Last Updated on November 18, 2022
Portable door locks are locks that you take with you to secure a door other than your home’s. They are meant primarily for doors that don’t have keyed locks on them or doors that someone else can access via a key, access card or code (like a hotel).
Portable door locks will keep the door shut, even if one of the above credentials are used to protect the occupant.
Portable door locks are ideal for securing doors that don’t have a way of locking or doors where someone else has a way to bypass the lock. They will prevent the doors from being open, and even forced open, while you are inside. Though excellent in specific applications, you need to understand their limitations.
When to Use Portable Door Locks
Portable door locks are called “portable” because they are not typically meant for home use. Your home likely already has a lock on it: a deadbolt and/or a keyed entry door handle.
Since a home’s lock already takes a key to get in, it would not make sense to add a portable locking device to most doors because of How Portable Locking Devices Work.
Portable locks are made small, light, and easy to use.
Portable locks are used when you are in a temporarily location that does not have a keyed lock on the door, or when you feel someone might have the key for the door (or other method of entry into the room, such as by pin code or access card).
Portable Lock Uses:
- Staying overnight or renting a room in someone else’s home when that room does not have a keyed door lever/knob. Typically, bedrooms have privacy levers that can be bypassed easily. (see our YouTube video How to Open a Locked Bedroom Door). A portable lock creates a quick no-access door to ensure your privacy.
- Dorm Rooms. Many dorm rooms are master keyed or have keyless entry. This allows for room checks and other emergency access situations.
- Traveling. Key cards and keyless access allow hotel employees to enter locked rooms. Even the common door latch on the inside of most hotel rooms can be easily bypassed. A portable door lock will keep everyone out, while you are in.
There are two notable at-home exceptions where you might want to use a portable lock.
- If you fear someone with a key might get in, and you haven’t yet had the chance to have the lock rekeyed.
Maybe you’ve had a breakup or fired a worker that was in the home. Just throw the portable lock you use for traveling onto the door, and their key will no longer get them into your home.
- You are using a portable door lock that is not the “strike plate latching” type (see Portable Lock Types below).
Adding an additional lock that is not strike plate latching (such as the door jam type) will serve to distribute force on the door if there is an attempt to break the door in. If you expect such an attempt might occur, slap it on the door for added security.
Types of Portable Door Locks
There are two common types of portable door locks: strike plate latching and door jamming.
How Portable Door Locks Work – Strike Plate Latching Type
The frame of your door has a hole covered by a strike plate. Most of the easily portable, portable door locks, make use of this hole to prevent the door from being open.
Strike plate latching portable door locks have a metal bend or hook that gets placed into the hole underneath the strike plate. This latches the portable door lock to the frame. A second piece of metal attaches to the first perpendicularly. When pressure is applied to the door, this second piece of metal blocks the door from being opened while the first piece of metal, held firmly within the strike, holds the second piece of metal firmly in place.
You can find portable door locks on Amazon at very affordable prices.
Portable Door Jams
Portable door jams secure the door via pressure. They are usually wedges placed at the bottom of the door. When pressure is applied to the door, the wedge is forced into the ground to hold he door in place. The more pressure on the door, the more the wedge is forced into the ground to resist.
Better portable door jams are made of metal (usually aluminum). Less expensive jams are simply made of rubber and won’t offer as much resistance / protection.
Our favorite portable door jam (pictured) can be found on Amazon for less than $30
Portable door jams can be used inside a home to strengthen a home’s door from being kicked in by distributing force to another point on the door; whereas, strike plate latching portable locks offer no additional protection from force when a keyed lock is already present because it uses the same securing (latching) mechanism – i.e. the strike plate.
To protect your door from a forced entry, we wrote a detailed Evaluation of Door Barricades and Jams in this article.
Issues With Portable Door Locks
Only Useful While You are Inside
While portable door locks can give added security while you are in the living space, they cannot be in use while you are out of that space.
Can Only Be Used on In-Swinging Door.
In addition, they are limited to only in-swinging single doors. They won’t work on sliding doors, doors that open outward, double doors, and they may not work on doors over 2” thick. Some mortise lock designs may not be compatible, as well, (the mortise bolt design may be too wide) and those type lock sets are often used in hotels.
No Additional Protection Against Forced Entry with the Strike Plate Latching Type
Strike plate latching portable door locks are useful on doors where there is no keyed lock or you suspect someone can access the lock via key, code or pin.
But they don’t do a ‘better’ job than an existing keyed entry set does. Adding it to a keyed entry lock gets you no addition forced-entry protection unless you believe someone has the key to bypass the existing keyed entry.
This is because the securing mechanism is the same. They are both relying on the same strike plate to protect the door.
In too many doors, that strike plate is secured by only 3/4” long screws and under force, the frame will split and the screws rip out.
To learn how to prevent this, see our blog on “How to Reinforce an Entry Door” for ways to make a door more resistant to attack.
The door jam type of portable lock is better if you suspect force to the door will be an issue AND there is a lock already on the door of another type.
More of Our Favorite Security Products
Smart Locks: Access Your Locks via Smart Phone. You’ll find some of our favorite smart locks that allow you to control home access and monitor entry in our Amazon Smart Lock Shop. Watch our Smart Lock Comparison Video on YouTube fore reviews of the most popular Smart Locks.
Sliding Glass Door Lock: The best arcadia door lock that stops your sliding glass door from being lifted out of it’s tracks and to prevent little ones from opening the door and leaving the home. Check out the video on YouTube and Buy it on our website.
As an Amazon affiliate we make a small commission if links in this article are used to purchase product on Amazon.
Robert has been the Owner of ACME Locksmith, Arizona’s #1 Rated Locksmith, since 2007. ACME has provided locksmith service to over 160,000 Phoenix houses and businesses.
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