Power Door Locks Not Working – Diagnose and Repair

10:02 am Consumer, DIY


Wiring can cause door lock problems, switches and actuators are more common

There are several things that can cause the power door locks not to work properly. The most common cause of a single door lock not to work, is a bad door lock actuator (also called a door lock solenoid). Another common problem or cause of door locks not working is simply a bad door lock switch. Many cars today have computers that are also in the loop when it comes to controlling the door locks.

Fortunately, body computer systems are pretty dependable and give problems very seldom. It seems as though the most troublesome vehicles regarding door locks related to computer control issues, are Chrysler’s; Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country vans sometimes have BUS related issues (BUS means “a collection of wires through which data is transmitted from one computer to another”)… but this is still rare. Ford Explorers also have a few BUS issues that can be related to door lock security module, or wiring shorting out that goes from the door into the body. Usually when checked with a scan tool in the body control or security section, there will be a code indicating if there’s a BUS fault.

Problems can also include other failed parts that aren’t high tech, like a linking rod connector. Sometimes the linkage can pop off during the process of a locksmith using a slim jim or someone using a hanger to unlock a door. It’s easy to hook onto a rod and disconnect a link. In this case it’s just a matter of removing the door panel and maybe adjusting the linkage and replacing the plastic rod retainer if it was weakened or broken.

Door latches can wear, some have the door lock actuators built in and others don’t, but a worn latch in either case can cause problems. If there is too much play or excess movement, the door lock may not work dependably. When replacing door lock actuators, a lot of times they are only available as an assembly including both the door latch and actuator as a unit. It depends on the make and model how they are which design they have.

Door Lock Diagnostics. First think about the problem logically.

1. If there is only ONE door lock not working, the problem is more than likely isolated within that particular door, barring some unusual wiring issue.

2. If all the door locks work with the passenger side door lock switch, but not the driver’s door lock switch then the problem is more than likely the driver’s switch.

3. If a single door lock only works in one direction, either to lock or unlock but not both, then the problem is likely to be the door lock actuator.

4. If ALL door locks work only in one direction, ether to lock or unlock but not both, then the problem is likely to be a bad door lock switch.

For more questions and answers see the second part of this post.

Continued on Page 2.

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223 Responses
  1. DeAnn :

    Date: December 1, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

    Hi I have a 2006 Ford Explorer XLT. My front passenger door does not want to unlock. I have tried using both the remote and driver door unlock button. All doors except passenger are working unlocking and locking. Could you give me some tips? Thank you.

  2. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 1, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

    Most likely the actuator. I’d unlock it manually and remove the door panel to access the actuator for testing. Good Luck.

  3. Cameron K :

    Date: December 6, 2015 @ 4:55 pm

    I have a 2003 Toyota Prius and none of the power locks work on any of the door. It doesn’t work from the driver’s side switch, the passenger’s side switch, or by turning the key twice from outside (on either door). I thought it was a fuse problem, but i check the fuse and its alright. What’s interesting is it still makes the clicking noise like it usually would when pressing the switch. I just bought this car (with this problem known and pre-existing) but I need a little help! Thanks!

  4. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 7, 2015 @ 7:16 am

    I would suspect a bad relay which is probably what you hear clicking. If it’s not that a wiring diagram, test equipment and knowledge of how to do electrical diagnosis is needed. Not something you learn overnight. Good Luck.

  5. Katie :

    Date: December 12, 2015 @ 12:56 pm

    I have a 1998 Mercury Mountaineer – as soon as the car is turned on ALL the auto locks will start to cycle (It does it when its turned off as well) and drains the battery. Do you have any idea what I can do to make it stop (will turning off the auto locks make this stop) Or possibly unplugging the RAP? If I can avoid fixing it I would rather do that – I just need it to not drain the battery every time I drive it. Thanks!

  6. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 14, 2015 @ 8:44 am

    Low voltage can cause strange things like that. I’d check the battery with a load test. Also, check to make sure that the door ajar warning is not on. Unplugging a relay would be a way to disable it if you cannot fix the problem correctly. Good Luck.

  7. Reco :

    Date: December 18, 2015 @ 5:20 am

    Hello Dennisb,

    I have a 1998 Toyota Camry LE. My front passenger side door lock won’t lock or unlock if I try the main driver door switch, the door switch for that door, nor if I use the key on the driver’s side. However, that door will lock and unlock if I use the key to unlock it at that passenger side door. All the other locks work fine using the main switch and key.

