A door lock actuator is a complicated assembly with several parts. It is fundamentally a component of the latch mechanism assembly of the door, which has a hook that grabs and holds the catch in the door jamb when the door is closed.
While different parts of the lock actuator can fail mechanically, it is more common for the electric motor in the actuator to fail. Usually, the electric lock actuator is only serviceable as the whole latch assembly.
What’s the Cost of a Door Lock Actuator Replacement?
On average, it costs about $200 to replace a door lock actuator on most vehicles.
For some more specific estimate, using $100 an hour as labor rate, below are what you’re going to spend on this particular service per certain vehicle type and model so you can have a better understanding of the cost:
For a 2004 Subaru Legacy, the labor time for a door lock actuator replacement is around 0.8 of an hour for either the front or rear doors. A factory part costs about $100 for any door, and a Standard part costs about $71. The total door actuator replacement cost would be about $180 using OE parts, or about $151 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2006 Volkswagen Golf, the labor time to replace a door lock actuator is estimated at 1.8 hours for either the front or rear doors. An SKP actuator costs about $45, for a total of about $225 to complete the job.
For a 2011 Chevrolet Cruz, the labor time to replace a door lock actuator is about 0.9 of an hour for either the front or rear doors. A factory actuator costs about $112, and a Shee-Mar part costs about $93. This makes the lob top replace any door lock actuator for about $202 using OE parts, or about $183 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, the labor time to replace a door lock actuator is estimated at 0.9 of an hour for a front door and 0.6 of an hour for a rear door. A factory door lock actuator costs about $136, and a Standard actuator costs about $88.
This makes replacing a front door lock actuator repair cost about $226 using factory parts, or about $178 using aftermarket parts. To replace a rear door lock actuator, the total cost would be about $196 using OE parts, or about $148 using aftermarket parts.
Symptoms of a Door Lock Actuator Problem
The most obvious sign that a door lock actuator needs to be replaced is that it simply doesn’t work, that it fails to lock or unlock the door.
Wiring and fuse issues should be ruled out. If the only way to activate the door locks electrically is with a key fob, then, it should be verified that the fob battery is good.
Lock rods and actuator rods are held into the actuator assembly with plastic clips. Sometimes the plastic clips can break or fall out of place, which usually requires removing the door panel to check. If the actuator sounds like it’s working normally but the door doesn’t lock or unlock, it may be a simple problem with a plastic clip.
Sometimes, a trick to diagnose a suspected door lock actuator problem is to try it repeatedly. A lock actuator with a failing motor might work the first time. However, after two or three lock-unlock cycles, it can struggle and fail, then not work again until it cools down.
A lock actuator typically works with a worm drive from the motor driving a gear, set in a plastic housing. Sometimes, the motor itself can fail as it is generally very small and delicate; other times the plastic gears can strip or shift out of position.
A common symptom is to hear a weak door lock motor trying to work but fail to fully lock or unlock the door. Another common symptom is to hear the plastic gears grind noisily when trying and failing to unlock the door. Either of those can be the result of the plastic housing warping or becoming distorted with age, which can cause binding or misalignment.
The gears are also greased, and as grease ages, it tends to congeal to a nearly solid substance, which no longer lubricates and can itself obstruct the mechanism.
What's a Door Lock Actuator
The door latch assembly, which includes the door lock actuator, has lever arms operated by rods or cables connected to the exterior and interior door latches allowing the door to be opened. It usually has another lever for a manual lock and unlock function.
On an older vehicle or one without electric door locks, that’s all there is. If there’s no electric actuator, the part is called simply the door latch. But if the vehicle does have electric door locks, then, the electric lock actuator is integrated into the latch assembly, which itself is then usually called the door lock actuator. Technically, this isn’t quite correct as the actuator is only a part of the larger assembly. But practically, that is how the parts industry identifies it.
What all are Involved in a Door Lock Actuator Replacement
Replacement means removing the inner door panel, unbolting the latch from the sheet metal of the door, and then, undoing all the rod and cable and electrical attachments. On some models, it’s necessary to move the window track out of the way.
On some others that use a door module assembly to hold the window lift assembly and tracks, the window has to be supported and detached from the lift mechanism so that the whole module assembly can be moved out of the way.
Mostly by listening. They can fail completely and make no noise, but most of the time you can hear an actuator trying to work, and not quite doing it.
Almost never. It’s part of an assembly that’s not built to be serviced, not generally designed to be taken apart and reassembled.
It takes about an hour and a half on most vehicles.