How to stop your bike lock from jamming

Of course, it’s important to have a good lock and know how to use it. However, if you’ve ever put your key in your lock and it hasn’t opened as easily as it once did, it’s time for a little TLC. Here’s what you need to know about maintaining your bike lock…

Clean and lubricate the mechanism

There is nothing worse than having a lock jam while in use (unless you couple a cold, wet, dark night into the scenario). Once it is jammed there is not much you can do to instantly fix the situation other than cut the lock. You can follow the maintenance steps below to get it working again, but it takes time. Therefore, your best bet is to keep the lock in good working order before it jams.

Can of GT85

Locks usually jam because they dry out and seize up, often due to water ingress. GT85 is a wonder substance. It can clean most things and it gets complex mechanicals working again smoothly. It is also a water displacer and therefore the best thing you can put into a lock to keep it working smoothly.

Spray a little GT85 into the lock and leave it for a few hours (overnight is best). You can put the GT85 into the locking mechanism and the holes where the lock itself inserts if you want to, this will of course vary by lock type. This will displace any water inside the lock and clean it out a bit. Wipe away any excess in the morning.

In the morning, add a little 3-in-1 and move your key around to work the oil in. Your lock should be good as new!

Note: There may be a little excess oil over the next few weeks, so keep your lock away from your favourite white t-shirt (either in a separate part of your backpack or store the lock inside a plastic bag).

Do not use WD-40, this is not a lubricant.

Lock with keyhole pointing down

Ideally you want to stop water and other crud from getting in in the first place, which you can achieve by locking with the keyhole pointing down. Even if a lock has a cover to slide into place, as most Kryptonites do, this will be most effective at preventing anything getting into the lock.

Bike locked with Knog Strongman

This is the wrong way to lock your bike!

An added bonus is that as you should be trying to make your lock as tight around your bike and locking object as possible, having it pointing down will make it even harder to pick. It may also help deter people from maliciously shoving things into your locking mechanism to disable it.

Insert the key gently

Sometimes you really want to just get going on your journey without the faff and bother of locking/unlocking your bike and sorting everything out. You may be in crush to get somewhere or be running late, we all know how it can be – the process of locking up is sometimes a frustrating drag, even though it really doesn’t take very long. Obviously, it is best not to rush so you don’t accidentally fail to properly lock your bike.

Kryptonite lock

A further issue around rushing your bike locking manoeuvres is potential long term damage to your lock. If you insert your key into the lock too vigorously and force the barrels into position with it, in the long term you risk damaging your key by rounding off the edges and making it harder to unlock your bike. This is a particular problem with Kryptonites as they rely on the barrels all lining up internally and can often require a gentle jiggle with the key as it is going in. It can get irritating and so you will be tempted to force it (I have done this myself with one of my locks that is always a bit finicky to open).

Do you have any other lock-care advice that has proven its worth over the years? Please share it below!

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7 Responses to How to stop your bike lock from jamming

  1. Phil 23/06/2016 at 4:58 pm #

    WD 40 has always helped me out. I find my NY kryptonite locks need a good spray 2-3 times a year.

  2. Andy ZE 23/06/2016 at 8:12 pm #

    Locking upside down also makes lockpicking more difficult.

  3. JohnO 24/06/2016 at 10:54 am #

    A useful article, I’m wondering if cleaning/oiling the lock liberally will prevent thieves from sabotaging a lock with superglue?

  4. Iain 24/06/2016 at 10:55 am #

    GT 85 is a great chain lubricant too.

  5. Dermott Murphy 25/06/2016 at 8:35 am #

    I tend to use Kasp Dry Microfine Graphite Powder Lock & Padlock Lubricant. Effective but don’t overdo it

  6. MIchael 28/06/2016 at 1:59 pm #

    Locking upside down not only reduces the chance of lock-picking, not only reduces the chance of attack by power drill, but also reduces the chance of someone pouring superglue into it.

    Keeping the key way well lub’ed also helps prevent some toe-rags getting superglue into it. I use WD40, GT85, chain lub, the lot – and I leave the key hole and surround well splashed with the stuff.

  7. Dexter 29/06/2016 at 2:45 pm #

    Kryptonite will send you a replacement key if you still have your existing one – they just need the key number and a small fee to cover postage. A new key was all I needed when mine started jamming on a regular basis. A comparison revealed I had indeed worn down the key, be gentle! d

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