Repairing a Broken Filing Cabinet Lock

A filing cabinet.
What You'll Need
Filing cabinet lock

A filing cabinet is a great addition to your home office because the filing cabinet lock can keep important papers and other items secure. A filing cabinet lock is not impervious to damage, however. Slamming a filing cabinet door can cause a filing cabinet lock to break or jam and filling it to capacity and beyond can cause the lock to bend as you close the door. All of these can make it difficult to open the drawer or render the lock useless. This article will show you how to repair a filing cabinet lock as well as how to replace one.

Step 1 - Open the Filing Cabinet

A man looks through a filing cabinet.

When a lock malfunctions it will usually cause the filing cabinet to jam, disallowing you access. If you cannot open the drawer, you cannot possibly fix the filing cabinet lock. One way to open a filing cabinet lock, assuming the filing cabinet is not too large or too full, is to turn it upside down. Many locks operate on gravity and turning the cabinet upside down and wiggling the drawer can cause the pins to fall and unlocking the drawer. This can also fix the lock if the cause was a simple jam.

You can also open the drawer by sliding a screwdriver between the top of the drawer and the cabinet. Push up on the screwdriver near the center to create leverage to pop the lip of the top of the filing cabinet over the metal latch. This can, however, damage the filing cabinet.

The final way to open a locked filing cabinet is to use a drill. Set the filing cabinet flush against a wall to act as a brace. Place the drill bit in the center of the filing cabinet lock and begin to drill. The power and torque from the drill will cause the lock to pop off from inside. This damages the lock and it will need to be replaced.

Step 2 - Remove Pins and Latches

The metal latch can become bent and cause the filing cabinet lock to not function properly. Use the screwdriver and remove the screws holding it in place. The lock will easily pop off from the drawer. Place the lock in the vice and use the wrench to bend the metal latch back to position. Place the lock back where it belongs.

If pins become bent you will need to remove the lock as well as open the lock casing. Bent pins are easy to spot and are easy to bend back using pliers. It is important to use gentle pressure in very small increments. Put the casing back together and use the key to try the lock before putting it back on the filing cabinet drawer.

Step 3 - Remove the Lock

A man looks at a filing cabinet.

When the filing cabinet door is open you can easily remove the filing cabinet lock. Use the old lock as a visual aid to purchase a lock that is the same diameter. Slide it into the hole of the previous lock and screw in place.