The car door lock cylinder refers to the part that you insert the key into when unlocking or locking the door of your car. Because it plays such a crucial role in securing a vehicle, the cylinder must always be in good condition. Read this article to understand the parts that make it, how it works, and how to fix or change it.
What is A Car Door Lock Cylinder?
The car door lock cylinder, or car door lock barrel, is the tubular component where the pins that interact with your car key are contained. If your car is one of the older models, then you most probably have this part as your only means of locking your car doors.
If you have a recent model, then your car will also have an electronic locking system and the keyless entry. In such cases, the lock cylinder becomes the emergency backup system—but still as important since you may not know when you’ll need it.
How Does A Car Door Lock Cylinder Work?
The car lock cylinder enables you to use a physical key on the door. When you insert the key in the cylinder’s keyway, the pins inside align in a certain way that allows you to turn the lock.
This arrangement unlocks or locks the door, depending on how you turn the key. Normally, turning the key clockwise will lock the door, and anti-clockwise will unlock it.
If any of these pins are out of alignment or stuck, then you will not be able to turn the key and gain access to your car. This is why it’s important to make sure that all of these pins in your car door key cylinder are in good condition and not worn or stuck.
Where is the Locking Mechanism in a Car Door?
The car door lock cylinder is located at the base of the window, where the door handle and latch are installed. Here, it connects to the handle and latch mechanism, making it easier for you to unlock the car door when you insert and turn your key.
A car door cylinder lock with its keyway may be visible in some cars and covered behind a plastic piece in others. It’s usually the round metallic part next to the door handle.
Typically, there’s a lock on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side of the car. That means a cylinder on either side. This is important not only for security purposes, but also to keep both doors from getting stuck.
However, in some cars, the lock cylinder is only installed in one door. This is common in modern cars that use electronic locks and the cylinder lock only occasionally— such as when remote key fob batteries die or the keyless system suffers a malfunction.
Parts of a Car Door Lock Cylinder
The car door lock cylinder, despite its small size, houses several different parts. The main car lock cylinder parts, together with what they do, include the following:
- The keyway – The keyway is the area at the top of the cylinder where your car key will be inserted. It’s often protected by a cover to prevent dirt and moisture from entering and damaging it.
- The cylinder housing – The outer part that holds all other parts in place. It’s usually made of metal and is designed to be strong and durable.
- The plug – This is a cylinder within the lock barrel that houses most parts of the car door lock, but more specifically the pins or wafers.
- Tumblers/Pins – These are small brass plates that fit inside the metal core of the lock cylinder, and one of the most important car door lock cylinder parts. When they are in their correct position, they line up with the cuts in your key so you can turn the cylinder and open or lock the door.
- The springs – Springs ensure the tumblers reset themselves after each use, so they’re ready to interact with the key again. There are small springs for the tumblers and a larger one for the cylinder itself.
Car Door Lock Cylinder Problems
The lock cylinder houses moving components. As you can expect, these will eventually wear out or get jammed due to dirt and corrosion. Your car door lock cylinder parts may also break and fail, especially if there has been a break-in attempt. The signs that you have a faulty car lock cylinder include the following:
Manual Car Door Lock Not Working
A manual lock will not work, which means you cannot open or lock the door with a key. It will often refuse a key, or the key cannot turn the cylinder. This is usually caused by worn tumblers, springs, or other components in the car door key cylinder that need to be replaced. It can also be a worn key, so you may want to try out a spare key first.
Car Cylinder Lock Stuck
The car door lock cylinder won’t turn, even when you turn the key (or it may only move a fraction of the way). This is usually caused by dirt and corrosion that has built up over time, stopping the components from moving freely inside the cylinder. The key itself may even stick inside or break if you use force to open the lock.
Car Door Lock Cylinder Repair
A faulty lock cylinder can leave you stranded, especially if the car door won’t open or close. In some cases, you may be able to fix it using these methods; lubricating a jammed assembly or re-keying the cylinder. Here is more about these car cylinder lock cylinder repair options.
How to Lubricate Car Door Lock Cylinder
This is one of the simplest car door lock cylinder repair methods, but only if the problem is a jammed mechanism. You only need brake cleaner to rid the lock cylinder parts of dirt/grime and lubricant, such as white grease, to keep water and corrosion away.
- Start by spraying brake cleaning fluid into the cylinder. This will loosen up rust and dirt.
- Wait five minutes and then insert the key. Push it in and out then use it to turn the cylinder.
- Wait another 5 to 10 minutes and spray another stream of brake cleaner. This will flush out any remaining dirt and grime.
