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Locked in Desperation: The Gripping Tale of the Non-Opening Door

Updated: May 31, 2023

A door handle comprises three crucial components: the latch, lever, and spindle. Each of these elements plays a significant role in the proper functioning of the door handle and ensures its usability and security.



Although most uncommon, it is on occasion when a door fails to open. When the door is already open it is more of an inconvenience. Whereas with a door closed and not opening it becomes a most distressing situation. Lets take a look at cause and effect.

Firstly, the latch is an essential component of a door handle that is responsible for securing the door. It consists of a metal mechanism that extends from the side of the door into the door frame, holding the door in place when it is closed. When the door handle is turned or pressed, the latch retracts, allowing the door to open or close smoothly. The latch is designed to provide a secure and reliable means of keeping the door closed, preventing unauthorized access.

Secondly, the lever is the part of the door handle that is physically grasped and operated by individuals to open or close the door. It typically consists of a sturdy metal or plastic material shaped in a way that allows for a comfortable grip. The lever is designed to provide leverage, making it easier to turn the door handle and engage or disengage the latch. The ergonomic design of the lever ensures that users can effortlessly operate the door handle, promoting convenience and ease of use.

Lastly, the spindle serves as the connecting mechanism between the lever and the latch. It is a cylindrical metal rod that runs through the door handle, connecting the lever on one side to the latch on the other. When the lever is operated, it rotates the spindle, which, in turn, activates the latch mechanism to open or close the door. The spindle ensures a direct transfer of motion from the lever to the latch, allowing for a reliable and efficient operation of the door handle.

In conclusion, the latch, lever, and spindle are the three crucial components of a door handle. Together, they enable the secure locking and unlocking of doors, facilitate comfortable and convenient operation, and ensure the smooth functioning of the door handle. These components work in harmony to provide an essential aspect of any functional door, promoting safety, accessibility, and ease of use.


When a door fails to open, the issue is typically attributed to one of three components: the door lever, the latch, or, albeit rarely, the spindle. These components are critical to the functionality of the door and can contribute to the door's inability to open smoothly.

The door lever, being the part of the door handle that is directly manipulated by individuals, is prone to wear and tear over time. If the lever becomes loose, damaged, or misaligned, it may fail to engage or disengage the latch properly. This can result in difficulties in turning the lever or even render it completely non-functional, leading to the door's failure to open.

The latch, responsible for securing the door when it is closed, is another common culprit behind a door's failure to open. If the latch mechanism becomes stuck, jammed, or misaligned, it may prevent the door from opening smoothly. This can occur due to various reasons such as debris or obstructions interfering with the latch, or internal components of the latch becoming worn or damaged. A malfunctioning latch can make it challenging or impossible to retract the mechanism, rendering the door immobile.

Although less frequently, the spindle can also contribute to a door's failure to open. The spindle connects the lever to the latch, enabling the transfer of motion when the handle is operated. If the spindle becomes bent, broken, or disconnected from either the lever or the latch, it can disrupt the proper functioning of the door handle, impeding the door's ability to open.

When a door fails to open, the primary culprits are usually related to the door lever, the latch, or occasionally the spindle. Issues with the lever's integrity, latch mechanism, or spindle connectivity can all contribute to difficulties in opening the door. Identifying and addressing these specific components' problems is crucial for restoring the door's functionality and ensuring smooth and hassle-free operation.


The Lever Failure



If a lever on a door fails and we have access to the fixing screws, it may be possible to remove the lever from the door. The fixing screws are typically located on the interior side of the door handle, allowing for disassembly and potential replacement of the lever. By unscrewing these fixing screws using an appropriate screwdriver, the lever can be detached from the door.

Removing the lever provides an opportunity to inspect it for any visible damage or signs of wear. Common issues that can cause lever failure include loose or stripped screws, a broken internal mechanism, or general wear and tear over time. If the lever appears damaged, replacing it with a new one may be necessary to restore proper functionality.

When removing the lever, it is important to handle it with care and keep track of any small components, such as washers or spacers, that may come loose during the disassembly process. These small parts may need to be reattached when installing the new lever or can be replaced if damaged or missing.

Once the lever has been successfully removed, it is advisable to consult with a hardware or door specialist to identify a suitable replacement lever that matches the door's specifications and style. They can provide guidance on selecting the appropriate lever and assist with any additional installation steps or considerations.

If a lever on a door fails and access to the fixing screws is available, it is possible to remove the lever from the door. By carefully unscrewing the fixing screws, the lever can be detached, allowing for inspection and potential replacement. Seeking professional advice and assistance is recommended to ensure the proper selection and installation of a new lever, ensuring the door's functionality is restored effectively.


If you do not have access to the fixing screws you may need to call for a locksmith or DIY-person to tackle the task in hand.


The Failed Latch



When a latch fails and prevents a door from opening, a possible solution is to attempt to push the latch tongue back using a credit card or a similar thin, flat object. This technique can be employed if the latch is misaligned or stuck, hindering its proper operation.


NOTE: This will only work if the curved side of the latch tongue is facing you. i.e. the door closed towards you. If the door closed away from you, the flat side of the latch tongue is facing you. That would require a different tool to disengage the latch.

