How Do Automatic Car Door Locks Work?

Whether they are single purpose or multi-purpose, electronic car door locks have standard features:

  • A latch/door lock
  • An actuator
  • Actuator rods
  • Activated by radio

Electric car door locks operate by receiving a radio signal transmitted by the car key fob, signaling the actuator to activate, which then routes the command through the correct path (lock/unlock) and performs the desired action.

How the actuator works

On activation, the actuator unit moves a rod attached to the rear of the latch/door lock mechanism. The rod exerts pressure on the lock-open switch on the back of the door lock mechanism. The pressure opens a pair of jaws on the latch/door lock mechanism, releasing the jaws from the strike on the center pillar.  The action connects the door handles to the latch/door lock mechanism. The door opens when you lift the an inside or outside door handle.

Computer-controlled automatic locks

A computer-controlled lock system also uses a radio signal to wake up door lock and unlock mode. The computer-controlled system sends out computer programming to the key controller module (computer). The module reads the programming that is directed its way and applies the proper system command. The computer-controlled key usually controls not only locking and unlocking doors but also auto security. The auto security piece includes car halt/disable programs that effectively make your car undrivable by potential thieves. The same system has the capability to:

  • Open the trunk lid
  • Remote start the car
  • Lower the windows
  • Kill the ignition

This system is potentially feature-rich. It depends on the amount the customer wants to spend, provided the manufacturer offers it.

One more way that automatic locks work is by keypad. Introduced 35 years ago, the keypad system appeared first in 1980 on Ford cars and trucks. Still available today, a car owner simply enters a computer code and the controller module tells the door actuator to go to work.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,607)

Rating Summary
20,295
844
177
86
205
20,295
844
177
86
205

Kenneth

20 years of experience
649 reviews
Kenneth
20 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Venice, California
Kenneth was engaging, informative, and knowledgeable. He didn't perform one of the requested services because he said it was unnecessary, saving me money and time. 10/10 would and will hire him again.
Land Rover Discovery Sport - Oil Change - Los Angeles, California
Kenneth was on time (on Thanksgiving no less!) and got the work done in a timely fashion. Highly recommended.

Pierre

9 years of experience
183 reviews
Pierre
9 years of experience
Honda Civic - Oil Change - Boston, Massachusetts
My first time using this service and Pierre was awesome! He put my mind at ease and I will definitely be a repeat customer!
Toyota Highlander - Oil Change - Auburndale, Massachusetts
Great mechanic. Made everything easy - showed up right on time, was nice and polite, and did exactly what I needed on the car. Will keep working with Pierre in the future for sure.

Josh

16 years of experience
60 reviews
Josh
16 years of experience
Dodge Grand Caravan - Oil Change - Naples, Florida
He came, did the job quickly and let me know what is needed to keep my van running at its optimal level.
Ford Thunderbird - Oil Change - Naples, Florida
Josh was on time, stayed until he completed the job, very knowledgable. He pointed out that the also need a oil change, came back and completed that job. Very nice young man.

Rodney

36 years of experience
442 reviews
Rodney
36 years of experience
Porsche 718 Boxster - Oil Change - Rancho Cordova, California
Rodney was knowledgeable and professional! Changed the oil in my 2019 Porsche (which is not an easy task.) I am already recommending him to others.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Pick an Anti-Theft Device For Your Car
Depending Depending on where you live, an anti-theft device may give you added peace of mind about the security of your car. It may also lower your car insurance rates, which is an added bonus. With so many products on...
How Can I Prevent Door Seals From Leaking?
When When your car door seals leak, it’s more than just a passing nuisance. Water damage can occur to your interior, necessitating the replacement of upholstery or other components. In nearly every instance of leaking car door seals, which you...
How to Get a Replacement Car Key
Lost car keys can be extremely frustrating. Try to find missing keys first, then call a local locksmith to see if they can make a replacement car key.

Related questions

Had to manually unlock car & key stuck in ignition

A few different things can cause the vehicle to respond this way. The reason why the key is stuck in the ignition is probably due to the steering wheel being locked. When the steering wheel is locked it does not...

Remote car starter and automatic door locking mechanism won't work after crash.

Hi there. With having the battery cable loose, that caused the computer to reset and lose its memory. I recommend reprogramming the key fob to the vehicle to allow the door locks and ignition to work. First put the key...

Downshifts suddenly automatic locks

When you encounter the problem try and see if your cruise control works. If the brakes lights stay on, it will cause the cruise to be inoperative and affect the overdrive of the transmission and door locks autolock function. Come...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com