- Then, apply a small amount of white grease into the lock cylinder, usually around the keyhole. This should also work its way through to other parts of the mechanism.
- You may also use commercial car door lock lube. Only make sue you’re using the best type. The best car door cylinder lock lubricant will effectively lubricate the mechanism, allowing you to operate it more smoothly.
- Finally, put in the key and turn it several times to spread the lubricant around and move all parts you sprayed earlier.
How to Rekey Car Door Lock Cylinder
Let’s now see how to fix a car door lock cylinder by re-keying it. Rekeying car door lock cylinder pins is the process of replacing the wafers/pins to match a new key. This is often done when mechanism stops working, but also if you lose your original key or when you want to change the security of your car.
- To rekey a car door lock cylinder, you’ll need to take apart the assembly.
- You’ll also need a car lock rekeying kit which includes parts for the new setup.
- Once you’ve assembled the new components, you can insert your key into the car door lock cylinder to test it out.
- If all goes well, your car door will now be secured with the new key. If not, you’ll need to take apart the assembly again and replace any parts that may not have been installed properly.
Car Door Lock Cylinder Replacement
Most of the time, you’ll not be able to repair the lock cylinder and need to replace it completely, using a new unit that matches your car’s make and model. Car door lock cylinder replacement is also the surest way to restore the security of your car, as new units come with fresh sets of pins or wafers.
How to Replace a Car Door Lock Cylinder
Here is how to change a door lock cylinder on a car if you decide to do it yourself. Note that the replacement process may time-consuming in some but definitely not be difficult.
What you’ll need:
- A new, door lock cylinder assembly
- Ratchet and socket set
- Cross tip screwdriver/Phillips screwdriver
- Flat-head screwdriver
- Needle-nose pliers or pick tool
- Trim tool
Start by securely parking your car on an even surface. Make sure to set the parking brakes and place a wheel chock behind one of the rear tires for further precaution, then follow these vehicle door lock cylinder replacement steps.
Step 1 Remove Door Panel
The car door cylinder lock assembly is usually hidden behind the door panel, so you’ll first need to take this off. You may also need to remove several parts such as the window crank, some subpanels/covers, or peel a moisture barrier and so on. It really depends on your type of vehicle.
In some cars, you can easily remove the cylinder by unscrewing a bolt that’s located on the edge of the door frame as can be seen in this video. This, by far, should be the easiest auto door lock cylinder replacement process.
Step 2 Remove Door Lock Cylinder
After you have exposed the access to the cylinder assembly, it’s time to disconnect it. Again, the steps to remove it vary across different cars, so it’s important that you know how to remove a door lock cylinder for your particular type of car.
Most often, the door cylinder lock is held by a C-clip. Use needle-nose pliers or a pick tool to remove it, and then disconnect the lock rod from the door handle by using a flat-head screwdriver.
You may also need a socket wrench to remove a fastener or fasteners and release both the door handle and lock cylinder. In most cases, there will be holes provided to allow tool insertion.
Step 3 Install New Door Lock Cylinder
Once you have taken off the old door lock cylinder, you can install a new one. Make sure it matches the make and model of your vehicle.
To install a new lock cylinder, simply reverse the steps above. Securely attach all components in their right place and ensure that everything is tight. Finally, test the lock.
Car Lock Replacement Cost
The cost to replace a car door lock cylinder will depend on the make and model of your vehicle, as well as the location where it is being replaced. In general, though, you may have to part with anywhere from $50-$100 or more for this service.
Adding this to the cost of a new lock cylinder, which can range from $30-$100 depending on the type you choose, we can see that the total amount can come close to or exceed $100.
When looking to replace car door lock cylinder assemblies, be sure to purchase models that are compatible with your vehicle model and make. This can typically be done at an auto parts store or online.
Car Door Lock Cylinder Price
For anyone replacing their car lock, price is usually a major concern – and understandably so since different car door lock manufacturers and auto parts sellers can offer different prices. This makes it important to shop around and compare prices before making a purchase.
That said, the car door lock cylinder price can range from $30-$100. You may also have to pay additional labor costs if you are having your car lock serviced at an auto shop or dealer.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option for your replacement car lock cylinder, you may want to consider buying a car door lock cylinder online. Many online retailers sell the same locks as brick-and-mortar stores at significantly lower prices – sometimes at up to 25% off.
The car door lock cylinder helps with maintaining the safety of your vehicle. Should it how any signs of damage, be sure to fix or replace it without delay; you never know when it will fail and leave you stranded. And the good thing is, you can even do it on your own. However, if you are not confident replacing the part yourself, it’s best to leave it to a mechanic or locksmith.