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What Is a Door Lock Actuator?

Published by: Nathan
Date of Publish:

Locks are an integral part of your vehicle. To keep your car safe, you must ensure that the locks on your car are working fine. But do you know what kind of car locks are embedded in your car?

In older models, the locks used to be operated manually. However, power locks have taken over manual ones in most modern cars. An actuator operates these automatic locks. A car door actuator is a device designed to activate and deactivate the front door of a vehicle when the driver slides it open.

While it seems like modern door locks powered by actuators are easy to deal with, you can face several issues with these locks that need to be solved. Before you take the car to a mechanic, you should also know the problem and what is going on with your vehicle.

So, if you have no idea what an actuator is, keep reading to know all the details.

Door Lock Actuator and Its Functions

From an outside point of view, you just press one button, and the car doors lock, and you press the button once again, and the doors unlock. It is a simple action for us, but the simple movement of locking and unlocking the door is a complex mechanism.

The door lock in modern cars is attached to a motor controlled by a computer. As you press a button, a signal is sent to the computer about your action, and the computer will further send the instructions to the motor. According to how the motor moves, the door will lock or unlock. A motor is not the only component controlling the movement. Several more mechanical parts come into play when a door lock actuator moves and accomplishes the task.

The door lock actuator is the part attached to the motor and is responsible for locking and unlocking the car door. Due to the presence of the actuator in the door, you don’t have to close or open the lock manually. You press the target button, and it is done.

The functions of a door lock actuator are significant and central to working a car door properly. If the actuator gets broken, becomes faulty, or some other issue arises, you won't be able to unlock and lock the door automatically. You will have to do it by your hand, manually.

This can lead to problems like leaving the door accidentally open, wear and tear on the lock, getting the lock stuck, and more. So, if your actuator becomes faulty, fix it as soon as possible.

Benefits Of Door Lock Actuator

These mechanical components in the car are one of the central pieces that protect you, your vehicle, and the people inside it from the outside world. It is only because of the actuator that you can lock the door automatically, so when you are not in the car, no intruder can break in and steal your car without getting caught on the spot due to the attached siren. So, the actuator protects your car from intruders.

Moreover, protecting your car from being stolen by strangers also gives you more security so you can feel safe while leaving your car. So, if there is an issue with this part of your door lock, get it fixed on priority, as it is essential for your safety.

Actuator And Its Workings

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a door lock actuator is and some of its functions, let's move on to get to know the workings of this part of your car in more detail and how it protects you. In simple terms, it locks and unlocks the door, but the process that takes place under the hood and cannot be seen through the naked eye is a more detailed version. Working principle, please refer to Several ways to troubleshoot your door lock actuator

  • In the first step, you push the knob on the door that locks and unlocks the door, or you press the lock and unlock button on the key to your car.
  • A tiny computer is attached to the actuator in the door lock, and as you press the button on your key, it sends a signal to that attached computer.
  • The computer takes in the signal and comprehends it to know whether you want to lock or unlock the door of your car.
  • According to your instructions, the computer lets the actuator know whether the door is to be locked or unlocked.
  • The actuator takes action on the instructions from the computer and locks or unlocks the door.

To you, this might seem like one click of a button only, but the door lock has to go through a series of steps to unlock and lock the door, and if the actuator is not in perfect condition, this process would be hard to carry out. So, you must ensure that there is no issue with the actuator for the lock to function perfectly.

How Long Will a Door Lock Actuator Work For You?

Actuators are not mechanical parts in your car that need to be replaced too often. They don't get damaged all the time. However, a person using a car will often have to lock and unlock the vehicle door, and other people might also be using the car.

This constant use of the lock can strain the actuator and lead to wear and tear in part. When the damage happens, you must replace the actuator with a new one. The wear and tear depend entirely on your car type, how you use it, and other factors.

In some cars, you might have to replace the lock actuator often or after a few years only, while in others, you might not have to replace the car lock even once. All you have to do is look after the car and keep it in good condition.

How To Know If the Door Lock Has Gone Bad?

It is not hard to figure out when the door lock has gone bad or is faulty. In most cases, when that happens, you won't be able to lock or unlock your car door with the key button or even when you push it. This is a clear indication that there is some issue with the door lock actuator.

But you should also be aware of some of the other signs of the actuator getting faulty. You might start to hear some weird noises erupting from the locks of the doors, which might suggest a problem with some of the internal parts of the door.

The internal lights in your vehicle might not turn off completely or keep blinking, unlike before. The alarm system in your car might start to behave erratically or malfunction. You might even get a dead battery in your car due to the malfunctioning actuator. All of these can be the symptoms of a bad door lock actuator. They might not happen all at once, and you may only see one or two. But be on the lookout for signs that mean you have a bad actuator.

For more info, please refer to How to repair a door lock and How to replace door lock actuator motor

Is It Safe to Take Out a Vehicle With A Bad Door Lock Actuator?

While we have now established that it is essential to change the lock actuator, it does not mean that you cannot drive the car when the actuator is in bad condition. You can still drive the car and take people in the car as well. There will be no danger to the passengers or the driver while driving the car as the doors can be locked manually from the inside, even when the actuator is faulty.

But this does not mean you should not replace the actuator, as it will cause other hindrances. You will have to get in the habit of locking and unlocking the car door manually all the time, which can get pretty annoying quickly. You must remember to lock it when you get out of the car because you won’t be able to do it through the key. Other than that, you won’t have many issues in terms of the safety of your car.

The Cost of Replacing a Door Lock Actuator

As the actuator does not have to be replaced too often, you can be assured from the cost point of view as you won’t have to shed too many dollars too often. The exact cost of replacement and repair will depend on several factors the make and model of your vehicle, the area you live in, and the labor you hire.

On average, you can expect to pay between $200 and $350 for the door lock actuator plus the amount of labor. If you do it yourself, you can save on hiring professional services.

For other relevant info, please refer to How to replace the door lock actuator and How much does it cost to repair a door lock actuator


Actuators are critical mechanical components of the vehicle which help you lock and unlock your car's door automatically without having to do it manually. There can be some issues that can take place with your lock actuators, but there are solutions to work around them and solve them. You can use our guide to ensure a seamless experience with your car doors and solve any mechanical issues that might arise with the locks.

Make sure to keep checking the actuators and other related mechanical parts so you can get them fixed quickly. Keep the car in good condition, and you will have no issues for a long time.  

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