Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Exterior Door Locks Quit Working

My son’s 2000 Grand Am key doesn’t unlock the doors. Electronic lock toggle switches inside work properly, but the keys in the outside locks rotate left and right but do not actuate the mechanisms.

All the doors or just one?

The funny thing here is, I would expect the physical key to be a purely mechanical locking device. That way, you can unlock your car even if the electronic system is failed or the battery is dead. The key could fail on one door if the linkage came apart, there are some levers and push rods that connect the lock cylinder to the lock mechanism. (It is these levers that you try to grab when you use a slim jim to open a door.) I could see the driver’s door failing, for example it might just wear out or maybe someone tried to steal his car and broke the lock. It would be strange for both the driver and passenger door lock to break at the same time.

Perhaps only the driver’s door has a key lock? All of my cars (since 1994) only have key locks on the driver’s door. They started doing away with key locks on the passenger doors when they starting having the RF remotes to unlock the doors.

I had not thought about that. This photo of a 2000 Grand Am seems to show a passenger side key hole.

It would make me nervous to only have one key-operable door lock. What do you do if the lock breaks, climb in through the trunk? Being a single guy with no kids at home, I only use the driver’s door. I wonder how many keyed locks my car has :-0

It started with the passenger door key lock and then a few days later, the key would not unlock the driver’s side. Right now he is crawling through the trunk to get access to the car.

Back when it was working, did it feel like he was mechanically actuating the lock (some resistance), or was it always loose, as if it was only connected to an electrical switch?

If Pontiac was stupid enough to design the car with no mechanical override in case of electrical failure, then I suppose the computer that controls the electronic locks has a fault.

If there is a mechanical linkage then I suppose it could be a coincidence that both doors broke at the same time. Or maybe your son or someone else forced the lock with the wrong key or a badly worn key, and broke the lock cylinders so they are freely rotating without actually turning the linkage.

If you want, you can try and remove the inner panel of the door and look for a broken or disconnected linkage that is supposed to connect the cylinder to the lock. You would see a mechanical device turn when the electronic lock is activated but not turn when the key is turned, that would be the place to look for a broken or disconnected part. Otherwise take it to a locksmith or body shop.

Yeah, the trunk and the driver’s door are the only mechanical ways in [for me]. That’s better than my previous cars as they had no way from the trunk to the interior.
I wonder how many users with remotes ever even try or use the key on the door(s) or trunk at all?