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Noisy automatic door lock. Fix? Disable?

The door lock in the front passenger door on my '99 Intrepid makes a horrible grinding noise whenever the lock is activated. It sounds like a gear has stripped. The door will not unlock unless I manually lift the lock button. I heard another Intrepid make the same noise recently, so I know I am not the only one to have this problem. I hear the noise every time I start the car and get up to 15 mph. It scares the bejesus out of any passenger riding in the front seat.

Two questions. If I try to replace the lock module in the door, do you have any tips that will make it easier? I am especially concerned about removing and replacing the door panel.

Also, I know there must be a simple way to disable the auto door lock feature, which locks the doors when you start the car and drive away. Anyone know how to do it?

Removing the door panel is not particularly difficult but it does require patience to avoid damaging the panel or the fasteners.

They sell tools for prying the fasteners out of the door without damaging the panel but you can either make your own or just be careful to pry evenly and slowly making sure you’re under the head of the fastener as you pry to avoid tearing it out of the panel. Go slow and lift slightly to find each fastener. The closure pull strap/arm rest will be bolted or screwed to the door frame. The electronics pod may need to be loosened and slid through the panel opening as it is removed. Also, depending on the design of the interior handle, it may simply slide through an opening as you remove the panel or you may have to loosen a fastener to allow it to be free of the panel.

The panel should be pulled toward you (tilted) slightly as you lift to clear the frame at the top. If there is a vapor barrier between the panel and the door, be very careful to remove it without tearing. This protects your door panel from water/moisture that drains through the door interior. A heat gun can be used to soften stubborn adhesive holding the vapor barrier, if necessary.

After that, the door lock actuator should be easily accessible. Work the lock a few times to see what’s going on. Changing an actuator is easy at this point. There are usually only plastic clips that flip down over the rod, holding the rod place. The actuator is probably bolted to the frame.

When re-installing the panel, work around the perimeter to get each fastener aligned with its corresponding hole before pressing (or lightly popping the area over the fastener with the heel of your hand to seat it) the panel in place.

Nuttin’ to it! Give it a shot, I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is and the satisfaction of doing it yourself will be priceless.

Back in the day, when they allowed people to pick their own parts at the junkyard, we practiced on those cars first (wink-wink). Come to think of it, that practice may have contributed to the current policy of not letting customers into the lot! Some place still do this. Others will let you watch their guy. I’ve bought used door actuators from recycling yards for a couple bucks and they worked fine for the rest of the time I had the car. Might be a way to see how the panel comes off and save a few bucks in the process.

Hey, thanks for the tips. I will give it a try once the weather breaks.

Some of those door locks can be user programmed to lock when you put car in drive, lock when you reach a certain MPH, or not lock automatically. Check your owners manual to see if yours can be reprogrammed. I would just google. “replace door lock” with your car year and see what results you come up with.

I’m pretty sure the manual says to “see your dealer” to shut it off. Really helpful.

You may want to refer to a high end repair manual for door panel removal instructions. Not all models use the “christmas tree” type fasteners, some panels actually have hooks molded into the inner panel. The F-Body GM vehicles are one example, I have replaced many panels that have their retaining hooks broken off by owners (and other mechanics) who thought all panels came off the same way.

Your actuator probably is a add on part of the door latch, these jobs can be very troubling for the first timer.

Almost certainly there is a programning procedure for your “auto lock” function.