lolwut? – Seattle's Maple Leaf Locksmith LLC – (206)335-4559

Lock battery fail – you ought to use AA batteries

Saw this one today, customer bought a house and wanted me to rekey all of their locks, was wondering why the electronic lock didn’t work. I have never seen this in my life. You pulled AA batteries out of it, why would you put noticeably smaller batteries in it? AA and AAA alkaline batteries do actually put out the same amount of voltage at 1.5V but AAA will only last half as long and being shorter might mean that the lock only works intermittently. Those springs are designed to push up against a longer battery. Most locks use AA or 9V batteries. If in doubt it probably says in the battery compartment what kind of battery you are supposed to use!

While on the subject of batteries and locks I should also throw this out there: not all batteries of the same form factor put out the same voltage. A AA battery might put out 1.2 to 1.6V. If the lock requires 4 batteries and is expecting 1.5 volts from all of the batteries but only getting 1.2 it is a voltage drop of over 1V, and it might not be enough for the lock’s motor to turn. Rechargeable batteries don’t usually put out 1.5V, they put out 1.2V, and the lock will not work reliably. Failed electronic locks are one of the top reasons I get called for lockouts. Most devices are still designed for alkaline batteries. Lithium batteries are of different chemistry but put out 1.5V too. Alkaline batteries maintain the correct voltage for longer too, rechargeable batteries will quickly lose voltage. That is fine for a flashlight, it only gets dimmer. For things with integrated circuits and stuff that needs a more regulated voltage it will more likely stop working altogether.

When you change the lock’s batteries keep your eye out for corrosion of the terminals. Rust is obviously bad. If you see a white powder that is probably leaked battery acids which solidify into metal salts. Careful cleaning that stuff, if you scrape it off the spring terminal it could fly in your eye. Vinegar will dissolve it and then you can wipe it up. Don’t go being an idiot and pour vinegar into the battery compartment, apply it with a q-tip or something. A bunch of vinegar sloshing around in the lock will not do the circuit board any favors.

When I got into safe work some years ago I noticed the main thing safe guys like to obsess about is batteries. All locksmiths are obsessed with lubricants and which one is the best, safe guys are very particular about batteries. Brand and expiration date mostly. If you want to watch a safe guy’s head explode call them and say you have a warranty issue about a safe lock they installed and make sure there are dollar store batteries in the keypad and claim that they installed those batteries. They will go Tasmanian Devil on you, frothing at the mouth while sputtering and choking out guttural sounds that might remind you of “Energizer” and “Duracell” as they knock everything down around them like a whirling dervish with crossed wires.

These things also matter to your electronic deadbolt: Duracell batteries with an expiration date several years in the future will last a lot longer than some batteries you found covered with a curious sticky substance and cat hair at the back of the bottom shelf at TJ Maxx.

Sometimes doors sag because of negligence

There are many reasons for doors not shutting correctly. Loose hinges, frames not connected to anything, pivot hinges wearing out. Today I encountered one that was heretofore alien to me: negligent installation. There were maybe 30 holes on this continuous hinge and the people who installed it only tapped and installed about six or seven screws, and those not very well. As a result of installing about 20% of the screws the door was sagging and the frame was bent. What screws were actually installed had been driven in at a jaunty angle so that the heads were sticking out and would prevent the door from shutting all the way.

When I saw this I told the building superintendent that this was installer negligence and they should call whoever installed it to fix it for free. The building owner came over and told them that it was normal to only install a handful of screws and to prevent this from happening one should put threadlocker on the screws! That’s the biggest load of malarkey I’ve heard in weeks and I listen to NPR every day.

Continuous hinges are an amazing development and they can last for decades, but only if they are installed correctly. I can’t imagine who would half-ass a continuous hinge installation and if they were going to why they wouldn’t screw in the top ten highest hinge screws. Maybe they forgot their ladder?

That isn’t a strike plate!

The DIY crowd too busy to read the instructions sometimes does things that are just bananas, like installing this deadbolt faceplate in place of a strike plate. The hole in this faceplate is just barely larger than the bolt intended to sit inside it, so it would be nearly impossible to lock this door. Strangely enough, the deadbolt actually worked. Whoever installed this deadbolt measured very carefully!

This is a deadbolt face plate installed as a strike plate. The hole is the same size as the bolt so it is very hard to use this deadbolt.
This picture shows the faceplate of a deadbolt installed as the strikeplate. This would mean that the door must be perfectly positioned to lock the door because the faceplate hole is the exact same size as the bolt. If the door sags or the building settles this will stop working immediately and if the door is locked when this happens it will be very difficult to unlock the door without taking the lock apart.

Read the Instructions

I wonder why the door won’t close?

The thing about ordering locks for doors is that you have to know a few things to minimize labor of installation. What prep is the door? How thick is the door? What is the backset of the lock supposed to be?

Whoever installed this lock didn’t know that there are two backsets for this lock and they ordered the wrong one.

More pictures of screwed up lock installations

I get these all the time. Many of these problems could have been solved if people had just read the directions. Most locks come with installation directions and locks are designed to be much easier to install than they were 30 years ago.

This was on the outside of an apartment building. You could reach through the hole in the door and unlock it if your hand is small.