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Frozen Door Internals. 88 Crown Vic

I don’t know enough about car doors.

I haven’t been able to get into my car since last it was above 33 degrees.

A little background: I bought the car in November and the driver side lock was broken but the car only has 38000 miles and is in great condition.

But, once it got below freezing I haven’t been able to unlock the passenger door. I was able to get into it once and decided to just leave the door unlocked because I don’t have anything in the car.

The next day the passenger door wouldn’t open again. Its almost like there is nothing connected to the handle.

Its a balmy 9 degrees today and I put a space heater in front of the door for an hour and got nothing, probably too cold to do any good.

Short of smashing a window I’m willing to try almost anything at this point so any suggestions would help.

I used to own an '89 Grand Marquis and had the doors open to replace a shot lock actuator. However, it’s been a long time and I don’t recall all of the specifics so here’s some general info that may be helpful.

Typically, the door handle operates a series of hard linkages to open the door latch. When the handle moves freely but the door does not open, it could be that the spring loaded latch mechanism is what is hung up. The grease gets old, dirt accumulates and when it’s cold, the latch won’t release.

Sometimes, just wiggling the door (or pushing it closed harder) while holding the handle open, will allow the latch to release.

If you cannot put the entire car into a heated space, I would try blowing heated air into the space between the door and jamb. Something like a high powered hair dryer will generate a lot of heat without the chance of damaging the paint. Try pushing the door closed with your hip as you wiggle the handle and then step away and continue pulling the door open. It might let go that way.

Once open, you need to see what is holding it up. You can actuate the latch by hand and pull the hendle to see if it is working correctly. If it’s sticking, you need to clean out the old grease and then re-lubricate the mechanism. An aerosol cleaner can be used but be careful around the painted surfaces. Likewise, an aerosol delivered lubricant can be used to get it working smoothly again. You want a lubricant that can penetrate and remain pliable in low temps. White lithium grease would be one choice.

The interior on some older, large cars can be accessed through the trunk. You basically pop the rear seat back loose and crawl inside. I’m not positive how your seat back is fastened but it might be worth looking at if you get desperate enough. Be advised that if the latch is at fault, it may not be possible to open the door from the inside any easier than outside…

The hair dyer worked in about 10 minutes.

But, now the heater doesn’t.

I love cars.

Sometimes the blend air door will stick when it is very cold inside the car. Point the hair dryer under the center of the dash or put a space heater in the car. Once the interior gets above freezing, the blend air door may be able to move and give you heat. If it does start working, be sure to set it to full heat just before you turn the car off. That way the door will be in the heat position when you restart the car the next day.

Glad to hear you got in but sorry to hear of the next problem. What you need now is a battery powered hair dryer!

If you’re interested in troubleshooting the heater, here’s the first step. This will effectively divide the problem down the middle and eliminate half of the possible causes.

Start and run the engine until warmed up.
Set the controls to HEAT (output to foot or vent but not defrost), hottest setting and medium fan speed.
Open the hood and locate the heater hoses that go through the firewall by the passenger side.
Grasp each one in turn and note if they are hot, warm or cold.
They should both be nice and toasty hot.
Post back with your results.

An '88 will have a cable-actuated blend door or a coolant valve.

Not with auto climate control.

Thanks for the trouble shooting advice.

I parked the car in the garage for a few hours and the heater has worked all three times I’ve driven it since.