Ghost in the Machine - Kia locks/unlocks itself randomly

My boyfriend has a 2008 Kia Spectra that appears to have developed a mind of its own! The doors randomly lock and unlock at very odd times - usually when we are trying to enter the vehicle. We click the key fob “unlock” and the car unlocks and then immediately locks again. It has become a game of “how fast can we get the doors open”! Sometimes it goes into what we call “fits” and will click click click click - open/close open/close, etc. This will go on for nearly 10 to 15 seconds as we just sit in the car. He has taken it to the dealership on two different occasions, but OF COURSE it never does any of the things I’ve just mentioned! I think the dealership thinks he is crazy. HELP! What could be causing this weird “ghost”???

When you think it is doing the lock/unlock thing? I have seen this and to the casual observer, it looks like it is unlocking then locking in rapid succession, but what appears to be an unlock is just a bounce of the lock knob, it is really just lock, lock. lock… If that is the case, it is the master controller in the drivers door.

If it is actually unlocking, the problem might be in the FOB itself and not in the vehicle. Try leaving the FOB in the house and just use the key only.

One of the door lock actuators may be bad.
The body control module may not be receiving the successful unlock signal from one of the lock actuators.
Then it keeps trying again.
Hook up a scanner and look for fault codes in the body control module.

My first guess is that this is a problem with the fob, not the car. Do you have another fob to try? If so, try to narrow it down if it is the fob or the car. If you don’t have an extra, maybe the dealer has another fob to try, if you don’t. If not, maybe the dealer has another car on their lot you can try your fob with. Sometimes the key on the fob will stick, and it confuses the electronics in the car, as it doesn’t know what you want, to lock, or unlock, when the fob key sticks.

Does it always happen when parked in the same spot? This could be some sort of RF or infrared hot spot that saturates the cars system with conflicting signals…Our planet is becoming overwhelmed with wireless signals…

This is a known problem(I have a 2007 with the same issue), not the result of too many wireless signals. My mechanic said it needed to be fixed (reset?) by the dealer, that regular shops not associated with the dealer can’t handle this. (BTW, while it could be related to some people’s fob, it happens when I just use the lock/unlock button and with both of our fobs.)

Well, it isn’t the FOB. Lindie - what did the Kia dealer finally call this problem? It happens everywhere - not just because we park it in the same spot. Thanks for all of the answers - we will head off to the dealer…AGAIN!!!

I have a Kia Spectra 2007 ( with 207,000mi :wink: ) I have this exact problem. At first I thought it may be a short, but now that I think about it I relized that the problem came up while i had the key in the ignition and was trying to unlock the trunk. On a totally unrelated issue I read that I may have activated the “automatic lock” feature of the car by pressing the unlock button three times in a row trying to get it to unlock. According to the site:

  1. put the key in the ignition
  2. press the unlock button three times
  3. turn off the ignition.
  4. press the unlock three more times.
  5. turn the ignition back on.

The horn should beep once. to let you know you’re in programming mode.

  1. press the unlock button then press lock again. Horn will beep to let you know auto-lock is deactivated.

I have no idea if this will work ( after disconnecting the battery the problem went away too. )

If it works let me know. I’m gonna try doing this fix tonight. :slight_smile:


I tried some combination of this but didn’t hear a beep. Instead I went rogue, on the key fob I tried pressing successions of 3 on either unlock or lock. Just pressing buttons semi-randomly solved the issue.

Relating to this thread, I have a 2008 Kia Spectra, with manual transmission, without a key fob that has this same problem. So, I think the key fob can be ruled out. Has anyone looked up wiring diagrams for this car or back-probed any part of the auto-lock system?

I discovered my 2010 Kia Forte would not open the trunk with the fob when the key was in the ignition. Why!. If I unlock the doors with the fob I have 1 minute to open a door before they re-lock. Why! The Kia dealer did not have A Forte SX 6 speed M/T. I did my test drive in an A/T. No problems. I stalled my M/T driving off the lot. I thought I had started in 3rd gear. No! I stalled it 3 more times on the way home!!! My Father taught me how to drive a M/T in 1965 when I was 13 years old! I drove old surplus “crash box (non sychro)” Jeeps towing irrigation pipe trailers at that age. I thought it was a weird clutch but later learned it was the “throttle by wire”! I could launch normally but when I applied more throttle it bogged or even stalled. The Kia dealership said there was a software upgrade that might help. I checked the Forte forum and those who tried that agreed it made things worse! Through experimentation I discovered if I quickly shifted to second gear then accelerated it was normal!. Why? The manufacturers seem to be constantly trying to outdo each other with un-needed and un-proven tech (ghosts in the machine). Why?

I had the exact same problem with my 2006 Kia Sorento. Door locks seem to have a mind of its own. Like one of the posts said, it was like a game trying to open a door before they’d lock on its own. I finally figured out it was the front right door lock actuator that was the problem. Even though it was working (lock & unlock), there was a problem with it. After replacing it, issue has been resolved.

Here is a 2 part interactive video that explains it for a mini-van. The first vid shows diagnosing the problem, the second explains what could go wrong to cause the error. He’s an expert, so uses equipment you won’t have at home, but can get an idea of what’s involved… and why mechanics need to have it act up while you are in the shop.

In this case, it was way back at the lift gate… the last place I’d think to look via trial and error. But that was only part of the trouble… continued in the 3rd video. (Spoiler: the 3rd shows the lock mechanism that failed, and why.)