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#1
Old 10-10-2016, 03:12 PM
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Opening a Car Door Stuck in Locked Position

Someone exiting the back door of my car managed to somehow get the lock caught such that the door is stuck in locked position. At least I think that's what happened; the handles move freely, but the lock knob won't go all the way up, whether by electronic means or by manual. Question is how to fix this.

I took off the inside handle, but pulling the cord that connects to the door latch does nothing, presumably because the stuck lock is blocking it.

The way to access the lock mechanism would be to take off the inside trim. Problem is that the fasteners which hold the inside trim in place are only accessible if the door is open. And the door can't be open until this issue is fixed.
#2
Old 10-10-2016, 03:24 PM
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Make/model/year? Maybe some pics?
#3
Old 10-10-2016, 03:55 PM
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2000 Chevy Prizm. Nothing to see, the door looks exactly like any other Prizm (or Corolla) from 1998-2002 - some sample photos here.
#4
Old 10-10-2016, 04:06 PM
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They have graphite lubricant to help with stuck locks, although I have never used it with electronic locks.
#5
Old 10-10-2016, 04:17 PM
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But how would you access the internal lock mechanism to apply the lubricant?

[What I suspect happened is that the passenger pulled the door handle at the same time that the electronic system was unlocking the lock, and this caused the lock mechanism to get tangled up somehow.]

Last edited by Fotheringay-Phipps; 10-10-2016 at 04:17 PM.
#6
Old 10-10-2016, 07:47 PM
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I think a Slim Jim will still open it in this situation.

Dennis
#7
Old 10-10-2016, 09:01 PM
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Ditto on the slim jim (the metal one - not the beef jerky).

Also check if the door is completely closed. I had a Toyota Corolla many decades ago which would sometimes partially latch. Pushing on the door would unlock it.
#8
Old 10-10-2016, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
But how would you access the internal lock mechanism to apply the lubricant?
This was done through the keyhole--it was basically squirted in for the traditional automotive lock. But I have no idea how the modern electronic/manual locks work.
#9
Old 10-10-2016, 11:40 PM
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As suggested above make sure the door is firmly closed and try a slim jim. That is probably the best method. Push and bang on the door to get the mechanism to release. make sure the electric lock system hasn't blown a fuse.

Since you have the interior handle off you might be able to take the door panel off backwards by popping the top lip out using a screw driver up through the hole where the handle sits. If you can pop the lip out of the top of the door then you might be able to work your way down. It's a long shot.

here's a video showing how to remove the arm rest to get to screws holding the panel on.

Last edited by Magiver; 10-10-2016 at 11:41 PM.
#10
Old 10-10-2016, 11:59 PM
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A few things I'd like clarified, namely 'lock knob' and 'cord'. Lock knob sounds like the lock cylinder (where the key goes) and that's clearly how everyone else is interpreting it, however, I've never seen one on a back door. Do you mean something on the inside like door handle or whatever the thing is called that the person can manually move to lock or unlock the door? In any case, if my first thought would be to make sure the child safty switch isn't flipped on. Now, I know that's only desinged to disengage the door handle on the inside, but I'd still check it. After that, I'd remove the inner door panel and just take a look at all the linkage. I'd me willing to get something fell off or broke.

Upon re-reading this, I see that the door can't even be opened until you get it unlocked. My first (shade tree mechanic) thought would be to lock and unlock, both with the key and the inside part, rapidly several times to see if you can get something to catch. That in and of itself may be enough to fix the problem. However, if you get it opened that way I'd then try using a screwdriver or something to set the catch and try 'opening the door' a few times to see if it made a difference. Also, be prepared to go from whatever step you use to open the door to fixing it all in one day since there's a chance that once it's opened, it might not close again.

More thoughts:
You say that pulling the cord (I assume you mean linkage, it's metal rod, right) doesn't do anything because it's locked, have you tried pulling on that while working the lock? Cars have a funny way or working when they're jiggled, sometimes things jiggle into place for just long enough to work.

You also mentioned that you can't get the panel off since some of the clips require the door to be open, but if you can get even some of them off, say the ones at the top, along the window, you might be able to hold it back just far enough to get something down there (like a hanger) to release the catch.

There are electronic means that I can think of, if it has electronic locks, but if hear it moving when you hit the unlock button, it's not going to do anything. If you don't hear anything, it may be worth exploring that option. Could be easy, could be a PITA, but ultimately, it would just require finding the wires that lock/unlock that that door and applying 12v to them. (But this is assuming the other doors work and/or all fuses and wiring are in good shape).

