Why don't my power lock buttons always depress when locked?

Tiny
STLRAGTOP
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 CHRYSLER SEBRING
  • 109,000 MILES
Have a '98 Chrysler Sebring convertible w/ power door locks. The locks 'click' at 15 mph (or 1) when the lock button on the cluster on driver's door panel is engaged; 2) when using the key fob to lock the doors). However, the 'pop-up' button on each door (above the handle) doesn't always depress when doors lock. & Not always the same door. Can be one, both, or none at any given time! Can't see a pattern re: weather, etc. Hubby says the lock activator (solenoid) on one or both doors could be bad. How difficult is this to track down & fix? Thanks!
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Sunday, December 4th, 2011 AT 3:30 AM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
It sounds like you're saying any one of them will make noise like it's locking or unlocking but it doesn't always do it. As I recall, those lock solenoids are actually electric motors and gears built into the latch mechanism inside the doors. They have caused some trouble. A similar problem used to occur on the minivans. They have separate lock motors but the supplier built them the same way. A couple of things can happen. Most commonly the armature breaks free on the motor's shaft so it spins and makes noise but doesn't move anything. The fix is to replace the latch assembly. It was also common for the plastic housing to break on the minivans, That led to the gear train locking up and you couldn't move the lock on the sliding door. Seemed like a lawsuit waiting to happen if you couldn't get the door open after a crash, fire, and kids strapped inside.

Parts on all cars are built so cheaply today it's a wonder anything works as long as it does.
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Sunday, December 4th, 2011 AT 3:52 AM
Tiny
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"It sounds like you're saying any one of them will make noise like it's locking or unlocking but it doesn't always do it."

No, the doors do lock, but the buttons on the door sills don't always go down when the click is heard. (I know they lock, because I've occasionally tried to enter the car from outside without hitting the 'unlock' button first on the key fob -- forgetting the car was locked even tho' the door button is up -- and it trips the alarm.)

The question I want answered is, how difficult of a repair is this without taking it to a dealer? If we know what parts to get, we can buy them online and have someone we know do the repair on the side. Thanks.
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Sunday, December 4th, 2011 AT 5:25 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
There would have to be something loose in the linkages between the latch and the lock but there's no way to tell what's wrong without looking at it. That doesn't have to be a dealer repair although they will know how to get the door panel off without damaging it.

You might not find linkage parts online or at any local auto parts stores because they are not common failure items. The parts might have to be ordered through the dealer. Also, they might not be available any longer due to the car's age. In that case, a trip to the salvage yard is in order. If you have one near you that lets you pick your own parts, you can experiment on their cars to see how things come apart and how the linkages work. If you're anywhere between Ohio and southern Georgia, there is a chain of really clean and well-organized yards called "Pull-A-Part". You pay your buck and throw your tool box into one of their wheel barrows, then you can spend all day there. You can also do an inventory search for your car model on the internet. There are many similar yards all over the country but none as clean.

The repair difficulty obviously depends on what is wrong, and it depends on your level of mechanical aptitude. I've had female students figure out things I'd never seen before and I've had guys who couldn't figure out how to remove a screw, so you know I can't judge your level of ability. If you can figure out what is broken / bent / disconnected / or sticking, I can try to describe how to solve the problem.

Keep in mind most shops don't appreciate you supplying the repair parts, although there are exceptions, especially in this case. They normally determine what is needed, order the parts and pay for them, then mark the cost up a little. That markup helps defray their cost of buying them again if they damage the first ones. If you supply the parts and the mechanic damages them, you get to buy new parts again, so you haven't saved anything. It's also not unheard of to get defective new parts right out of the box. Obviously no one is going to make you pay for the replacements, unless you bought them through the dealer and you can't prove you didn't break them. In most cases buying your own parts for someone else to install is like bringing your own food to a restaurant, then sending it back when it isn't prepared properly.

I have total respect for anyone willing to tackle jobs like this as long as you understand you must work slowly and carefully to prevent causing other damage. Your best investment would be to buy the factory service manual. It will detail how the door trim panel is removed. There will be a combination of hidden screws, snaps, and fingers. The screws can be going through carpet inlays, under plastic trim caps and behind speaker grilles that must be pulled out. A special tool is recommended for pulling snap fasteners, otherwise the plastic they're popped into on the panel can break off. That will prevent the panel from remaining tight when it's put back together. Once all the fasteners are removed, many panels simply lift up an inch to release fingers, then they pull away from the door. I watched one new mechanic break all the fingers off a $400.00 door panel because he didn't know what to look for, then ten minutes later he did the same thing on the other side of the car. Most people learn from their mistakes the first time. That's where searching in a salvage yard first can be beneficial.

The dealer's parts department or office people can give you a trifold brochure listing the service manuals that are available. You order them right from Chrysler and they'll be shipped from their nearest training center. Be prepared to spend over $100.00 for the set for one car. It's a real good investment if you plan on keeping the car for quite a while. They don't cover service bulletins or recalls, just information and procedures. Service bulletins are produced when there is a somewhat common problem that can be hard to diagnose. Once the highest-quality cure is determined, that information is shared with all the dealerships so the next mechanic doesn't have to spend a lot of time figuring out what someone else has already figured out. Service bulletins are not recalls, they are simply information. Recalls are like service bulletins but the manufacturer wants the car brought in for a modification before a safety system or emissions problem develops. In many cases the manufacturer will also include customer satisfaction items that aren't covered under any government mandate. You can usually find service bulletin and recall information on the internet easier than at the dealership. Suppose, for example, there was a bulletin related to your door locks. The dealer's mechanics will learn the procedure, then perform it on numerous cars at that time. By the time you show up years later, that printed paperwork has been lost and most mechanics will have forgotten the procedure. Even if someone vaguely recalls it, they might not remember all the steps or the parts involved. Often "superceded" parts were involved. Those are parts that are redesigned to prevent a repeat of the problem. Those are what you might find in a salvage yard, but you would have to know there were updated parts produced and what they look like. The dealer's parts department will have a listing in their computer directing them to the new part number when a superceded part was developed. Even if it is no longer available, they will provide you with the part number to look for in a salvage yard. Part numbers are molded into or stamped on almost all parts.

You might also have a community college nearby that has an Automotive program. If so, ask if they have a service manual you can look at. We had the capability of making photocopies right in the Auto Shop. Chrysler was the top company, by far, for donating new service manuals to our program. Even if the instructors aren't familiar with your car, you'll have access to the same information they would use when they need to know a procedure.
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Sunday, December 4th, 2011 AT 8:31 PM

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