If your car’s automatic door locks are not working, or your car’s remote device isn’t responding, there’s usually a common culprit: your power door lock actuator is broken. Fortunately, because it’s such a common problem, we can give you several possible fixes.
What Is Your Door Lock Actuator?
For starters, your actuator is an electronic device used by doors with power locks; you use it so you don’t always have to manually work your door’s lock. You can usually find it right underneath your door’s latch.
The door lock actuator has a few different features it uses to work. One feature is its two rods, one of which connects the actuator to the latch, and another which connects the latch to your door lock. Another feature is a small motor that moves your lock with a series of gears. When you’re turning the key to open your car door, pressing a remote button, or pulling on the doorknob --all these actions require your door lock actuator.
Signs Your Actuator Might Be Broken
There are several tell-tale signs that you have a broken lock actuator, or that it’s about to go bad. Here are some of the most common symptoms drivers experience:
1. Your Power Doors Are Stuck Or Won’t Open
If the lock actuator is broken, the most obvious sign is that the door’s lock isn’t working. It won’t open and it won’t lock either. If your keyless entry remote features aren’t working, older car owners might be able to get in using a traditional key. If you have one of the newer luxury models, though, don’t always have traditional keys. If you have one of these cars, you’ll have to completely disable your door’s locks to use it.
2. Your Power Doors Only Work Intermittently
Cars with broken actuators won’t work consistently. Some days you’ll have an easy time, and the door will lock and unlock whenever you want it to. Other days you’ll have to give your door a couple of tries before it responds. If your door’s remote features aren’t working like they used to, it might be because your actuator is failing.
3. You Hear a Loud Noise Inside Your Door
Strange noises are another common symptom that your door lock actuator isn’t working right. Earlier in the article, we mentioned that the door lock actuator uses a motor and gears to lock and unlock your door. The strange noise you’re hearing might be that motor and gear system malfunctioning. When the actuator is working properly, it should be quiet, but if the noise you hear is getting louder then you should get your door lock actuator looked at.
Replacing Your Door Lock Actuator
1. Disconnect Your Battery’s Negative Terminal
If you’re having problems with your actuator, you’ll probably need to have it completely replaced. To replace it, you first need to disconnect your car battery by removing the negative battery cable from the terminal. You must disconnect your battery so that the door lock actuator isn’t receiving any power from your car.
2. Remove the Door Panel
To get good access to the inside of your door, you’ll have to remove your car door panel. This usually requires unscrewing bolts from your panel and then prying it out. When you’re doing this, be very careful that you don’t break and cables and wires that might be connected to your car speakers or your door lock.
3. Remove the Actuator By Disconnecting the Cables
Now that you’ve put the door panel aside, you should notice two cables secured with clips. These are part of the door lock actuator. There should also be bolts and lock screws that are securing the actuator in place. Be sure to remove those too.
Once you’ve followed these steps and the actuator is hanging freely, disconnect the electrical connector or wiring harness. Doing so will let you remove the actuator and its lock assembly.
Can You Repair A Bad Door Lock Actuator?
Because it comes as a single unit, a malfunctioning actuator can’t be serviced. The simplest way to fix it is to have it completely replaced.