Loose doorknobs are a common problem on frequently used doors around the home. Sometimes, the doorknob or lever loosens, so it spins on its spindle. Other times, the lockset's mounting ring and faceplate become loose and pull away from the surface of the door. How you fix the problem depends on the design of your doorknob or lever and how it is fastened to the spindle and the door.
How to Tighten a Loose Door Handle
Equipment / Tools
- Screwdriver (flathead or Phillips)
- Allen wrench (if needed)
- Paperclip or awl (if needed)
- Set screw (if needed)
When the doorknob spins loosely on its spindle, the cause is usually a set screw that has loosened and lost its grip on the handle spindle. This is almost always a problem seen with older doorknobs since new models have knobs that use a different mechanical system to secure them to the spindles.
Identify the Screw in the Doorknob Collar
Look around the collar on the doorknob, and identify the set screw that is threaded into the collar. This screw may be a flathead screw, a Phillips-head screw, or sometimes a recessed hex-head screw.
Use whichever screwdriver or wrench is appropriate to tighten this screw and firm up the doorknob's grip on the spindle.
Take Doorknob to Hardware Store if Necessary
If the set screw has been lost, take the doorknob to the hardware store to buy a replacement screw.
Loose Faceplate With Exposed Mounting Screws
On many newer, less expensive locksets, the faceplate—the round plate that fits against the door surface itself—has two exposed screws that may loosen over time, causing the doorknob mechanism to wobble loosely. When this occurs, it's an easy matter to simply tighten these screws to snug up the door again.
On lever-style handles, you can almost always access the mounting screws easily. With round doorknobs, though, you may need to remove the knob in order to make the faceplate mounting screws accessible to your screwdriver. The doorknob may be attached with a set screw (see above) or with a detente button or slot.
Tighten up the faceplate with a screwdriver. If the screws have detached completely from the mounting threads on the opposite side of the door, you may need to begin threading them by hand before using the screwdriver.
Be careful not to over-tighten the mounting plate. It is possible to tighten so far that the inner mechanism binds up, causing your lockset to not work at all.
Loose Faceplate With Hidden Mounting Screws
On high-end newer lockset, the mounting screws holding the lockset mounting plate to the door may be hidden under an outer faceplate.
To get at these mounting screws, the doorknob/lever are first released by depressing a spring-loaded catch, known as a detent, and sliding the knob/handle off the spindle. There are three common ways to access and depress the concealed detent which secures the handle:
- Small round hole: This type is found commonly on lever-style door handles. To depress the detent, use the end of a metal paperclip or the point of an awl, inserting it into the hole and pressing the detent down while twisting and removing the door handle shaft off the spindle.
- Slotted hole: This type is usually found on round doorknob hardware sets. To depress the detent, insert a small flat-blade screwdriver through the slot to press and release the detent while twisting and removing the doorknob off the spindle.
- Button: Button-style detents are often found on less expensive round doorknob hardware sets. They have a button that is near flush with the surface of the doorknob shaft. Depress the button using an awl or tip of a small flat blade screwdriver while twisting and removing the doorknob off the spindle.
Pry off the faceplate—a decorative trim plate that covers the lockset mounting ring. Sometimes this is a simple friction-fit ring that can be pried off the spindle; there may be a small notch in the place designed for this purpose. With other styles, the faceplate is threaded and removed by unscrewing counterclockwise.
Tighten the long screws that secure the lockset's mounting ring to the door. These screws generally run all the way through the door and secure to the lockset mounting plate on the opposite side. Tighten until snug.
Once the lockset is tight, reinstall the decorative faceplate and the doorknob.