Over time, padlocks can become stiff from dust, rust, and other debris. Applying oil might seem like a good idea to restore the lock’s functionality. But should you oil padlocks? We've consulted with the experts, and here’s what they recommend.
It’s not a good idea to put oils like linseed and sewing machine oil to lubricate padlocks. These substances can gather dirt, dust, and other small debris, causing the issues in the locks to worsen. Applying a dry lubricant is a better option than using oils. Apply the product by following these steps:
- Remove dust and debris from the lock.
- Apply the dry lubricant.
- Tap the lock to spread the lubricant.
- Insert the key into the lock to check the restored functionality.
- Let the lubricant dry.
- Test the lock again after the lubricant dries.
If you need more details about oiling padlocks, don’t worry. In this post, we’ll tackle this topic in detail. We’ll talk about the products you should avoid and use in lubricating padlocks. Plus, you’ll also learn the reasons why padlocks become stiff. Without further ado, let's get into it.
Why Is It Not Good To Oil A Padlock?
Don’t put linseed, motor, or sewing machine oil in the padlock in an attempt to lubricate it. These oils can actually attract dirt, dust, and other small debris, which will only exacerbate the problem.
Use a dry lubricant that can reduce and prevent friction between objects without leaving a residual mess. Dry lubricants also prevent gunk buildup, making it a better long-term solution.
Why Is My Padlock Stuck?
A stuck padlock doesn’t mean it’s unusable. Here are a few reasons why padlocks don’t open:
The keyway is the interface that prevents the lock from moving the wrong way. It also prevents the lock from opening if you insert the wrong key. But a blockage or clog in the keyway can cause the lock to become stuck.
Small particles can get into the padlock’s keyhole, becoming obstructions to the keyway. A broken key can also become lodged into the keyway, causing the padlock to become stuck.
Removing these obstructions is the solution to restoring the padlock’s functionality. A hairpin or paper clip can help remove things like dust from the keyway. However, you may need a key extractor tool to remove broken keys.
Shackle padlocks have metal loops that open and close to put the lock in an open or closed position. Sometimes, the shackle will only open partially or not at all. In this situation, it might be because the cylinder that spins the shackle met resistance, causing it to become jammed or wedged in its place.
The origins of these wedges can be from different small objects, such as rust, tiny rocks, or wooden splinters. Determining the cause of the blockage will help you fix the issue.
Again, you can use a hairpin or paper clip to remove objects like rocks and splinters from the shackle’s mechanism. Otherwise, use a rust remover to clear the blockage.
Damaged or Destroyed Actuator
The actuator is generally at the back of the padlock. Its job is to retract the locking pawl (the part that pulls the shackle from the closed or locked position) when the plug turns. Excessively using the padlock can damage or destroy the actuator, leaving it in a stuck position.
At this point, the keyway is no longer usable, rendering the padlock useless. Therefore, the only way to get the padlock unstuck is to cut it open. You can use a pair of bolt cutters for this job.
You might also be thinking about replacing the damaged padlock with a deadbolt. Find out the price of a deadbolt by reading this post: How Much Does A Deadbolt Cost?
What Can I Use To Lubricate A Padlock?
Use graphite to lubricate a padlock if you’re in a hurry. Graphite acts as a dry lubricant, so it can help the key fully slide into the lock. Follow these steps to lubricate a padlock using graphite:
- Rub the key’s teeth with the graphite from the end of a pencil.
- Slide the key and turn it into the lock.
- Repeat the above steps as necessary until the key slides into the lock smoothly.
Take note that graphite will become detrimental to the padlock’s functionality if you add a liquid-based lubricant into the lock. Graphite can mix with liquid lubricants, causing gunk buildup to the lock’s internal parts. Therefore, it's best to only use pencil graphite as a last resort.
Teflon lubricants are better solutions to using graphite in lubricating padlocks. Take note that Teflon is the brand name for the chemical known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This synthetic compound has non-stick and water-resistant properties that help reduce friction between objects.
Is WD-40 Good For Padlocks?
WD-40 is a multi-use product and not a lubricant, contrary to what many people might believe. If used without other lubricating substances, WD-40 may help smoothen and remove the stiffness from things like padlocks.
On the other hand, the water-displacing properties of WD-40 can remove existing lubricants in locks.
At first, it might seem like the lock has restored some of its smoothness with the application of WD-40. However, the residue left by WD-40 can dry up the existing lubricant, causing the lock to become stiffer than before.
How Do You Loosen A Stiff Padlock?
Frequent maintenance with an appropriate lubricating product can prevent a padlock from getting stiff. Here are the steps to oil or lubricate padlocks properly:
- Blow the dust and debris out of the lock’s internals with pressurized air.
- Apply an appropriate product like a dry lubricant in the padlock’s keyway and shackle. Make sure to apply the product sparingly. Applying a significant amount of lubricant may cause the padlock to malfunction because of the over-lubricated parts.
- Tap the lock a few times to let the lubricant seep into the different parts of the lock.
- Test the padlock by inserting and turning the key to check if it functions properly.
- Let the lubricant in the padlock air dry.
- Once dried, test the lock again to see if it’s still usable.
WD-40 may help restore a stiff padlock's functionality. However, this product isn't a lubricant but a water-displacing substance. Instead, use Tri-Flow to lubricate the stiff padlock. This product is an industrial lubricant that penetrates padlocks and other objects to help remove their stiffness.
In some cases, the lock isn’t the issue but the key. Damaged or worn keys can make it seem like the padlock is stiff. Getting a new key that’s up to code can solve this issue. Find out more about making an extra key in this post: Can You Make A Key From A Lock?
You may also check out this video to learn more about how to remove a padlock’s stiffness:
Removing issues like stiffness from padlocks doesn't require oil. It's best to use dry lubricants or make a new key that is up to code to solve the problem.
You may also use the graphite from a pencil’s tip if you’re looking for a quick solution to lubricate a padlock. But take note that this short-term solution comes with drawbacks.