The door latch is the mechanism that is used to secure a vehicle’s door closed. When the door handle is pulled, the latch is mechanically or electronically actuated so that the door can be opened. The latch mechanism consists of the mechanical latch inside of door as well as the U-shaped anchor that is secured to the vehicle’s door jamb. The door latch mechanism is the component that secures the door shut, and when it has problems, this can cause issues entering and exiting the vehicle. Usually a problematic door latch assembly will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.
1. Door will not stay closed
One symptom of a faulty door latch mechanism are doors that will not stay closed. When the door is shut, the latch and anchor interlock to close the door. If the latch mechanism inside of the door fails or has any issues, it may not be able to secure onto the anchor, which will result in a door that will not stay closed. This is a problem as vehicles with doors that do not stay shut are unsafe to drive.
2. Door must be slammed hard to close
Another symptom of a problem with the door latch mechanism is a door that requires a hard slam in order for it to latch. The doors should be able to latch with a gentle to moderate amount of force when closing them. If you notice that the door only properly secures when it is slammed, then that may be a sign that the latch mechanism is not working properly or that the latch has become misaligned with the anchor. Excessive slamming will eventually cause the latch to fail and require replacement.
3. Door will not open
A stuck door is another symptom of a potential problem with the door latch mechanism. If the door gets stuck closed, and will not open when the handles are pulled, then this may be a sign that the linkage or latching mechanism inside of the door has failed. The door will usually have to be disassembled from the interior of the vehicle by a professional technician.
Door latches are an important component and are found on virtually all vehicles to secure the doors shut. While most door latches are built for a heavy duty and a long service life, they can also fail and cause issues with the door. If you are having problems with your doors, or suspect that your door latches are having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic to determine if a door latch replacement, or another repair, is needed.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Door Latch and was authored by Ed Ruelas.