home — as in life — it’s often the little things that matter. And it’s amazing how many small structural things can go wrong around your house. Whether it’s the front-door lock that won’t let you into your own home or the cracked window that won’t keep the cold out, small household problems can have a big effect. For most of these, there’s no need to call for a repairman — the solution lies in tapping your ingenuity and using a few common household materials in innovative ways. Even when it seems that the roof is falling in — or the floor is opening up beneath you — there are often simple ways to solve larger problems on your own.

Lock mess monster

Quick fixes for common door lock problems (© Popular Mechanics)

You try to open your front door but the key sticks as if you were pushing it into a wad of chewing gum.

The quick fix
Over time, lock tumblers can become misaligned and clogged with all kinds of gunk. The way to ensure your key makes a clean entrance and exit every time is by providing effective lubrication that won’t add to the gunk. The best is powdered graphite. Also check frequently used keys for roughened edges. Gently and carefully use a nail file to smooth burrs off the key tip.

Cold war

Anyone who has lived in a cold climate knows that frozen locks go with the territory.

The quick fix
According to David Lowell, director of training and certification for the Associated Locksmiths of America, it’s a matter of bringing the heat. “If the lock to your house is iced over, remove the ice from the opening of the lock cylinder and carefully heat the key with a match or lighter. If you don't have a match or lighter, place the key on your car’s engine block or radiator until it’s very hot. Holding the key with your gloves on to avoid burning your fingers, insert the key into the lock and work it gently back and forth until the ice melts and the cylinder turns.”

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Safety’s sake

The lock on your sliding glass door (if it exists at all) is about as substantial a theft deterrent as a picture of a guard dog.

BingAll thumbs? Find a locksmith.

The quick fix
Cut down a broomstick or mop handle to fit snugly in the floor channel in which the doors slide open or closed. When in the channel, the stick will jam and prevent anyone from opening the doors.