How to Diagnose and Fix a Bad Lock Actuator
If you go to unlock your car door with the remote and find the interior car door lock is stuck in the unlocked or locked position even after pressing the button a few times, it can be concerning. Power door locks should work and a car door that won’t lock or unlock is an obvious safety concern and nuisance. Even if the doors won’t lock or unlock with a remote key or key fob, there are solutions and chances are in this case it’s a bad door lock actuator. This article will explain why this happens with defective door lock actuators, how to confirm a broken door lock actuator is the cause, and how to replace one to solve this problem.
How to Open a Car Door with a Broken Door Lock Actuator
Signs a Broken Door Lock Actuator Is Causing a Stuck Door Lock
After pressing the key fob or remote key:
- The inside door handle lock does not unlock or lock.
- The inside door handle lock moves slightly but not enough to engage the lock.
- You hear a clicking mechanical sound inside the door but the lock is stuck.
Why Are My Car Door Locks Stuck?
If the remote or key fob won’t lock or unlock your car’s interior door lock and the lock is sticking, a bad door lock actuator or a stretched or loose door latch cable could be the cause.
Broken Door Lock Actuator
If the mechanism in the door lock actuator is binding and fails to lock or latch consistently, the cable that pulls on the latch is not going to have enough force to unlock the door.
Broken Door Latch Cable
A stretched or loose door latch cable might also not have enough force to unlock the door.
Video on How to Diagnose Why Your Car Door Locks Are Stuck: Bad Door Lock Actuator or Door Latch Cable
How to Diagnose a Door Lock Actuator and Cable for Stuck Door Locks
- Remove the Door Panel
Remove the door panel. If you can’t open the door because it’s stuck in the locked position, you might have to remove the seat and remove the door panel from inside the vehicle, like in the video above
- Disconnect the Door Latch and Door Handle Cables
With the door panel removed, unlatch the inside door latch cable and door handle cable
- Test the Door Latch Cable
Press the remote and watch the door latch cable for movement. If the cable has difficulty pulling, it could be the cable or door lock actuator that is causing stuck door locks
- Remove the Door Lock Actuator and Cables
Remove the door lock actuator and the cables attached from the door
- Check the Cables’ Connections
Check if the latch cables are connected to the door lock actuator. If the door lock actuator works as intended, the cable might be stretched
- Test the Door Lock Actuator
For a better look at the actuator, remove the cover of the actuator, press the lock or unlock button, and watch the internal parts for loosening, breaking, or binding. If there is a problem with the internal parts, replace the actuator.
How to Replace a Door Lock Actuator Yourself
Replacing a door lock actuator is an achievable repair for amateurs. The steps will involve removing the door panel, disconnecting the door handle rods and cables, and removing the door lock actuator. Check out the video below for an idea of the steps. To find videos specific for your year, make, and model, check out 1A Auto’s how-to video library.