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What to Do If Your Car Door Lock Is Stuck in the Locked Position

You are running late for an important appointment, so you rush to the car expecting to hop in and get on the road. As you try to open the car door, it doesn’t open.

You attempt to unlock it. Oh no! The car door is closed and the lock stuck in the locked position.

Or, you have managed to open your car door and the car door lock is stuck. Now it won’t close!

Having a car door stuck in the locked position is incredibly frustrating and can be time-consuming. It can happen for a wide variety of reasons, most of which can’t be helped by the owner of the vehicle.

What do you do? Let’s go over the common causes, what you should do if the car door is locked, and when you should call a professional locksmith.

Before attempting any of these steps, you should always make sure that you are in a safe location. Calmly approach this. After all, if you rush, you could potentially damage your car, resulting in costly repairs!

Common Causes

When you have an issue with a locked car door that won’t open, it boils down to two issues. It is either an issue with the key or it is an issue with the car door lock assembly. Let’s look at some common causes for a car door lock stuck in the locked position.

Broken Key FOB

Most modern cars have a key remote or key FOB that allows keyless entry into the vehicle. If you are unable to unlock your car from the key FOB, it could be an issue with the battery or some internal working with the key fob.

This can be easily diagnosed by using the key to manually unlock your vehicle. If it opens with ease, you have a broken key FOB. This is an issue that may be solved with a battery replacement or you may also need to get a new key fob.

Broken Connections

One common reason the car door lock is stuck in the locked position is due to broken connections within the door panel or lock assembly. These include a broken link from either the handle, lock cylinder, or interior locking post/switch to the car door latch. If any of these components are broken or disconnected, it disrupts the entire locking process within your car door.

Whether one or all of these connections are broken, it can result in the car door being stuck in the locked position.

How can you tell if this is the issue?  If you can enter the car through a different door, you can attempt to open the jammed door from the inside.

Build Up or a Jam in the Car Door Lock

Many things can build up in the car door lock. Rust, dirt, and grime can easily build up and jam the car door lock in the locked position. Also, an internal part may have broken off, causing a jam.

So, how can you tell if build-up or a jam is your issue? You can try to insert your key in the keyhole. If you cannot fully insert it, then you have a clear sign of buildup in the car door lock. However, this will not be an issue if you use a key FOB to unlock your car.

Similar to a broken connection, this can be diagnosed by attempting to open the car door from the inside. You will need to open the door panel and attempt to move the assembly. Hopefully, you can troubleshoot what is blocking or jamming the car door lock.

Structural Damage

This is usually more common after an automobile accident, though a hard slam of the car door or trunk could also potentially cause structural damage in the car door lock. This can result in a bent or disconnected latch.

What Can You Do?

Now that you have narrowed down what may be wrong with your car door lock, it is time to try to fix it. What are some things that you can do, both with minimal skills and those that may be skilled with a toolbox?

Immediate Solution

If you need to get on the road quickly, and the car door is stuck closed, you can always get in through another door. Granted, this doesn’t fix your car door issue, but it will ensure that you can get where you are going in a pinch.

Be sure that the door is securely closed when driving. If the issue is that your car door is stuck open, you should not drive until it is fixed. Conversely, you should probably not drive if the car lock is stuck closed as well. In the event that you are in an accident, you will not be able to easily exit the vehicle. This could potentially put you in danger.

In order to open the car door, you can try the following steps:

  1. Locate the car door latch
  2. Locate the gap that catches on the hasp of your car door.
  3. Insert a thin and long tool (examples include a pen or key) into the gap.
  4. Push the latch toward your car in an upward motion
  5. Close the door

This is a temporary solution if you absolutely must use your car before you can fix the locking issue. Just remember that this only works if the door is stuck open. You may not be able to get back into it once it is closed.

If your car door lock is stuck closed, there are some steps you can try to get it open.

