Lock It Up: Why Your Car’s Door Lock Actuator is Vital for Your Security

Dear Mike,
I recently took my car to the mechanic and was told that my door lock actuator needed to be replaced. I had never heard of this part before and I was wondering if you could explain to me what exactly it is and why it’s important for my car’s security? Any advice on how to detect if it’s failing and what to do about it would also be appreciated.
Best regards,

Hey there, Geraldine! Thanks for writing in with your question. Yes, your trusty car mechanic was right. The door lock actuator is an important part of your car’s security system. It’s actually the device that locks or unlocks your car’s doors automatically (which can come in handy if you’re carrying a lot of groceries or have your hands full with other things).

Before we delve any deeper, let’s take a walk down memory lane. Back in the day, locking or unlocking your car’s doors required you to physically stick your key in the lock and use your muscles. No key fobs, no automatic-locking doors, no nothing. It was a simpler time. But with progress comes convenience (sometimes), and today, almost all cars have power door locks.

So, let’s get back to the door lock actuator. When you press the lock or unlock button on your key fob, it activates the actuator and the door locks will either lock or unlock. The driver’s door actuator is usually the most used part, and it can either be separate from the door latch or integrated into it.

Now, let’s talk about detecting a failing door lock actuator. The most obvious sign is when your car’s door won’t lock or unlock with your key fob, or it takes a few tries for it to do so. You might also hear a rattling or buzzing sound coming from the door when you try to lock or unlock it. These issues could be signs that the actuator is failing, or it just needs a good cleaning.

What should you do about it? Well, taking it to the mechanic is a good start (which you’ve already done). The cost of replacing the door lock actuator can vary depending on your car’s make and model, and how complex the security system is. Reprogramming or coding may also be required, especially if your car has an integrated security system.

Here’s a funny story to illustrate just how important door lock actuators can be. My friend had an old truck that wouldn’t lock its doors occasionally, so he would have to physically lock and unlock the doors every time he got in and out. One day, he forgot to lock his doors and left his truck parked on the street overnight. When he went to check on it the next morning, he found his truck’s doors wide open. Someone had rummaged through his things and took some valuables. It wasn’t a total loss though because they left him a bag of chips (I guess they were hungry?).

In conclusion, a properly functioning door lock actuator is important for your car’s security, and it’s a convenience that we’ve all grown accustomed to. If you suspect yours might be failing, take it to a mechanic to get it checked out. And always remember to lock your doors, even if you have to do it manually. Who knows, maybe a criminal will break in and leave you some chips too.

Thanks for writing in, Geraldine, and stay safe out there!

Best regards,
Mike Urban