Join the Car Talk Community!

Discussion Rules

Welcome to the Car Talk Community!

Want to ask a question or join the discussion? Great! Join now.

Sign In Register

Car door stuck - won't open from either side

edited October 2011 in Repair and Maintenance
The front passenger car door just closed and wouldn't open from either side. It is not locked, and lock is functional. Nothing budges.

Husband uses this car as a rural mail delivery vehicle and drives it from the front passenger side. On the route today, it failed to open for him during the route -- very inconvenient to move all that mail to get in and out.

He needs to take the inside door panel off but doesn't see how with having the door open.

Any ideas?



  • edited October 2011
    Pull off the door panel, observe the mechanics of the system, make sure all pushes or pulls as it should, sometimes it is a clip that has come off or a broken 25 cent plastic piece that costs $20.00! A slim jim could help open the door.
  • edited October 2011
    If you like me, aren't as competent as waterboy's exc. advice, take it to a body shop.
  • Thanks, waterboy, but can you get the door panel off while it's closed? That's exactly what he wants to do but can't figure out how.

    He does all the maintenance on our vehicles and won't take it to a body shop unless it's the last choice.
  • Maybe take it to a body shop or a AAA service garage that helps people who lock their keys in the car, ask them to pop open the door for you, then take the inner cover off right there in the parking lot. Chances are the broken connection will be pretty obvious and you can start finding the fix right away, and maybe figure out how to open the door from the inside by moving the mechanism directly. Even if isn't that clear, you can close the door and go home, as long as the inner cover is now out of the way.
  • Before you take it somewhere, get aggressive with it. I had the driver's door on my Riviera stick like that. Took it to a body shop and decided to try myself again. Make sure the door is fully unlocked or manipulate the lock mechanism, pull on the handle on the inside and give it some good shoves from the inside. This must be a GM thing. You can't get the panel off with the door shut.
  • A locksmith may be able to open it with a Slim Jim. He might consider even asking the local police department if they can do the same. The PD around here has been known to help someone out with a Slim Jim now and then.

    If he gets the door open I would advise trying to clean the latch assembly up a bit. These come from the factory with grease on them and over time that grease ages and hardens a bit and combined with dust over the years causes parts in the latch to bind a bit.
    This may involve removing the door panel (once the door is open) to really clean the latch up. I've done them with aerosol carburetor cleaner followed by the application of a light duty aerosol grease. Hope that helps.
  • I think Bing's suggestion is the best. Let's remember the problem isn't that the door is locked, it's that it won't open.
  • Buick Century
    Model-Year ?

    "Let's remember the problem isn't that the door is locked, it's that it won't open. "

    Just because the lock moves to the unlock position doesn't mean the door's unlocked. As has been pointed out, a lock rod can become detached.

  • CSA: It's a Buick Century 1996.

    Bing: He did get aggressive with it. :) He had me hold the outside latch open while he used both feet to kick against it from the inside. Nothing budged. So we suspect the latch is not connecting at all.

    Thanks, everyone! I'll pass on all this advice when he gets home today. He does have an alternate vehicle for mail deliveries, which is helpful.
  • edited October 2011
    If he doesn't care bout the door panel, he can use a hole saw to cut out a circle (or razor blade, but be careful). From there, he can reach in and manually trip the mechanism and open it.

    You should be able to find another door panel in a yard somewhere. You may want to check that before destroying the existing one. BUT...if it's more important to get it opening/closing than looking good...heck, it's 15 years old.
This discussion has been closed.