I agree, it sounds like a linkage issue, personally, after exausting the 'easy' options. Ya know, yelling at it, spitting on it, swearing at it, jiggling the moving parts while working the inner and outer door handle and lock, I'd really spend some more time trying to get the panel off, even partially. From there you might be able to at least see what's going on, if you can see, you can probably get something down there to open the door*, if not, once it's started, you can probably, carefully, 'rip' the rest of the clips out. Sucks to have to do it, but suck is life.


*Again, keep in mind that you should probably make the time between opening the door and fixing it, one day. If you can at least get the top open and see what's going on, and it looks like you're going to need parts, I'd strongly suggest getting them (locally, so you can buy all the parts you might need and return what you don't need) before you jimmy the door open. Once you do get it open, replacing linkage is typically fairly straight forward, even if it includes, handles or catches.


Something to test, if you don't already know, when the working doors are locked, are the handles free moving (I assume so) like they're not doing anything or do they 'stop' like there's something blocking them?

Also, make sure to check Google and/or youtube, lots or problems (or at least related problems) are addressed there. Remember to look at similar vintage cars of the same make, so you have a Prism, don't just stick to Chevy Prism, but Chevy Prism, Geo Prism, Chevy Cavalier and other other compact car from that time frame and, to be honest, most cars work somewhat similar so if someone is showing you how to fix this on their 2003 Tahoe or 2008 Grand Am, it's probably worth a look.
#11
Old 10-11-2016, 02:56 AM
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I'd suggest a cardboard tube, but I hear that's physically impossible.
#12
Old 10-11-2016, 04:45 AM
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You might be able to get an idea what's going on and sort out how to fix it if you can see the mechanism inside the door. A wedge can be used to get some space between the window and the door, then a thin light can be inserted for viewing.

These wedges are made just for this, anything similar should work.

This shows where to place the wedges between the glass and rubber trim. Do this on the outside, near the mechanism.

I use a Steelman Bend-A-Light. There may be other suitable brands, but I don't know.

When you can see the parts inside, move the handles and knobs to see if you can figure it out. It may help to compare to the other side where everything works. If you don't have a Slim Jim, or that doesn't work, you may have to fabricate something from a coat hanger.
#13
Old 10-11-2016, 10:17 AM
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Thanks to several posters who suggested Slim Jims. I suspect that may be the only way to do it. However, I suspect a lot of skill is required to open it with a Slim Jim and I wouldn't be able to do it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
This was done through the keyhole--it was basically squirted in for the traditional automotive lock. But I have no idea how the modern electronic/manual locks work.
There's no keyhole. This is the back door.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
make sure the electric lock system hasn't blown a fuse.
Lock system works on all the other doors, and even that door knob juggles up and down a bit.

Quote:
Since you have the interior handle off you might be able to take the door panel off backwards by popping the top lip out using a screw driver up through the hole where the handle sits. If you can pop the lip out of the top of the door then you might be able to work your way down. It's a long shot.
There are screws around the outskirts of the panel which are blocked by the car frame when the door is closed.

Joey P,

Thanks for your lengthy post. And sorry for what may have been imprecise wording.

By "lock knob" I meant the little thingies on the door next to the window that you pull up to manually unlock and down to manually lock. When you use the electric switch they also go up and down - in this case it goes up partially but not all the way. (So it's not the child safety switch - also the CSS wouldn't prevent the door from being unlocked from the front.) And the "cord" is the linkage that you refer to.

I've tried all the jiggling-type stuff that you refer to.

The inside handle can move freely, but it doesn't reset all the way back unless you pull it. Meaning, that it kind of pokes out a bit, in the partially open position. I suspect this is because the cord/linkage to which it's attached is partially pulled out of position.
#14
Old 10-11-2016, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
...I suspect a lot of skill is required to open it with a Slim Jim and I wouldn't be able to do it.
Hence the suggestion to be able to see what's in there. Slim Jims are normally used by "feeling around/fishing around" and can take a lot of experience, skill, or luck to have success with. It can make a huge difference to be able to actually see what you're doing.
#15
Old 10-11-2016, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Hence the suggestion to be able to see what's in there. Slim Jims are normally used by "feeling around/fishing around" and can take a lot of experience, skill, or luck to have success with. It can make a huge difference to be able to actually see what you're doing.
I own a slim jim and the very small handful of times I've tried using it, it's been worthless, for me. I suspect it's like handing a random person my toolbag and saying 'here, fix my stove'. I can fix it with what's in there, but they'll probably just get hurt if they start jamming screwdrivers into random spots. I had no idea what I was doing with the slim jim, I was just reaching around in there and hoping for the best. I think in one case, the dog that locked the door eventually unlocked it.

