7 fixes to try if your car's power door locks won't work

November 19, 2014

If your car power locks are keeping you out of your car, there may be some easy ways to unlock the problem. Here are a few you can try.

7 fixes to try if your car's power door locks won't work

1. Check the battery

You don’t want to be kicking yourself later because you missed something so obvious. If you use your key fob to open and close car locks and not much happens, check to make sure its battery isn’t dead or dying.

  • Just like your car, your key has a tiny battery that must be replaced from time to time.

2. Replace the key fob

If that doesn't solve the problem, you may have a faulty key fob.

  • Go to a dealer and they will be able to hook up to the computer that controls your keyless entry and make sure the key fob is still programmed.
  • If the key fob isn’t sending a signal, it will need to be replaced.

3. Try the other doors

Before ripping off a door and changing the wiring when it doesn't open, check the other door locks first.

  • If they don’t work, then there’s a good chance that you might have a blown fuse.
  • This can usually be fixed with a simple replacement.

4. Consider the solenoid

If the other doors work, the problem could possibly be the door lock solenoid.

  • If this is the case, your regular mechanic can diagnose the problem. Then, if necessary he or she can remove the car door panel and replace the solenoid.

5. Defrost the lock

To check an individual lock mechanism, work the door lock manually up and down (or backwards and forwards in newer vehicles) while using the auto lock button at the same time. Just make sure the key is "on".

  • If the lock "tries" to move, then the problem could be a frozen lock mechanism or a faulty solenoid.

For a frozen lock, you can use a hair dryer (or the flame from a match or lighter) to heat the key or the lock mechanism itself, to thaw it out.

  • Another option is to use a lock de-icer or even a battery-powered key that heats up and melts the ice.

6. Try spray lubricant

If the lock is still  sticking, then get a can of multi-purpose spray lubricant and use the supplied tube to spray inside the lock mechanism.

  • Let the lock sit about 10 minutes and then it should open easily.

7. Open and close the driver's side door

If the door lock doesn’t seem to be getting power, hold the door lock switch in the up or down (in newer cars ‘locked’ or ‘unlocked’) position and slowly open and close the door a number times to see if the lock attempts to work.

  • If it does, there’s probably a broken or partially broken wire in the hinge area. You or your mechanic will have to pull out the wiring and check for breaks or cracks.
  • It's not a good idea to try the windows.

Car power locks offer great convenience, with remote key access and one-button locking and unlocking for all your doors. But with more mechanisms and electronics involved, the greater the chance of something going awry – which doesn't even consider "smart key" technology, a feature more car manufacturers are expected to offer in the future at a higher cost.

  • While some problems are minor and can be addressed by the DIY enthusiast, to ensure the job is done properly may require the know-how of a certified auto locksmith.
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