If you’re looking to replace your t-handle garage door lock on your garage door, you are in the right place! I’ve written this article after doing this job myself and finding very little on the internet that actually was helpful for me. So, what follows is a step-by-step guide of what I did to replace my garage door lock.
Specifically I’m going to be talking about replacing a t handle lock on an up and over garage door. Obviously, much of the information in this article might be useful for any type of garage door lock replacement, so do feel free to read on if you’re after some general tips about lock replacement.
Understanding the parts of the garage door lock
Ok so before we start off some instructions, it’s probably best to briefly mention what the different parts of a lock are called.
I’m no expert locksmith here, so don’t hate on me too much if I get something wrong!
The diagram below pretty much sets out what the different parts of a t handle lock are called.
As you can see, the main things to be aware of are:
- The spindle – this is the long bit of metal in the middle
- The spigots – basically those two prongs that sit either side of the spindle
- The handle – yup. No explanation needed.
How the lock attaches to the garage door
Now you know what the parts of a lock are called, it should be fairly simple to explain in a nutshell how it fits on to your garage door.
Basically, the spindle goes into the locking mechanism. And the whole lock is secured by two screws that go through the door and into the spigots.
Now we know that, it’s much easier to set out some instructions on how to replace your t-handle garage door lock.
Step one: Get some tools ready
I’ll keep this one short and sweet because you don’t really need a load of tools to replace your lock.
Obviously, you’ll need a replacement T-Handle garage door lock – these are cheap and easy to get hold of. I used this one, if you’re wondering.
After you have your lock, pretty much you’ll just need:
- A Phillips head screwdriver
- A flat head screwdriver
- A multi-tool (e.g. a leatherman)
You might also need a hacksaw (or metal cutting tool) – see step 3.
And that’s about it. Get out both versions of screwdriver because inevitably you’ll find at least one screw that’s not the right type!
Really important: keep the leatherman outside your garage at all times. When you remove your old lock, you might end up closing your door. With no lock it won’t open up, so keep your leatherman handy for an emergency open (more on that later).
Step two: Remove the old lock
First things first, you’ll want to remove your old garage door lock.
This is straightforward.
You do this by going to the inside of your garage door and unscrewing the screws that connect to the spigots in your old lock.
The screws should be easy to locate – they will be right on the other side from where your lock is.
Some garage doors may have a face plate over the lock area – you will need to take this off to access the screws if this applies to you.
Once you unscrew the spigots go back outside and you’ll be able to just pull your lock off.
If you can help it, don’t close your door at this stage. It will lock, and be a pain to open.
If you’re like me, and close the door automatically, don’t worry. Just get your leatherman, open up the pliers and grip and twist the opening which your lock-spindle goes into.
This will release your door catch, and you’ll be able to push it back open.
Then, once you’ve done that, put some sort of barrier at the base of the door to stop it closing completely. For me, this was an old towel. If you don’t do this, you’ll have to learn how to open a garage door without a key!
Step three: Modify your new t handle lock (optional)
If you look at the above picture you can see one really obvious difference between the old lock I had and the new lock.
Yup, you guessed it, the spindles are completely different sizes.
Now, if you find the same thing with your t handle lock, you’re obviously going to have to correct the size difference.
If you don’t, your lock isn’t going to fit on your garage door.
In reality, this is quite a simple fix. All you need to do is mark on the new spindle where you need to cut. And then cut.
Luckily, I have a brilliant mitre saw that cuts through anything so this took me all of two minutes, but if you don’t get yourself a hacksaw and get yourself a good workout.
This is definitely one of those tasks though where it pays to be really careful with your measurements. You don’t want to cut too short, and you don’t want to have to make repeat cuts.
Step four: Connect your new t-lock spindle to your garage door locking mechanism.
Now, this is pretty much the only vaguely tricky thing you have to do when replacing your garage door lock. I found this step a little bit of a head scratcher before I figured it out.
Basically, you need to put your lock into your garage door holes – in an ideal world, everything lines up and you’re able to check that it all works by twisting the handle and have the door open and close.
This didn’t happen for me.
For me, the slot which receives the spindle from the new lock was calibrated to work with the turning direction of the old lock. This meant that the slot was offset from the spindle.
You could put the new spindle in, but then the spigots wouldn’t line up with the holes. Nightmare.
The simple fix, which took me ages to figure out, was to pull down on the locking wire behind the garage door, and “jam” the turning slot in the position I needed it in. Then, once jammed, I could then put the new lock into the door, and everything lined up nice.
A much easier thing to do would be to get someone to put the lock in for you while you pull down on the locking wire… I realised that after I did it.
I did also try disconnecting the wire from the spring on the inside of the garage door, which removes tension in the locking wire. This allowed me to put the new lock in the door, but then when I reconnected it, I found that the handle didn’t turn enough to actually open the door…
Step five: Screw in your new lock
Once you have the spindle connected to your locking mechanism, and you’re happy that the handle opens the garage door (basically, you’re happy it works!), then it’s time to screw the t handle lock into your garage door.
This is really simple, and it’s just repeating what you did earlier.
Now, you might find that the new screws provided to you are too long etc. You can try to cut them down to size, but that tends to ruin the thread.
Or, you can do what I did, which was to use some tanalised wood offcuts to make up the size difference. Basically, now the screws go through some small pieces of wood, then the garage door, and then into the lock spigots.
It worked for me, and hasn’t caused any issues.
That’s it – you’ve finished replacing your t-handle garage door lock!
Hopefully by reading this, you haven’t been put off doing this job yourself. Given the fact that I ran into a few head scratch moments, locked myself out of my garage, and had to cut the spindle down to size, it still only took me around half an hour to finish.
Replacing your garage door lock is a really simple task, and quite interesting (in my opinion). This is definitely one of those DIY jobs that is extremely satisfying to do, especially if your lock was old and really insecure.
If you enjoyed reading this article, please do have a click around and read some more! Obviously, if you didn’t then … Well, you can’t please everyone. But, hopefully you recognise that it’s kind of refreshing to have a “how to guide” on the internet written by a real human, and not some corporate machine!