To initiate the process, the credit card is inserted between the door frame and the latch side of the door, where the latch tongue is located. The card is positioned just above the latch tongue, allowing for pressure to be applied in a downward direction towards the door frame. By firmly pressing and wiggling the card, it can potentially push the latch tongue back into the door, disengaging it from the strike plate and allowing the door to open.

It's important to note that this method may not always be successful, as it depends on the specific circumstances and the severity of the latch failure. If the latch is severely jammed or damaged, or if there are underlying mechanical issues, it may not respond to this technique. In such cases, it is advisable to seek professional assistance from a locksmith or a qualified door repair specialist to resolve the latch problem effectively.

Additionally, if attempting the credit card method, care should be taken to avoid damaging the door frame, the credit card, or any other components. Gentle and controlled pressure should be applied to prevent any unintended consequences, such as bending or breaking the latch or damaging the door or surrounding area.

If a latch fails and prevents a door from opening, using a credit card to push the latch tongue back can be attempted as a potential solution. However, it is important to assess the severity of the latch failure and exercise caution during the process. If the latch remains unresponsive or the problem persists, it is recommended to seek professional assistance to ensure a proper and safe resolution.


Removing the levers will allow access to the latch body. You may be able to manipulate the spindle to retract the latch tongue and open the door.


When a latch fails it will require replacement. If you can extract the latch from the door, replacement is the reversal. If you find it more difficult you should engage a locksmith or DIY-person to undertake the task.


The Ill Fitting Spindle


There are a range of spindles including half, threaded, split, quatro, flat, blade, etc.

In rare instances, issues related to the spindle of a door handle can cause problems with the door's functionality. One possible problem is when the spindle is the wrong size, meaning it doesn't fit properly within the door handle mechanism. This can occur if a spindle of incorrect dimensions or incompatible design is installed during the assembly or replacement process. When the spindle is the wrong size, it may not properly align with the lever and latch, resulting in difficulties in engaging or disengaging the mechanism. This can lead to the door handle failing to function as intended, making it challenging to open or close the door smoothly.

Another rare issue related to the spindle occurs when half spindles, which are typically used in certain types of door handles, become dislodged or misplaced. Half spindles are shorter than regular spindles and are designed to work with specific lever mechanisms. If a half spindle becomes loose or disengaged from the lever, the lever will not be able to properly engage with the latch. As a result, attempting to operate the door handle will have no effect on opening or closing the door.

In both cases, resolving the issue with the spindle may require inspecting the door handle assembly, identifying any incorrect or dislodged components, and making the necessary adjustments or replacements. It is advisable to consult with a professional or a knowledgeable individual who can provide guidance on correctly identifying and resolving the spindle-related problem. They can help determine the appropriate spindle size or address any dislodged half spindles to ensure the door handle operates smoothly and the latch engages properly.

Overall, while spindle-related problems are rare, they can result in issues with the functionality of a door handle. Whether it's due to the wrong size spindle or dislodged half spindles, it's crucial to identify and rectify these problems to ensure the door can be opened and closed effectively. Seeking professional assistance can be beneficial in such cases to ensure the correct resolution and prevent any further complications.


Solving the Crisis


When faced with a closed door that cannot be opened, there are a few methods to alleviate the situation, with the door lever and latch being the primary components to consider. Firstly, check the door lever and ensure it is in the proper position. Sometimes, due to accidental movements or misalignment, the lever may be slightly off, preventing it from engaging with the latch properly. Gently push, pull, or jiggle the lever to ensure it is in the correct position and attempt to open the door again.

If manipulating the lever does not resolve the issue, focus on the latch mechanism. Inspect the latch to see if it is properly aligned with the strike plate on the door frame. Sometimes, the latch can become misaligned or stuck, preventing it from retracting when the lever is turned. To address this, apply gentle pressure to the door while attempting to turn the lever. This can help realign the latch with the strike plate, allowing it to retract and release the door.

Another approach to opening a closed door involves checking the latch tongue's position. The latch tongue is the part of the latch that extends into the strike plate. In rare cases, the latch tongue may become partially dislodged, obstructing the door from opening. To resolve this, use a thin, flat object such as a credit card or a sturdy piece of plastic. Insert the card between the door and the frame, above the latch tongue. Apply downward pressure on the latch tongue while attempting to turn the lever. This can help push the tongue back into the latch, allowing the door to open.

If these attempts prove unsuccessful or if the door remains firmly closed, it may be necessary to seek professional assistance from a locksmith or door repair specialist. They possess the expertise and tools to address more complex issues with the door lever, latch, or other components that may be causing the problem.

In conclusion, when faced with a closed door that cannot be opened, it is important to consider the door lever and latch as the primary culprits. By adjusting the lever's position, ensuring proper alignment of the latch, or manipulating the latch tongue, it is often possible to alleviate the situation and open the door. However, if these methods fail, professional assistance should be sought to diagnose and resolve any underlying issues with the door's components.


At Architectural Design Hardware our showroom is open to all. We are here to offer advice and insight into the door hardware magic.


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