You (the OP) said pulling on the linkage doesn't do anything because you suspect it's binding with the lock, I'd to back to working the linkage and the lock at the same time. If it's binding, this may help unbind it. I have a pickup truck in which the lock cylinder won't turn at all, it feels like you have the wrong key, but if you work the door handle at the same time, after about 5 or 10 seconds it eventually frees up enough to open (I really should look into that).

Also, Gary mentioned wedges, that's basically the same as what I was saying about even trying to get the top open enough to look down in there and see what's going on. Just enough to get some kind of idea. Can you snag something with a hanger to and pull it? Do you need to run out and get specific tool (or make something) to just rehook some linkage that fell off, maybe it's just a matter of spraying some lubricant in the right spot. A lot of this exploratory stuff can often be done without tearing the car apart too much.
#16
Old 10-11-2016, 11:41 AM
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This may sound obvious, but have you tried opening it from the inside?

If it will not open from inside or out, another possible issue is that the child lock mechanism is malfunctioning for some reason. Caution: Go easy on the slim jim. Electric locks can be easily damaged by those tools.
#17
Old 10-11-2016, 10:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
There are screws around the outskirts of the panel which are blocked by the car frame when the door is closed.
based on the link I posted those aren't screws. If they have plastic phillips heads then they're push pin screws. If you can get the panel started from the top they can be sacrificed and replaced later. It would mean pushing the edge of the panel up on one end and zippering it across. This may give you enough of a space to get long needle nose in from the top. You're goal is not to remove the panel entirely but to peel it back enough to get your hands on the mechanism.

When you engage the power locks can you hear the mechanism in the stuck door clicking or buzzing? If yes Then it's bound up. While engaging the power door lock bang and jiggle the hell out of the door and lock mechanisms including pushing/banging on the door from the outside as if you're closing it.

If I read this correctly you removed the inside handle which gives you a view of the mechanism with a mirror. You might be able to get a long needle nose plier in there. tie a piece of string to the handle so you don't drop it into the door. You can also get a view of things with the wedges and a flashlight. This will allow you to see the power lock and you may be able to catch it with the slim jim.

The mechanics can answer this. If a child lock is engaged will the master power lock button open the back door?

Worst case scenario, go to a junkyard and buy a matching interior panel and just rip the old one out. But if the screws you describe are actually screw push pins then you stand a chance of popping the panel off conventionally. Don't forget the screws in the arm rest.
#18
Old 10-12-2016, 11:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doctor Jackson View Post
This may sound obvious, but have you tried opening it from the inside?
Obligatory Family Guy clip (video).
#19
Old 10-13-2016, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
The mechanics can answer this. If a child lock is engaged will the master power lock button open the back door?
The child locks I have known work on the handle, not on the lock. The lock button will still unlock the door. It can only be opened from the outside when unlocked.
#20
Old 10-13-2016, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
based on the link I posted those aren't screws. If they have plastic phillips heads then they're push pin screws. If you can get the panel started from the top they can be sacrificed and replaced later. It would mean pushing the edge of the panel up on one end and zippering it across. This may give you enough of a space to get long needle nose in from the top. You're goal is not to remove the panel entirely but to peel it back enough to get your hands on the mechanism.
They are indeed push pin thingies.

I'm pretty sure the panels don't come straight away from the door, as they fold down over the top, and they need to be lifted up once detached. So you can't just pull it out.

Quote:
When you engage the power locks can you hear the mechanism in the stuck door clicking or buzzing? If yes Then it's bound up. While engaging the power door lock bang and jiggle the hell out of the door and lock mechanisms including pushing/banging on the door from the outside as if you're closing it.
It sounds exactly like it always does. Though I suppose it's possible that this one door is making a slightly different sound than the rest and I'm not noticing it.

Quote:
If I read this correctly you removed the inside handle which gives you a view of the mechanism with a mirror. You might be able to get a long needle nose plier in there. tie a piece of string to the handle so you don't drop it into the door. You can also get a view of things with the wedges and a flashlight. This will allow you to see the power lock and you may be able to catch it with the slim jim.
I don't think this would help. The inside handle is on the other edge of the door from the lock mechanism, and it's a tight and curved space from there.