  1. Try all available ways of gaining access to the car through the stuck door. This includes your key remote, interior door locks, handles, etc)
  2. If these don’t work, use another door to gain entry to your car.
  3. Face the interior side of the door lock that is stuck in the locked position.
  4. Locate the set screws for the door panel.
  5. If you can locate them, remove the set screws.
  6. If the door panel cannot be opened far enough to both reach and view the car door lock assembly, you can attempt to search for possible partial disassembly.
  7. When you gain access to the door lock assembly, you can attempt to manipulate both the assembly and the interior door lock.
  8. Search for a temporary way to open the door by moving the latch.

Sure, it sounds simple to some, but it can be quite difficult. Troubleshooting is key here so you know exactly what you are looking for.

Cleaning and Lubrication

The first thing you can try to unlock a stuck car door luck is a lubricant. A dry lubricant is preferred as a long term solution as oil-based lubricants tend to attract things that can build up, such as dirt and dust. If you are going through the trouble to clean and lubricate, you might as well make sure the problem doesn’t immediately resurface!

However, for a quick solution, an oil-based solution can solve the problem. Most people usually have WD-40 on hand, which would be a great oil-based lubricant for this issue.

Also, if a foreign object is lodged in the key door lock, you can attempt to remove it. When applying lubricant, be sure to first clean the assembly. Remove any blockages, as well.

Once that is done, continue to lubricate the assembly until it moves freely. This will help to ensure that this is more of a long-term fix, assuming build-up and improper lubrication are the culprits.

Preventing Rust

If rust is the main issue, it is important to prevent it from reoccurring. You should insect your locks and car regularly for signs of rust. Do not allow water to pool in the key assembly. Washing your vehicle regularly can help prevent rust build up so any dirt does not rub away at protective coatings, causing rust.

Once you have cleaned off the rust, applying a rust arrestor can help prevent the rust from spreading. Most rust arrestors on the market come with their application brush. All you have to do is dip it in the arrestor and apply a thin coat to the area that was rusted.

If your rust arrestor does not come with a brush, you can always use a Q-Tip or small rag for application to the metal. Just be sure to allow it to fully dry. The bottle will indicate how long this should take.

When it has dried, apply a thin layer of primer over the rust arrestor. Be sure to use a rag or paper towel to dab any excess primer so that it does not drip.

If it is in a painted area, you can apply to touch up paint over the primer. Similar to the rust arrestor, it is important to let the primer fully dry first.

Replacing the Lock Assembly

If you have determined that it is a structural issue within the key assembly, it may need to be replaced. This is not recommended if you do not have experience with car mechanics or do not have the proper tools.

When to Call a Professional Locksmith

While you may be tempted to DIY your car door lock issue, sometimes it is not the best way to go about it. If you are unsure how to diagnose your car door lock issue, calling a professional locksmith is always preferred.

They can help with diagnosing and repair, with certainty that the issue is fixed right the first time.

If you need to remove the door panel or somehow get into the inner locking assembly, a professional locksmith will be your best bet. They can do this with ease without damage.

Since there are so many causes and solutions, a professional locksmith will always be your best option. Even though it may not be the cheapest option, it will guarantee you a long-term fix. A professional locksmith will also be able to fix your problem without further damaging your vehicle.

The time it takes for a locksmith to repair your car door lock issue will ultimately depend on the issue at hand. Each case is entirely dependent on the lock, type of care, and the scope of work needed. Your car will not be damaged, unless, destructive entry is needed. This will only be done as a last resort.

With destructive entry, a professional locksmith will only damage the part that needs to be replaced. They will only perform this with your consent after exhausting all other avenues of entry and repair.

If there is structural damage to the lock or an issue with the connection, this usually indicates that the lock will need to be replaced. In order to safely open the car and have the proper tools and replacement lock, a professional locksmith would be ideal.

Closing Thoughts

While a car door lock stuck in the locked position is initially alarming, it can sometimes be an easy fix. Whether the locking assembly needs to be cleaned or if it is an issue with your key FOB, sometimes the average person can fix it themselves.

However, professional locksmiths are there should you need help. They can handle whatever issue you may have in a courteous, safe, and efficient manner.

Once your car door lock issue is solved, you can get back on the road without worry! Contact us today to have this and other lock problems quickly taken care of.

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