Car Door Latch Problemsby Roz Zurko
For such a simple small mechanism, a car door latch can cause many problems. It is the device that keeps the car door shut and unhooks it to open. A car door latch with a problem can keep you from getting into your car. If you were in an accident and a balky latch prevents you from getting out of your car, than this is more than just a small problem--it can be dangerous.
Types of Problems
Car door latches getting stuck is a typical complaint heard from car owners. The majority of latch problems are found in older vehicles. In some cases, the doors are hard to open and sometimes it takes great force to get the latch to let go. Latches can become noisy when you open or close the door. They sometimes become stuck and will not let the door open or close at all. Latch problems tend to occur more frequently in colder weather.
Needing to use extra force to open or close your car door can be a warning sign that your latch is not working properly. The scraping sound of metal against metal when you open or close your door can also be a sign that something is wrong. A squeaking or gritty sound is a tell-tale sign that your latch needs attention.
Normal wear and tear can produce problems with your door latch, such as the warped metal or parts that slightly bend on the latch mechanism. Slamming the door too much can also cause the latch to bend. Water getting into the door jam can cause the latch to rust, making it hard to open and close. Water getting into your door jam from the rain or a recent car washing can collect near the latch and freeze. This can cause your door to freeze shut.
For a frozen door latch, try using your hair blower on high heat and aim it at your car door in the area of the latch. If you can get in another door, warm up your car until the ice around the latch melts. Rust remover and a little elbow grease can remove some of the rust around your latch to help it work better. Use a lubricant, such as penetrating oil, to help rid minor squeaking and then again as a part of your routine maintenance to keep your latch in good working order. If your door latch is stuck and your door will not shut, use a screwdriver or pen to put the latch back in its original position. Give it a squirt of oil. This may be all you need for an extra tight car door latch. If all else has failed, you may need to get a door latch replacement kit. These are sold for most every car at your local auto parts stores.
Never get in a car and drive it if your driver's door latch is stuck. In case of an accident, you can be in great danger if you cannot get out of your car door. The same can be said for a door latch that will not close. Do not try and tie the door shut or rig it in a way to stay closed other than using the latch. At high speeds an unlatched door could pop open and you can fall out of the car.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of marya