Last semester the driver’s side passenger door in our van stopped working. It wouldn’t unlock–neither the power locks nor the manual switch worked. Over Christmas we took it to the mechanic, whom we paid $67.50 for removing the door panel to find the lock actuator not working (not a surprising diagnosis) and disengaging the power lock on that door so that it can be locked and unlocked manually. That worked for a while, but at some point the manual lock stopped working as well.

We decided to kick it old school and use the van with only one sliding door. Why? Because the estimate to replace the lock actuator was $375.94, including a $267.00 replacement part.

I’m not a mechanic, but using only one passenger door in the van got tiresome, so yesterday I decided to have a look at the problem myself. I removed the inside door panel, figured out how the lock actuator worked, and identified the problem. The lock actuator was actually functioning properly, but one of its parts was a tiny bit out of position. When I put it in the right position, the lock worked just fine–except that without my help, it fell back out of position.

So today with about 1cm (3/8″) of wire from a spool I had purchased 10 years ago and a tiny bit “No Nails” glue left over from when I did the flooring in our old house, I fixed the lock mechanism! I reconnected the power locks and they work, too. It took 10 minutes to identify the problem yesterday, and another 10 minutes to fix it.


  • Mechanic’s $267.00 replacement part plus labour at $375.94 OR
  • 1cm of wire, a drop of glue, and a little ingenuity (priceless)

Now I know a little what MacGyver feels like. I feel like such a man!

Some photos. The lock actuator:

The Lock Mechanism

The problem part and my solution:

The Problem Part and My Solution

Close-up of my solution:

Close-up of My Solution

7 thoughts on “Triumph!

  1. LadyMac

    that is cool marc! i especially like the red arrow to show us the part. very proud of you! i tried that once. it resulted in a door panel that was cracked and me NOT being able to fix the door. so i just left it and no one could get out that door. you obviously have way more mechanical aptitude and i’m so glad you shared your success with us! u da man!

  2. Rick Wadholm Jr

    And your technique is SO close to MacGyver that its almost uncanny…he usually used a paperclip and chewing gum…so some left over glue and some wiring comes REALLY close. Great job man! And make sure Bonhoeffer STAYS on your reading list 😉

  3. Collette

    Nice!! I am trying these days to fix things myself, rather than leave them or get someone else to look at it. Sometimes it really isn’t that difficult after all, as you’ve discovered. It sure can be daunting, though!!

  4. jobina

    We have a Sienna too and out drivers side door only opens halfway because it thinks the gas tank door is perpetually open, so frustrating! Maybe you can lend us some MacGuyver skills ’cause we just live with it :o(

  5. Jay

    I hear you Marc. My headlight switch panel was separating from the electronics box behind the panel. The garage guys tried melting the two plastic halves together but it only lasted a short while. We got in there, model cemented and clamped it overnight. A good push and a click into the dash the next day and we were golden for $5 in model cement instead of $150.

    Another quick tale. When my van was new the gas cap didn’t fit properly because of the conversion. The guys at Dodge City were perplexed at what to replace to fix the constant check engine light that kept coming on. Thankfully, and to their horror, my dad was there, grabbed some tin snips and trimmed the edge off the cap (not the threaded plug). The cap sealed, hasn’t leaked since and he schooled them in fixing this problem instead of unecessarily replacing an overpriced part.

  6. Marc

    It’s funny you should ask, Phil. Duct tape was my first solution when I found the problem, but what I tried didn’t work and small strips of duct tape in that small space were difficult to handle.

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