Why Won’t My Car Door Close?
When you get into the driver’s seat, the first thing you do before firing up the engine or anything else is close the door. But what happens if the car door won’t shut? It’s more than a little surprising – and certainly concerning – when the door bounces open. It isn’t all that uncommon for a door not to latch, though, and if it happens to you, it’s a guarantee someone else has already dealt with it and figured out how to fix it.
In a lot of situations, a new car door latch is required at around $100 to $250, depending on the model you drive. It could be other causes, though, so read on to learn about the causes and corrections for a car door that won’t close.
How a Car Door Latch Works
At the jamb of each door, a U-shaped catch or bolt-like striker is attached to the frame. In the door at a location corresponding to the striker, a latch is fastened on the inside. It has cables or rods connected to the interior and exterior door handles as well as the lock mechanism so you can operate it easily.
The latch itself has either a pair of jaws that close in a scissor-like motion when they touch the striker, or it has a single curved metal hook that pivots and locks around the striker on contact. When the door handle is pulled, the latch jaws spring open, allowing the door to open.
Reasons Car Door Won’t Close
If one of your car doors won’t close, it drastically affects operating safety. No one wants to hazard falling out of a moving car, and the door could swing wide open in traffic. The problem can be the result of a handful of things. Some are simple and others require replacement parts.
Seatbelt in the Door Jamb
Anything substantial can prevent the door latch from securing closed, even something as thin and flexible as seatbelt webbing. If the webbing is over the striker or the latch plate is in the door jamb, your car door won’t close.
Obviously, all you need to do is remove the obstruction and you’re good to go. If you manage to get the match closed over the webbing, though, you could find it jams and the car door won’t open easily to remove it.
Latch Jaw is Closed
The latch jaw has spring tension on it to keep it open and ready to accept the striker or catch. But kids love to fiddle with these types of parts, and it’s fun to watch the latch click shut and open again when you pull the door handle. But if the latch doesn’t get re-opened, your door won’t close and it’s not always the first place you look.
Pulling the handle is usually enough to release the latch. If it’s somehow jammed closed, you may need to replace the latch mechanism.
Latch is Seized
Door latches are well lubricated from the factory, but they aren’t sealed against the elements. Debris, dirt, and moisture can get into the latch and cause corrosion. If it’s left long enough without being re-greased, corrosion can cause the latch to seize.
Fortunately, it doesn’t often seize closed. Lubricating the latch with penetrating oil can help free it up temporarily, but a new door latch is probably in order.
If the wind catches your open door and overextends it forward, it can bend the hinges and sometimes the door itself. That’s a very unfortunate event that commonly results in an insurance claim. The repair for bent hinges can include cutting and welding at an autobody shop unless you’re fortunate enough to have bolt-on hinges.
One of the simplest repairs for a car door that won’t close easily or properly is a misaligned striker. This piece on the door jamb doesn’t move much, but it might’ve been impacted and tweaked, causing the latch to drag over it or just hit it. Adjusting a striker is just loosening a couple of screws, moving it slightly, and tightening the striker to the correct torque spec again, or replacing it with a new one if it’s been bent.
Is the problem that your car door won’t open or won’t close in cold weather? The cause could be as simple as ice. Moisture that gets into the latch and freezes can prevent the jaws from opening. Spraying lock de-icer liberally on the latch or gently heating it with a hair dryer can release it, although you’ll still want to displace the moisture to prevent it from happening again.
Latch Rod Binding in Door
The problem isn’t always the latch itself. The rods attached to the latch might’ve come loose from their clips or they could bind inside the door. This is commonly caused by someone trying to break into your car with a Slim Jim. You’ll have your car door lock stuck shut until it’s fixed. Bent rods might need replacement, or if they’ve just been knocked off, you might get away with re-installing them.
What to do next
Whether you need tools to fix the issue, a new door latch for your car, or advice on how to get the job done, AutoZone has what you need. If you decide that it’s too big a job to tackle on your own, let AutoZone help you find qualified professional mechanics through our Shop Referral Program.
Frequently Asked Questions
It could be a bad latch, something jammed, or an issue with a lock rod. Often, you’ll need to remove the interior door panel to inspect the fault before knowing what requires a repair.
The door latch might be seized, the striker may be misaligned, or there could be an object impeding the latch from closing on the striker.
If you need to replace a door latch, parts start at around $100 and go up, and a mechanic will charge for their time to change it too. Expect it to cost between $200 and $500 in most situations.
When you manually close the latch jaws, it should spring open easily when the door handle is pulled. If that doesn’t happen, your door latch likely needs replacement.
Sometimes, freeing the door latch penetrating oil can restore its function for at least a short while. Latches aren’t meant to be disassembled, so a damaged part will need to be changed.