Quote:
Worst case scenario, go to a junkyard and buy a matching interior panel and just rip the old one out. But if the screws you describe are actually screw push pins then you stand a chance of popping the panel off conventionally. Don't forget the screws in the arm rest.
I would think the worst case scenario would be to pay a locksmith to open it with a Slim Jim or something like that. Maybe even fix the lock while he's at it.
#21
Old 10-13-2016, 12:30 PM
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What I did on my previous car which wouldn't unlock on the rear passenger side was to simply leave it that way and not use it.
#22
Old 10-13-2016, 06:10 PM
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I don't know if this is on all cars by my Pontiac has an access hole next to the child safety switch that can be accessed from the inside on the car.

Check your other door to see if you have one. It will have a rubber plug in it. If you do you can slide your hand along the side of the seat until you can feel it. Push it out and you have access to the child safety switch. If that is somehow stuck between lock/unlock that may be your problem.

Last edited by Magiver; 10-13-2016 at 06:11 PM.
#23
Old 10-13-2016, 10:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
Obligatory Family Guy clip (video).
I missed the Family Guy part and figured this was going to be a link to that old BlondeStar clip, more or less the same idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikkel View Post
The child locks I have known work on the handle, not on the lock. The lock button will still unlock the door. It can only be opened from the outside when unlocked.
That's how they always work, so far as I know. They disengage the outside handle. However, once the lingage is screwed up, all bets are off (but I'm guessing, at this point, it doesn't play into it).


Quote:
Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
What I did on my previous car which wouldn't unlock on the rear passenger side was to simply leave it that way and not use it.
While I still think there's hope, I still think the best bet is to try to wedge the panel open at the top and see what's going on. As I said earlier, it may be just some linkage that came off or broke and can be easily fixed, and the door may even be easily opened with the small amount of access, this is also a viable option. If the OP can live without one back door opening, just move on. He'll get used to it and when people do have to get back there, it's easy enough to say 'that door's broken, use the other side'.
#24
Old 10-14-2016, 08:44 PM
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Take off the inside panel of the other back door.
Lock an unlock the door while you look at the components - see what moves which way for unlock
lock the door, but don't close it.
Use the sim jim to unlock the door - it should be easy because you can see where it needs to go and how it needs to move to unlock the door. It might help to put tape on the slim jim to show how far down it needs to go.
Duplicate in mirror form the position, depth, angle etc. & movement of the slim jim in the locked door.
#25
Old 10-15-2016, 05:32 AM
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My 4Runner failed like that.
I had someone operate the electric door lock switch as I operated the door handle and lock knob. It finally unlocked. Now that I could get the door panel off I found a plastic guide piece had worn out. It was just luck that we managed to wiggle things around the right way to unlock it.
#26
Old 10-15-2016, 10:18 PM
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Looking over some web videos I found this along with suggestions to flip the child lock with a flat piece of plastic slipped between the door if it's an up and down button.
#27
Old 10-16-2016, 10:06 AM
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I like HipGnosis' idea. Once you get a good look at the components and can directly see what moves when you lock and unlock the door, you'll have a much better chance to get the other door open.
#28
Old 11-27-2016, 06:28 PM
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Update

So with some time over Thanksgiving and the problem not having resolved itself otherwise, I decided some more serious jiggling might be a last resort. I grabbed the door and pulled it and pushed it, and yanked it up and yanked it down, and to the right and the left, and I banged it this way and that way from the inside and outside. Every so often I gave the power locks another try. And after a while - maybe 5-10 minutes of this - miracle of miracles, it suddenly worked.

Last edited by Fotheringay-Phipps; 11-27-2016 at 06:28 PM.
#29
Old 11-27-2016, 06:50 PM
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And what are you doing to ensure the problem doesn't recur?
#30
Old 11-27-2016, 07:46 PM
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Did you check to see if the child lock was partially engaged after you got it open?
#31
Old 11-28-2016, 09:49 AM
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I didn't mention this until now because it wasn't relevant, but at an early stage when the problem came up I gave the exterior door handle an extra hard yank and part of it broke off. Replacement handles go for under $6 on eBay, but you need to remove all the interior trim to replace it (it's bolted from the inside) and I couldn't access that. This was of secondary concern for me as compared to the door not opening altogether, but once I got the door unlocked and opened I did remove the interior and replace the exterior handle. This involved unlinking the handle from the mechanism, and also - unfortunately - detaching the lock mechanism itself and the latch too in order to allow access to the door handle bolts which were behind them.

So while my inclination would have been to just assume everything was fixed and wait to see if the problem recurred, as a practical matter I ended up detaching and reattaching pretty much the entire lock and handle mechanism. So I assume things will be fine going forward. You never know, but that's as much effort as I'm willing to put into this.

The child safety lock was not the issue. (I didn't think it would be, since the child safety lock is not related to the door lock or the exterior handle, but in any event it was in the "open" position.)
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