How to Get a Car Door Latch Unstuck

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Having your car door latch get stuck is frustrating whether you need to enter or exit a vehicle, or place items inside the trunk for storage. A broken or damaged door latch typically needs to be replaced by a professional mechanic. Most car, truck and SUV owners will never experience the frustration of having to call a mechanic to help them get their car door latch unstuck. However, since Murphy’s Law dictates that this would happen when you need to go somewhere, it's good to know a quick fix.

There are several reasons that your door latch may become stuck and prevent the door from opening. Noted below are a few steps you should take, before making the call to a mechanic to inspect why the door won't open.

Determine Which Doors Have the Problem

The first step you should take is to determine which door or doors are unable to open. If you can’t open one door, try another door to see if it opens. If all of the doors remain locked, the issue may be with the remote lock or a damaged lock itself. In most cases, when a single door will not open, it’s due to a broken latch – which will require replacement. As long as you can get into the vehicle, you should be able to climb into the driver's seat and drive home safely until you have time to contact a mechanic to find the issue and make the right repairs.

Try to Open the Door from the Inside

Once you determine only one door has a problem opening, you can try opening the door from the inside. If this works, the issue may be with the external door handle. Sometimes opening the door from inside will free the door mechanism and allow it to work properly. If you think this is the case, try opening and closing the door a few times to make sure the problem is resolved. It is also possible that the door latch is rusted or stuck, so cleaning the door latch with WD-40 might help. You may also want to check with a mechanic to ensure it isn’t a warning that the mechanism may need repair or replacement.

Common Reasons for Door Latch Failure

Many problems with car door latches happen in older vehicles and are the result of normal use. Over time, the components wears out and makes it difficult to open and close. Water can also get in this area and cause rust, which will affect the latch after a period of time. Slamming the door can bend the mechanism on the latch and make it more difficult to open and close. It may cause the latch to get stuck inside because it is slightly bent.

Repairs for a Stuck or Broken Door Latch

Lubricating the door latch may allow it to open and close if rust is the culprit. You should notice a difference immediately if this takes care of the issue. If this step doesn’t fix the problem, the door latch mechanism may need to be replaced.

It is important not to drive a vehicle with a latch that doesn’t work properly. You can become stuck in the vehicle if it is in an accident, which could put you in danger. A door that doesn’t stay closed is just as dangerous and may open while you are driving at a high speed. If your door latch is failing or has become stuck, have a professional look at it right away.


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