Have you ever wondered why car door handles are always operated via a pulling motion rather than a pushing motion? Whether inner or outer, the handles always need to be pulled towards you in order to open the door.
The pulling design was implemented because of an accident occurred during the 70’s and the push-button was accidentally pressed by an external object which led to the car door being flung open and the passenger flying out of the vehicle.
This only proves that door latches could be the only thing that stands between a car passenger and an accident. These small car parts aren’t very flashy but they have a pretty important function.
Car Door Latch Repair Costs
Door latches have plenty of small parts and can easily become damaged either through either normal wear and tear or an external impact.
Based on the information gathered from a number of auto parts retailers, a car door latch’s price ranges from $35 to $750 – with the majority costing $35 to $100 and the minority costing $100 to $300. The price range depends on the brand of the part, the store where it’s being sold, and the type of vehicle that the part is for.
Some latch assembly packages will include a latch actuator and all the necessary parts to connect the latch to the door handles. They’re usually made of various types of metal and may have a couple of plastic pieces.
Here are a few of the most popular door latch brands and their price ranges:
- AutoLoc: $47 – $95
- Dorman: $50 – $300
- Goodmark: $35 – $105
- Keystone Collision: $35 – $110
- OER: $45 – $110
- OPGI: $105 – $135
In most cases, a car door latch will sustain damage to one or more internal components and will need to be replaced in order to work properly. More infrequently, a part may just need to be tightened or rotated in order to get the latch working again.
Small internal latch parts can be replaced without having to buy a whole new one, but it’s usually better to just swap the entire latch as it may also have been weakened structurally. The cost of replacing just the latch is certainly lower than what it would cost to replace a car door handle.
Before opting to replace the door latch on your car or taking it to be inspected, there are simple repair steps that you can take which might be able to fix the problem.
Where to Get a Car Door Latch Repaired?
Car door latches can be repaired or replaced at either your vehicle manufacturer’s local dealership or at an independent automotive repair shop. If your car is still under warranty or you’ve purchased a bumper-to-bumper warranty, the cost of the door latch repair will usually be covered as long as you didn’t cause the damage yourself. Most manufacturer defects are covered by standard warranties.
Local dealerships usually have higher rates than independent auto repair shops. This is because the mechanics that work at local dealerships have completed training courses to certify that they are knowledgeable with a certain brand and are capable of identifying and repairing any issue.
As a result, these mechanics are paid a higher hourly rate(around $100) and therefore, the overall cost of the repair is increased. The upside to getting your vehicle repaired at a local dealership is that it will accept any car problem and will do its best to get your vehicle fixed.
Automobile repair shops such as AutoZone can also fix various car issues but the difference is that they can actually choose to not accept the repair depending on whether it’s financially viable for them or not. The upside is that their mechanics usually work at a lower hourly rate($40- $70) than at a dealership, which means you’ll pay less on the overall cost.
Besides the labor charges that you’ll have to pay for the repair or replacement, all auto repair shops will add an additional variable amount on top so that they can make a profit and cover operational expenses.
Repairs or replacement service fee will cost $70 – $150 on the average, with the price varying depending on the aforementioned factors. Rounded off and in addition to the cost of the door latch (if replacing), the total cost of a car door latch repair will range from $100 – $935.
What is a Car Door Latch?
A car door latch assembly is one of the primary parts of a car’s locking system that enables a car door to stay closed.
It hooks onto a metal strike plate which is installed on the car’s door frame. The inner and outer door handles are connected to it via a lever and once a handle is pulled, it pulls the lever and releases its hold on the strike plate which will cause the door to pop open.
The lever inside the door panel is also connected to an actuator which is a device used to control the car’s door locks.
Door locks may be either manual or remote-controlled.
Manual door locks usually use a knob that pushes and pulls up and down and remote systems use a key fob which only takes a single button push to unlock the car door. Once the car has been locked in either type of system, the actuator disallows the door latch from releasing the strike plate.
Why Does a Car Door Latch Need to Be Repaired?
For some car users, having a broken car door latch is no big deal. It’s basically thrown into the trunk along with every other problem that “will be fixed eventually but not now because I can live without it”.
Repairing a car door latch is important because driving with a malfunctioning door can be dangerous to yourself and other people. Imagine if the door suddenly swings open by itself while you’re driving down the highway. Not only that; having a damaged latch on the door can also provide easy access for any would-be car thieves.
In some cases, the problem with a door latch is not extensive and can be solved with a simple repair. If you’re having trouble with the door handle or opening/closing the door, it’s recommended to investigate immediately what’s causing the hindrance. This will save you money in the long run by not having to replace the entire latch.
For example, if the door doesn’t shut all the way, something might be out of place inside the latch and the solution is to have it tightened. But if you opt to slam the door shut every time, whatever was inside the mechanism that was loose at first might actually snap or break off.
The weather can also play a part in hindering a car door latch’s ability to operate. Since the parts inside are all mechanical and the handle of the door (and the door itself) are exposed to the outside, extremely cold weather can freeze the working parts inside the latch assembly.
How to Know if You Have a Broken Car Door Latch?
A door latch that has a problem will exhibit obvious symptoms – you’ll notice that the door won’t open or close properly.
