Unlocking the Mysteries of Locks, Keys, and Safes

How To Open a Door with a Broken Knob

Many residential doors are equipped with a knob lock that rotates on a spindle from both sides, when you turn the key or push the button. You may experience a broken doorknob, leaving you stranded outside the door. You don't usually have to kick the door down or even call a locksmith in this situation. Follow these steps to open a door with a broken knob.

Open the Door on the Side without Screws

To open the door, gather:

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • flat-blade screwdriver
  • hex key
  • butter knife
  • PVC siding piece or similar flat object
  • pliers

How you open the door depends on if you can access the screws under the knob, which will be hidden or exposed. Check around the knob for set screws. You may have seen doors open with a credit card in movies, but credit cards seldom have the needed leverage.

Insert a butter knife, a piece of PVC siding, or another similar long, thin object three inches over the doorknob between the door and frame. Slide the knife down until it contacts the latch, press the knife in, and wiggle it back and forth to free the bolt. If the latch isn't all the way into the mechanism, press a flat-blade screwdriver tip on the latch to help move it back into the mechanism.  

Unlock the Door with Exposed Screws

To detach exposed screws, rotate the screws to the left using a screwdriver, which should help loosen the knob on that side. If it doesn't fall from the door after unscrewing, simply pull the knob to remove it from the door. 

To loosen the opposite knob, look for the lock mechanism hole, press the tip of the flat-blade screwdriver, and turn it. The tool will commonly move just one-fourth of an inch, but this is enough movement to loosen the knob. Pull the screwdriver back and try to open the door.

Open a Door with Hidden Screws

Hidden screws are commonly located on the throat of the knob. Detach the screws using the flat-blade screwdriver and the hex key. Use the screwdriver to detach the screws from the face plate.

If you don't see screws on the face plate, look for a small slot on the edge of the plate. Slide the tip of the flat-blade screwdriver into the slot, and remove the cover plate to expose an adapter plate holding the latch. 

Attempt to turn the spindle with the pliers to free the latch. If this fails, detach the adapter plate screws, then the plate. Remove the spindle, press the screwdriver shaft into the spindle hole, and pull the screwdriver from the jamb while you open the door. 

If these steps don't work, you might have a more serious issue on your hands. If so, it's time to call locksmith services in your area to professionally address the problem.