    I already tested to make sure it wasn’t the door switch. Any idea what could be the problem?

  8. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 18, 2015 @ 7:47 am

    Most likely the door lock actuator. Good Luck.

  9. Reco :

    Date: December 18, 2015 @ 8:38 am

    Lol I was hoping you wouldn’t say that be a use I already had a hint that may be it. That ks for the info. Great forum.

  10. Richard Samson :

    Date: December 30, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

    2009 ford f150 lariat. left rear door lock will not actuate. replaced actuator but will still not work. all other doors will work.
    Thank you. Rich.

  11. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 31, 2015 @ 7:10 am

    Possibly a broken wire going to the door. It will take some testing and a wiring diagram. Good Luck.

  12. Don Tonk :

    Date: December 31, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

    I have 08 Chevy Malibu that the FOB is not working not locking or unlocking or opening trunk. Tried new FOB programmed still not working. I was told FOB is sending he signal but car not receiving. Any ideas where I should look first? Thank you

  13. Robert :

    Date: January 2, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

    I have a 1999 Toyota solar v6 doors aren’t working sometime it does but most of the time it doesn’t I hear it click in doors like they want to open but sometimes it does but most time they dont

  14. sage :

    Date: January 2, 2016 @ 11:13 pm

    Hello Dennis,
    I have a 2002 ford Mustang gt, all locks work with the FOB and door locks, but when I turn the key it doesn’t look automatically any more and I noticed my factory alarm isn’t working. Is there a connection between the two?

  15. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 3, 2016 @ 10:01 am

    If ALL doors are affected at same time it would have to be something that they all have in common, like a faulty relay or intermittent poor ground connection. Good Luck.

  16. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 3, 2016 @ 10:03 am

    If a “door ajar” switch is indicating any of the doors are open, this problem would occur. If the doors are open the locks won’t lock so you don’t lock yourself out of the car. If the doors are closed and the door ajar light is on, you may just have a bad door ajar switch. Good Luck.

  17. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 3, 2016 @ 10:05 am

    May need reprogramming. A locksmith or dealer tech may be needed for this one. Good Luck.

  18. tim :

    Date: January 23, 2016 @ 9:26 pm

    I have an 2003 ford f150 , the power locks stopped locking, they will unlock but not lock. this happens on all switches, also the power windows work ,up down when the key is not in ignition.. do you know what could cause the locks to not work>? worked fine till now.. thanks, Tim

  19. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 24, 2016 @ 10:01 am

    Tim, One thing that comes to mind, is that there could be a “key reminder” or “key in accessory position” issue. If the vehicle senses the key is in the accessory position, the doors will not lock to help prevent the key from being locked inside the vehicle. The power windows should not work with the key removed unless the vehicle falsely senses the ignition is in the accessory position. The problem could be with the electric part of the ignition switch or with a ground sensor in the ignition lock itself. One time I found a similar issue on a Ford was caused by a broken plastic clip that snaps around the ignition lock. One end had broken which allowed the ground sensor to come off and loose connection. After replacing that full function was restored. It’s possible that just using a tie strap to hold it may work as well. I’d look for a piece that has a single wire like in the picture. Your’s may not be exactly like the one in the picture, this is just the closest image I can find based on my memory and what I can find online. If you take pictures of what you find let me know and I’ll post them. Hopefully this helps.

    Ford ignition switch ground sensor

  20. Dean :

    Date: January 30, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

    2009 Jeep Liberty
    electric door locks not working with either door switch or the key fob. Unlock works fine. I assume through some of your posts that it could possibly be a door switch. Where do I start to look for this issue-assume the drivers door?
    thx Dean

  21. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 30, 2016 @ 6:31 pm

    A single door lock switch bad, in most cases wouldn’t affect the other door lock switch and key fob. I would look for a bad fuse. If the fuse blows after replacing it there could be a short in a wire or a faulty actuator causing a short and too much of a draw. If fuses are good check a wiring diagram and start checking to see where the power or ground circuit could be open. Good Luck.

  22. Terry :

    Date: January 31, 2016 @ 2:13 pm

    I have a 2008 G5 door locks are going crazy will lock and unlock during driving or sitting.. But the motor is going and they aren’t actually unlocking or locking.. Tried a lot of ways the switches are working but locks are not moving but sound like they are.. What could this be???

  23. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 31, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

    I’ve heard of the window switch getting wet and corroding causing a short, although other things can cause this problem. May want to get this one diagnosed by a pro so you don’t install unnecessary parts. Good Luck.

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