Another symptom is when the car door refuses to close unless it’s slammed shut. Usually, only a moderate amount of force is needed for the latch to hook onto the strike plate. If you’re feeling resistance when closing the door, something’s wrong with the latch.
A door that closes but won’t stay closed indicates that a spring or something else inside the latch assembly is broken.
If a door won’t open – again, it’s a sign that the handle is not connecting to the lever which disengages the door latch. Depending on how the interior looks, the problem could be with the door handle itself and not the latch. So in most cases, you’ll have to either open the door panel or bring the vehicle in for inspection.
How to Keep Your Car Door Latch Working Properly?
Avoid squeezing the handle too tightly when pulling upwards and certainly resist the urge to slam the door shut. Although door latches are built to resist such force, the cumulative effects can multiply over time and eventually cause parts inside the latch to break or fall out of place.
Maintenance is another important step to preventing door latch damage. Many models of cars have a small hole right above the door latch. You can use a can of lubricant to clean it out by inserting the nozzle of the spray can into this hole. If your car doesn’t have this hole, you can spray lubricant directly into the latch opening and allow it to soak into the parts.
Your top choices for lubrication are WD-40, silicone spray, and white lithium grease.
WD-40 is a light lubricant that’s great for releasing any parts that may have stuck or rusted together.
The white lithium grease is a preventive measure used for metallic parts that interconnect and works to keep moisture and subsequent rust away. It’s a heavy and long-lasting grease that won’t easily be removed.
The silicone spray is useful for non-metallic materials such as plastic and nylon, although it works well as a light lubricant for metal too.
How to Save Money ON Car Door Latch Repair?
Before overreacting and rushing straight to the nearest repair shop, there are a few troubleshooting steps that you can take to fix it. Also, in all cases, attempt to first identify if the problem is with the strike plate or the handle.
As previously mentioned, both of these parts can also cause similar symptoms, so check either of them for any damage before proceeding with the latch repair.
- Problem 1: Car Door Won’t Shut
This is a pretty common issue and is perhaps the easiest one to repair.
If you haven’t gotten around to fixing your car door, you can use the child locks if the affected door is at the rear. This is only a temporary solution to buy you some time in case you’re on the road when the door refuses to shut. Never delay repairs.
If you’re driving during the winter, first check the exterior of the car door to see if there are any frozen parts showing. If there are, thaw them out and see if the door handle works properly.
If it’s not wintertime, you’ll need a few tools to help out – a screwdriver or anything similarly shaped will do the trick. Look at the latch area on your door. It should look like a prong – this is what connects to the strike plate.
Sometimes the prong is in the upward position and not the downward position as it should be. To fix it, push the screwdriver into the hole until it hooks on the prong, then rotate the prong into the downward position.
In case this didn’t fix the problem or the prong refuses to rotate, the latch might have become stuck due to dirt and rust buildup inside the assembly. You can try squirting a little penetrating fluid or oil inside to hopefully loosen up the parts before attempting to turn the prong again with the screwdriver.
- Problem 2: Car Door Won’t Open
Broken door handles, a foreign object stuck in the keyhole or a broken lock can all cause a door to stay shut.
If a car door won’t open from the inside or the outside, it means there’s a connection issue and most likely something is broken behind the door panel. Many of these issues will occur after a recent collision wherein the door has suffered damage.
If you can get inside the car via any of the other doors, the first thing to do is to take the door panel off. Consult your vehicle’s manual for the steps on how to open it. Next, locate the latch and use a flashlight to carefully inspect for any damage or broken parts. Take note of the actuator which connects to the car lock and thoroughly check the metallic rods running horizontally.
If you’re able to locate a part that is indeed broken, unfortunately, it’s recommended that you bring the car in for an inspection. It takes some skill and money to fix a broken lock or lock piece and you absolutely don’t want to make things worse. At the very least, you were able to identify the issue which means it’ll take less time for a mechanic to work on it – which in turn, translates to a lower overall cost.
- Problem 3: Door Lock Is Stuck In
This problem happens when the door lock gets stuck in the ‘lock’ position and won’t go up as much as you try to pull it. A conflict between the connecting parts inside the door panel is the most likely reason for this problem.
You’ll need to get the door panel open for the next step in order to view the latch assembly and the other connecting rods. As all vehicles have different specifications, refer to your vehicle’s manual in order to find the proper way to open it.
Once you’re in, it’s time to inspect the mechanism. It’s recommended to do a once-over for any rust, dirt, and grease buildup anywhere on the assembly. You can use WD-40 for the clean-up job. Use a dry rag to rub the lubricant in and wipe up the excess after spraying the latch.
If you’ve already completed the clean-up job but the latch still doesn’t seem to be moving, you may have to replace it.
You’ll need to purchase a replacement kit which will include screws, clips, and rods along with the new latch. The instructions and installation procedure are very easy to follow and since you’ve already gotten the door panel open, now’s the perfect time to replace it yourself.
When you’re finished with the operation – if successful, the door lock should pop upwards. If it doesn’t, then, unfortunately, the damage to the lock is much more intensive than you realized and it will need to be inspected by a professional mechanic. There’s a good chance you can fix the problem with the steps you did, so it doesn’t hurt to try.