Statement: My front door is rebelling against me!
Solution: There are lots of reasons this can happen but none of them make coming home to a doorknob that comes off in your hand any better. All things — old or new, cheap or expensive – eventually fail. Sadly, nothing lasts forever. The hallmark of a good product is its ease of repair once that happens. Some front door fiascos are actually easy fixes – nothing a little troubleshooting, a couple bucks and a screwdriver can’t take care of.
Some exterior door sets have a thumb latch on the exterior and a knob on the interior. That knob screws onto something called a split spindle. Sometimes knobs lose their threading if their set screws are not tight enough. The knob wiggles, and then the soft metal (usually brass, sometimes pot metal) wears down. You know this has happened if you see square corners instead of circular threads. Unfortunately, at that point, the knob is beyond repair. Use it in a craft project and come get another one(Bringing in the original knob, functioning or not, can help with finding a replacement faster, so before you glue it to something or put a bird on it, bring it in to pick out a new one).
The split spindle can also be worn down if the knob’s set screws are tightened down too tightly on the wrong part of the spindle. Accidentally tightening the screw down on the edge of the threads can ruin them, making the knob hard to screw on and/or contributing to rattling that can permanently decommission the knob. When tightening a set screw down on a spindle, try to rock the knob gently back and forth until you can feel the screw settle on the flat side of the spindle, preferably on the solid side, in the case of split spindles. In the long run, this will help save both the knob and the spindle.
For those of us, myself included, with old door sets that have a knob on both the interior and exterior of the door, the trouble shooting is just as simple. Usually one knob is the offender. Sometimes it’s a knocked-out knob, or a bad spindle like above. Other times it’s as easy as a missing set screw. All threaded things that are frequently handled will unthread themselves with time and agitation. (ed.’s note: That’s deep, Foley.)
Some knob sets work with square shank knobs that have no threads on the interior shaft of the knob. These knobs attach with set screws that screw into the spindle itself. The screws can work themselves loose and are easily lost. People go wrong replacing those missing screws with whatever is lying around the house. Sometimes a bolt, a wood screw, or even a drywall screw. DANGER! Using an object with the wrong threading and size destroys the spindle and can destroy the knob itself.
In either case, dealing with a loose or rogue door knob sooner, rather than later, will save you lots of frustration and cash.