How To Fix A Car Door That Won’t Close Properly

Dustin Hawley | Mar 31, 2021

Drivers are accustomed to having their car doors shut perfectly. In turn, they are often taken by surprise when they pop back open again or refuse to sit neatly in the frame like they typically do. Unfortunately, car doors frequently have issues, and it’s important to know how to fix a car door that won’t close properly.

how to fix a broken car door

Fortunately, many of the root causes behind stuck doors are relatively easy to fix. Let's look at some repair methods you can employ to fix a car door that won’t close properly.

How Does Your Car Door Work?

Your car door isn’t as simple a device as you may think. Multiple mechanical parts work in conjunction to ensure you can open and close your door easily. A standard car door includes components like:

  • Door handles (both interior and exterior)
  • Door hinges
  • Door latches, which are small claws that release to allow the door to open and engage (shut) to keep the door closed while in motion
  • An anchor that works in conjunction with one or more latches to release and secure your door
  • A door lock
  • Mechanical or electrical parts that connect with the vehicle’s circuitry, which enable you to use buttons to engage the door lock, for example

Familiarize yourself with these components before proceeding with any repair tactics, as it will assist you in understanding how to use these strategies to the best effect. You may be able to find a diagram of your car's door in your owner's manual or by utilizing online resources from your car's manufacturer.

How To Fix A Stuck Latch

If your door can open correctly but can’t close without getting stuck, it’s likely an issue with the latch.

Multiple issues can compromise door latches, such as a mechanical error, worn down latch components, broken door handle cables, and more.

If the latch is simply stuck, you should be able to fix this yourself without taking your car to a mechanic. Just take some oil lubricant, like WD-40, and spread/spray it into the latch mechanism of your open door. Let the oil soak in for a little bit, then use a microfiber cloth to rub the oil into any visible parts of the latch.

While performing this task, check to see if you can find any rust on latch components. If you do, use a piece of steel wool to scrape the rust away. Once removed, try opening the latch with your door handle to confirm that it is once again functioning correctly.

How To Fix A Closed Latch

In some situations, your latch may accidentally be closed when it should be open. This can happen for multiple reasons - sometimes due to an electrical glitch or a mistake made while repairing the door. Either way, if you have a car door with a closed latch, try opening your door and looking at the latch to determine its orientation. Then, open a functional door and look at the latch to see how it’s supposed to be.

A working door will have a latch with “open” jaws. These jaws can catch the door jamb anchor and rotate into a closed orientation to secure the door. If the latch’s jaws are already closed, it can’t engage with the anchor or close properly.

To fix this issue, take a screwdriver and hold the door handle in the open position (pulling if necessary). As you pull the handle, rotate the latch with your screwdriver into the correct orientation. If needed, ask a friend or family member to help you hold the door or hold the handle open for you while you perform this action. 

Once you have moved the latch into the correct orientation, test the door handle a few times. The latch should open when you pull the door handle, and the door should again be functioning correctly.

How To Fix A Door Handle

In many situations, a door won’t close because of an issue with the handle. Unfortunately, if the root of the problem lies in a faulty door handle, you might need to get professional assistance. 

When you pull on a door handle, it extends a cable or metal rod that disengages the door latch from the anchor. If your door handle isn’t working correctly, chances are that the cable or metal rod is broken, which might then leave the door handle stuck in the open position.

However, sometimes your door handle stops working because some of the components screws are loose. If this is the case with your door handle, you can take a screwdriver and tighten them to ensure the handle’s mechanics are adequately secured and working correctly.

How To Fix Hinges

If the tactics mentioned above don’t seem to be solving your problem, there may be a problem with the door alignment. In order to close correctly, your door must be perfectly aligned with your vehicle’s body. 

This issue can often be determined by a simple visual inspection, as misalignment often is the result of a car door that droops a little bit when open. In some cases, the door and fender might appear to be uneven with one another. When this is apparent, the first thing you should do is check your door’s hinges. 

The hinges may be worn down from regular wear and tear, damaged by corrosion, or even warped or dented from an impact of some kind. If the hinges look a little rusty or clogged with dirt, you can try cleaning them off with WD-40 and other cleaning supplies. You can also take a screwdriver and try to tighten up any screws in the door hinges and see if it helps your door align better. However, as with your door handles, a certified professional at an auto body shop should handle any advanced repairs.

How To Fix Car Door Electronics

Electronic issues are not limited to your power windows or instrument panel - they can also present themselves in the components of your door. For example, a short-circuit could prevent your locks from disengaging when the door is open, causing the locks to remain engaged. The locks will then act as physical blocks for the door.

If you suspect that this may be the issue, you can check your car’s fuses and see if there is a short-circuit in play. If so, you can replace the wiring or fuses and try to use the electronic locking control again to see if the problem has been resolved.

Summary

No matter the specific issue or root cause, you should never drive your car if the door doesn’t close properly. Regardless of whether your car door seems to fit perfectly or not, the anchor and latches have to fully engage for you to be safe. If these components don’t seem to be functioning correctly, do not drive your car. It’s that simple. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t seem to fix the problem with your door, don’t hesitate to contact a professional. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than your safety.

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