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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
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On my 24 year old car the lock and door opener are connected by a rod to a more complex arrangement that is down near the door latch itself. If your problem is a frozen lock (key won't turn) then it's probably ice in the lock cylinder and the de-icer should clear that by squirting where the key goes. This is most likely if it rains before a freeze or if you wash your car on a really cold day. Squirting into the lock mechanism itself will probably not put anything on the latch mechanism though.
If your problem is the door won't close, or pulling on the handle release doesn't open the door, then it's more likely your latch mechanism that's giving trouble, either freezing with ice, rust, or insufficient lubrication. I had problems that my door was rusting from underneath and water was getting thrown up on the latch and rusting it (solution: patch holes in door and/or replace door). I don't think squirting de-icer on the latch itself (unless you see lots of water in that area) will help too much since it may not get all the way inside to all the mechanism. If this is happening to you regularly then see if you can find the source of the water (bad seals around the window, holes in the door, etc.). You could also try lubricating the mechanism itself. You may have to remove the door panel to do this. Again on my 24 year old car, you have to unscrew the door latch release panel and the armrest. The harder part is taking off the window handle. There's a C-shaped (actually more a Greek letter Omega) metal spring/clip between the handle and the panel, that holds the handle onto a post. You have to use a cloth (according to one book) or maybe two screwdrivers (according to how I eventually did it) to try and pop this off (and make sure you see where it goes flying when it pops off). After that the panel is held on by a series of studs and pulls off with some gentle coaxing. Then there is a plastic sheet held on with a rubber adhesive, after which you can usually get to the mechanism. See if this is rusty and maybe what the source of the water may be that is causing this. Somebody else suggested a lithium grease which seems to be a good weight for this job. Household oil won't last long and anything too heavy may just freeze solid in cold weather. If you have to remove rust first then use something specified for doing that. WD-40 is okay but is actually a fairly dry temporary lubricant, and I've had better luck with other things (e.g., something called PB-blaster [or something liike that]) in releasing rusted parts.
1981 Corolla Wagon, 5-speed, 159k miles-- my winter wheels
1981 Corolla Wagon, AT, 125k miles-- my summer wheels
** I replaced a horn. Isn't that mod. enough?