Your car is the second most valuable investment after your home. It makes mobility easier and faster and above all, it’s among the investments you can stay with the longest provided you take good care of it. But, just like machines, your vehicle can unexpectedly break down or develop problems. One of these problems that are super common among most car owners is car door won’t open from inside or outside.
Now, the reason why your car doors are prone to this problem is that they’re the most used parts of the vehicle. In fact, sometimes it’s impossible to count the number of times you’ve used your car doors in a single day. So, following regular opening and locking of the door, sometimes they can develop problems such as failure to open and close.
If you read most automotive forums, you’ll see most people complaining of stuck doors. If you’re among those people, how do you fix this problem? That’s exactly what this short guide will be discussing. So, here, we’ll not only look at how to fix the problem but also detail some of the common causes of a sticky car door. That said, let’s begin.
How Does a Car Door Lock Work?
Before we discuss the reasons why your car door lock fails to open, it’s important that we first understand the working mechanism of a car door lock. By doing so, it will be far much easier for you to diagnose the problem.
Now, your car door lock system consists of various components that include the interior/exterior handle, the latch, actuator, actuator rods, and a series of cables. Inside the car, there’s a locking button while outside, there’s the handle. These two components are what we see when locking or unlocking the doors of our cars.
But, inside the door panel, there are other components that are invisible. If you have an automatic vehicle, your doors will have electronic sensors or magnets. Now, when you pull the door, whether from inside or outside, a cable attached to a rod is activated. This cable either pulls or pushes the door lock mechanism to open the door.
In the case of a computer-controlled door lock, a radio signal is sent to the key controller module. This signal comes in the form of a system command that directs the main computer to either lock or unlock the doors. Depending on the level of security you’ve installed in your car, the computer-controlled system can give more security commands such as remote start the car, kill the ignition, or lower the windows.
Reasons for Car Door Won’t Open and their Solutions
1. Deadlock is Activated
A deadlock is a security feature that’s common in most modern vehicles such as Volvo and BMW vehicles. This technology was introduced back in the 1980s and has been in use for several decades now. When your car doors are deadlocked, then it means you can’t access the inside of the car unless you have the keys.
In most cases, this feature is activated when unauthorized persons try to gain access to your vehicle. The best thing about it is that you can easily access your vehicle provided you have the keys. However, if you don’t have the keys to your car, then deadlock will be a huge concern for you.
How to Fix:
Now, there are two ways you can fix a deadlock issue. One is by using the car keys, which we’ve already discussed earlier, and the second is by getting a professional auto locksmith to help. Here, the locksmith will navigate your car’s specific type of deadlock. From there, he’ll determine the best course of action without having to break the windows or damage the doors.
2. Damaged Door
If you happen to bump your vehicle onto something, or maybe you’re involved in an accident, there’s a high chance that the doors will fail to open from the inside and outside. In most cases, the accident might have compromised the locking mechanism of the door or the door might be dented making it hard to free itself from the door frame.
If this is what you’re seeing, then the first step is to confirm the locking mechanism is working. Next, confirm the issue is not caused by a deadlock.
How to Fix:
Once you’re sure the problem is caused by structural damage to the door, the next course of action is to have a mechanic repair or replace the door. In this situation, a locksmith will not be your go-to solution as the problem is not the locking mechanism.
3. Broken/Damaged Lock
In most cases, a broken or damaged lock is caused by an accident that causes substantial damage to the door. Now, in most cases, a damaged lock can disguise itself as a deadlock. However, with a deadlock, you can use the car keys to open the doors. But, in case the car keys fail to work, then it means you’re dealing with a damaged lock.
Now, a damaged door lock can occur to one door or multiple doors. If it’s just one of the doors, then you can use the other doors to access the car and repair the problem while inside the car. But, if it happens to multiple doors, then you’ll be forced to call a professional locksmith to diagnose the problem.
How to Fix:
If you’re an average driver, the best course of action is to call a professional mechanic to check the problem. Here, your mechanic will remove the door panel to access the locking mechanism. From there’s he’ll check for any loose or broken rods and cables that are causing mechanical failure to your door lock. After accessing the situation, your mechanic will either repair or replace the faulty door lock.
4. Issues With the Door Handle
Another problem that can cause your car door to jam is a damaged door handle. A door handle is a very crucial component that lets you open the door after you’ve unlocked it. So, in case it’s damaged, opening the door will be very challenging for you. Some of the common causes of damaged handles are broken or worn-out springs.
How to Fix:
Unless there’s any other underlying issue, fixing a door handle is easy and should be done by a professional mechanic. In case of a replacement, you need to get the exact door handle that matches the previous one.
5. Frozen Door
If you’re driving in cold regions, then there’s a possibility that your door might be frozen. You see, freezing temperatures come with many effects. One of those is freezing the components of your door’s locking mechanism making it hard for you to open the doors. Sometimes, the ice can affect one of the doors and in extreme cases, it can affect all the doors.
How to Fix:
So, if this is what you’re going through, then the best course of action is to drive your car to the garage. But, if the doors can’t open from the outside, then it’s better if you diagnose the problem at that exact spot. Here, you’ll need to thaw the doors with some warm water to melt the ice.
6. Accumulation of Dirt and Rust
If you’re trying to turn the key and you realize that it’s sticky, then there’s a possibility that the locking mechanism has accumulated dirt and rust. You see, not all car parts are the same. Some parts are made of stainless steel while others are not.
If yours aren’t, then there’s a possibility of the locking mechanism catching rust. Once the rust builds up, it weakens the latch materials causing the latch spring to break in the process. When this happens, the locking mechanism gets jammed making it impossible to unlock the door from inside or outside.
How to Fix:
In this scenario, the first step is to confirm that everything is intact (the latch spring isn’t broken). Next, pick your preferred spray lubricant and get ready to lubricate the locking mechanism. In most cases, you can use WD-40 as a short-term solution or dry lubricant as a long-term solution.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How Do I Open the Door if the Keys are Inside the Car?
The best thing about this scenario is that the locking mechanism is not at fault. The only problem is locking the keys inside. So, here, it will all depend on whether you’re a professional or an average driver. If you’re a pro, there are several ways you can open the door such as using a bobby pin, using a coat hanger, using shoestrings, and using a sling jam among others. If you’re an average driver, the best thing is to call a locksmith to unlock the door for you.
Q2. Why is My Car Door Not Opening?
Just as we’ve discussed, there are many factors that can cause a door lock to jam. The problem can be due to a damaged handle, broken lock, a deadlock issue, or a buildup of dirt and rust in the locking mechanism. So, to solve this issue, you need to inspect various components of the locking mechanism to get to the exact problem.
Q3. How Much Does it Cost to Repair a Door Lock?
Now, your car’s locking system consists of many components that include the actuator, metal rods, switch, handle, lock cylinder, and lock mechanism. Depending on the exact course of the problem, an auto repair shop can charge you anywhere from $50 – $200 to repair the door. If it’s a car dealership, they’re likely to charge you anywhere from $200 – $600 to fix the problem.
From dirt/rust build-up, and deadlock activation, to damaged handle, various issues can cause your lock mechanism to jam and prevent you from opening the door from inside or outside. Thankfully, this short guide has offered you some useful solutions on how to fix the various problems.
One piece of advice though; always avoid hitting, kicking, or slamming the door just because it won’t open. Doing this might worsen the situation and perhaps lead to more damage. Instead, you should get a professional locksmith or mechanic to fix the problem.