Power locks | Know how to give your mechanic the heads up

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Power window and lock switches on the inside of a driver's side door.

We rely on power locks and windows for their convenience, particularly when we're trying to keep the guy from "Saw" out of the back seat. (Photo Credit: chrisscott/Flickr/CC BY-SA)

Advances in technology have made the automotive experience more pleasant and convenient. Who doesn’t appreciate power steering, for instance? If you have driven without it, you know the difference is tremendous, akin to the strenuous workout of steering a huge, old farm tractor. But what about a vehicle’s simpler functions, like power door locks? We rely on the convenience of these relatively simple mechanisms every day, and hence we miss them when they aren’t working. Courtesy of DenLors Tools Auto Blog, here is simple information you can use to help direct your mechanic toward the heart of the power locks problem your vehicle may be having.

Common causes of power lock failure

According to DenLors, if the power locks on just one side aren’t working, the most common reason is a malfunctioning actuator (also known as a door lock solenoid). Thus, make that suggestion to your mechanic if that’s what you’re experiencing with your vehicle. Actuators typically include an attached door latch, so you’d be killing two birds with one stone. Or it could simply be the switch. As automotive computer systems themselves are generally reliable, they typically aren’t the culprit when problems with power locks occur. Problems with bundled data transmission wires (the BUS) are also rare. Your mechanic will use a scanning tool that connects to your car’s body control or security system. A BUS fault, for instance, will display its own error code.

What if it isn’t a high-tech problem?

If you’ve had to unlock your car with a slim jim – and particularly if you’ve ever done it yourself with a coat hanger – there is the potential that the linking rod connector can pop off, writes DenLors. The door-unlocking implement can catch the rod and disconnect its link in the power locks system. If this has happened in your car, a mechanic (or adventurous owner) can remove the door panel and replace the plastic rod. Ah, plastic auto parts; blame the automakers and their price cuts.

A simple power locks checklist

Master the power locks aspect of vehicle repair and/or troubleshooting with these suggestions from DenLors:

  • Is one lock malfunctioning? The problem is probably in that door only
  • If one switch only unlocks doors on one side, the problem is likely that switch
  • If power locks will lock but not open (or vice versa), check that door lock actuator
  • If all power locks work only one way, check for a bad door lock switch

And if you’re looking to switch cars, apply for auto loans here



DenLors Tools Auto Blog

Wikipedia (definition of solenoid)

Fixing the power door lock actuator on a Ford Explorer lift gate:

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