Driver door latch actuator damaged who is at fault


My car stalled during a cold New York day. I called roadside. They came to jumpstart my car. The roadside tech used an air bag to pump open the door and used a rod to pry open the lock.

When he left, the power door lock would not work and the driver door would not respond to key fob. Have to manually lock and unlock door.

When I took car to mechanic, they said that the car door latch actuator was broken and needs to be replaced.

When roadside rep called and asked me what it was, I told him. He said they would not cover the damage as this is an electrical issue and was caused by cold weather that the rep did not break my car door mechanism.

Is he lying? Should I pursue this in small claims court?

You mean to tell me that, some poor schmuck came out into the cold to help you out, and in trying to start your car, found the doors locked, got the door open so they could start your car, got it started, and now because there’s a problem with the door, you want to sue them?

Boy! I hope when you break down again and call roadside, you don’t get that same poor schmuck!



The “roadside” company should be insured for this.
But I personally wouldn’t go so far as to taking them to court. You probably signed a disclaimer without realizing it. They sometimes have to risk breaking a part to get you going again, and they try to protect themselves against subsequent lawsuits.

I’d recommend simply filing a claim with their insurance using their forms. You’ll probably have to submit the repair invoice before being reimbursed, or at least a formal estimate, but that’s not a big deal.

If the claim is for some reason denied, and an appeal is unsuccessful, I’d just have it fixed and go forward. IMHO the cost is just the cost of living. It isn’t serious enough to let bother you.


OP , maybe you can clarify what happened. Are you saying you called for assistance, and when the truck arrived to help, you weren’t there w/your car? Were you in communication with the assistance truck driver by phone then? It’s not clear why the door needed to be forced open, since the problem was stall, not a “locked the keys inside”. Were the keys misplaced too?

Sure, I was there. I assume he tried to open the car door first to pop open the hood to access the battery. Also to clarify this is my first car, I am not technically savvy when it comes to cars.

My Lincoln service shop said it will cost around $270 with new car latch and battery. He said it would cost around $700 if I did not have an extended warranty.

Also my car stalled 3 times in a row, that is why I asked to check the battery, actuator and electrical systems since my car is a hybrid. I just bought the car from a Lincoln dealership from New Jersey with about 50000 miles about a month ago and they showed me services records stating car passed everything. I knew when you get a deal too good to be true there will be problems down the line.

Most mechanics also try to fool me because they can see I am new. One try to sell me rotors and break pads saying I will have an accident soon and overcharged me for an inspection, which I found out later was the case from another mechanic. But I think I am rambling at this point…

If you were there, why didn’t you open the door for him?

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Maybe it’s comparable to a shoestring breaking when it’s being tied. Left alone where they sat neither the shoe string nor the door latch would fail.

But the piece that likely failed is a plastic keeper identical to one used on carburetor throttle linkage and they eventually fail even under the best of circumstances. Yours just took a little more stress than normal before it failed but most can withstand the prying.

Because my car lock was not turning manually. It was not responding. I assume the mechanism was frozen, the car was completely dead. I could not open it with the fob and the key would not turn. He tried it too.

Thanks for the technical explanation Rod, but would you think that it broke by itself due to cold weather? Or by him prying the door?

The Roadside Damage Accessor stated it was a coincidence. I high doubt it. But I think they will say anything to avoid being responsible and helping me with the bill.

So it was not working when he got there, how do you figure he broke it?

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It was working before the car went dead. All the other ones worked except for the driver side door after he left. And the service center confirmed that the car door actuator was broken. Roadside rep claims it is electrical damage, not physical. But it is fishy since the one that he pried open broke and right after he did it.

One idea, maybe there’s a battery or alternator problem, and that’s the reason both for the car stalling and the electric door lock not working. No idea whether you’ll have any success getting the truck company to pay for fixing the door latch. While you are probably correct that forcing the door open damaged the lock, it’s sort of your word vs theirs on when the damage occurred. No harm trying to get some help from the truck company, but you may need to live with a low tech compromise: Just open the door w/the key going forward.

Yea I might just have to pay everything out of pocket. Because it scares me that one day I will forget to manually flip the switch and leave the driver door unlocked.

I think you are getting off cheap. The alternative would be to call a tow truck and put your car in a heated garage overnight. Your lock probably got some water in it and froze.

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It was broke BEFORE he pried it open, neither you or him could open it.


Yes, but if that is the case, why are all the other doors work fine?

Because they didn’t break.

The drivers door gets used a whole lot more than any other door, things in it break first.

If the dealer thought the roadside assistance broke it, your warranty wouldn’t cover most of the cost.

The drivers door is the one that’s used the most.

So, one would suspect the drivers door would be the problematic first.



I don’t think it was broke before he pried it open. The battery was dead so the electric door locks wouldn’t activate. Only the drivers side door has a mechanical key lock and I’m guessing in this weather in New York, it got some water in it and froze.

Possible solutions, put the vehicle in a heated garage until the lock unfreezes, pour a little antifreeze into the lock to melt the ice or try to open the trunk with the key and go in through the back seat from the trunk. Or just pry the lock and door open.