Repairing and Replacing Car Door Locks on Your Vehicle

replacing car door locks

Struggling to get into your car? Then you might need to learn about replacing car door locks.

When one lock breaks, you’ll probably want to replace all of them. This way, you won’t have to worry about one door not properly locking or unlocking when the rest of them do. However, you shouldn’t pay a professional to do this work when there’s a way to do it yourself.

Most people can’t even change a flat tire on their own. However, a guide like this can walk you through DIY replacing car door locks, even if you don’t know the whole process by heart.

Keep reading to learn how to replace a car door lock on your own!


When to Replace Car Door Lock

The locks on your car use a fob or the ignition key to let you into the vehicle. The locks are part of the door handle, and connected using metal control rods.

Part of the reason locks can break is that door locks get exposed to elements like cold wind and rain during everyday use. Water and dirt get into the lock from outside, which corrodes the tumblers, and locking and unlocking your car makes the internal parts wear down.

When these parts fail, the door can get jammed shut so it’s difficult or impossible to open. And as the key gets inserted into the tumbler over and over again, the tumbler will eventually wear down and stop working.

Not sure if your lock needs replacing yet? One surefire way to tell is that if you put the key in the lock, you can’t turn it without jiggling the key. Jiggling the key will only work for a while – eventually, you’ll try it and find that you can’t turn the lock at all.

Cost of Replacing Car Door Locks

To buy the parts for a new set of locks and key, you’ll need to spend about $20 to $50. You’ll need to use a different key when you replace your locks, since each key is designed for a unique lock. If you take your car to a dealership to get this done, you’ll be spending a few hundred dollars, so it’s very worthwhile to do this project yourself.

Now, let’s take a look at the exact steps needed to replace your lock.

1. Remove the Door Panel

If your car’s windows are electric, make sure to put the windows up all the way before you take off the door panel. The window wiring should still be connected once the panel’s off, so you can do this after you remove the panel if you need to, as well. You’ll probably want to lower a different window in the car while you work so you don’t accidentally get locked out.

When the ignition’s off, you can remove the door panel. This lets you access the back part of the door lock so you can remove the faulty one.

2. Remove Plastic Liner

Your car door probably has a plastic inner liner that keeps water from getting into the inner parts of the door. Take the liner and gently peel it away from the door. After you’ve finished your repair, you can glue it back into place.

3. Remove the Control Rod and Lock Control Rod

Find the main control rod in the door and un-clip it. Then, find the lock control rod and use a screwdriver to un-clip and remove it as well.

4. Remove Bolt

Use a wrench or a 10mm socket to take off the bolts that mount the lock to the inner door. Turning the bolts counterclockwise will loosen them up for removal.

5. Remove Outer Door Handle

When the mounting bolts are gone (make sure you store every part safely throughout this process), take the lock assembly and handle and gently lift it to remove it from the door. You might need to wiggle it around a bit to get it out, so make sure your car’s paint doesn’t get scratched in this process.

You can also place masking tape around and below the handle to make sure the paint can’t be damaged.

6. Remove Lock

Now, you can take out the lock itself. Use a pick or screwdriver to take out the retainer clip, so the lock gets loose enough to be removed. Push the lock out of the handle, and clean the cylinder with a towel before you put the new lock in.

7. Install the New Lock

Once the space is clean, you can install your new lock in the place of the old one. The new lock assembly that you bought will also have a new key. If you wanted to keep your original key, you would need to take it to a locksmith and have it rekeyed – but that will cost extra.

Carefully insert the new lock into the car door handle, making sure to line it up properly so the lock is oriented the right way. Slide the lock clip into its place – sometimes, you’ll install the clip before the lock, so the lock snaps back where it belongs.

8. Reinstall the Handle

Now that the lock and all the related parts have been replaced, you can reinstall the handle into the car door. Remember to be careful not to scratch your paint as you reinstall it, too.

9. Reconnect Bolts and Rods

The bolts and rods that you removed will all need to be put back into place. After you’ve connected the control rods, try the new lock to make sure it works. If it does, you can reattach the plastic liner to the inside of your car door. Make sure there are no tools left in the door.

10. Reinstall Door Panel

Finally, you can put your door panel back into place. Double-check that the door lock and handle work once everything’s where it should be.


Ready to Give it a Try?

Replacing car door locks isn’t expensive, and it only takes about an hour. This is well worth the money you’ll save by not taking your car to the shop.

Hoping to try more DIY car repairs next? Check out our guide to replacing spark plugs here.

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