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Power door lock mechanism damaged by repeated manual unlocking?


I have a 1995 Toyota Avalon. It is otherwise is very good shape but recently the passenger door has been responding to power lock/unlock with some “hesitation”. Pressing the lock button (through the remote or using the button on the door, or even using the key) makes that particular lock move just a bit but then it stops too short of actually locking. Pressing unlock right after this fully unlocks the door, and then pressing lock properly locks the door. This 3 button sequence, I guess, frees up the movement of the lock and allows it to lock in the end.

I am trying to understand why this happened and how to fix it. This is only for the passenger door.

The car is designed so that all doors are automatically locked when the car is put into D gear, and automatically unlocked when the ignition is turned off. However, a friend of mine has been consistently opening the passenger door just a couple of seconds before I turn the ignition off, which unlocks it manually. Can this, if repeated consistently 3-4 times a week for about a year, interfere with the power locking mechanism and damage it?

Another possibility is that it isn’t manually opening the door a couple of seconds before automatic unlock that has damaged it, it is the few rare occasions that both of us simultaneously operated on the door – him by trying to hand-open and manually unlock it while I was simultaneously turning the ignition off and thus power unlocking it. Is this more likely to have caused the issue, even though this has got to be very rare? (may be 5 times max, from what I can remember)

I would love to understand what caused it and what to avoid in the future.

Also, any ideas for how to fix it? Something I can do myself with a repair manual and tools (I’m ok with mechanical things, having owned a motorbike for some years, but don’t have much experience with cars, especially car doors and locks). If not, what kind of repair shop is best to take this too?

Thank you!

The problems with this lock are surely completely unrelated to your friend’s habits. Most likely the solenoid mechanism has accumulated sufficient dust so that it no longer operates smoothly. After all, this car is about 18 years old.

You should be able to overcome the friction by squirting in some lubricant such as WD-40.

I agree with SteveF’s take on this. The door lock could care less about this habit your friend has. The car is old and either needs the lock actuator cleaned and lubricated or replaced.
For what it’s worth, the passenger door lock actuator on my '98 F150 does the same thing.

Hi SteveF and mark9207,

Thanks for your comments. I was away for a while but finally got around to trying to lubricate/clean the lock actuator as you had suggested. Unfortunately, parts are clearly way less accessible in the Avalon than they used to be in my motorbike. I wasn’t really able to access the actuator.

Following the instructions on the repair manual (which isn’t very accurate as 1995 was apparently the very first year of Avalon and the manual folks essentially just added a few more tips to the Camry manual in order to cover Avalon as well), I took out the inside door panel and removed the plastic film and the cover to the access panel. Still, I can barely get my hands to where the actuator / door lock assembly is. It seemed like there is no easy way to actually get the door lock assembly in my hands in order to try to clean, lubricate, or repair it. Perhaps I am missing something? One would think there has got to be a way to at least easily lubricate it. Any tips will be much appreciated!

Thank you!

If you remove the door panel and observe the mechanism that is locking and unlocking your doors, and consider how many times this mechanism has operated over the past 17 years, you would marvel that it still works at all…While the panel is off (a 15 minute job) you can clean and lubricate the lock and latch mechanism, restoring it’s operation…

You remind mr of my late father-in-law who only watched one TV station because he didn’t want to wear out the tuner by charging channels.

If you can reach the door lock mechanism using WD40 with the red wand aim at it and squirt away.

Well I geuss you thought the automatic door locks were a great feature until someone wanted 900$ to fix little automatic issues. It is difficult to get into these parts. If you do not want to there are real mechanics. That said, rip away all the stuff that stops you and get to the motor. Carefully lubricate the moving parts correctly. reassemble door correctly.

I mostly agree with SteveF.  In fact following his advice will likely take care of the problem, at least for now.  

I suggest that you consider cleaning it and then lubricating it.  WD-40 is neither a cleaner nor a lubricant.   It is a water displacement (WD).  The problems is after using it (which almost aways works, at least for a while, it does not really address the problem, the oil residue build up.

Next time you experience the problem find a good cleaner and clean it then find a good lubricant and lube it with a suitable lube.