A car accident can cause a number of random symptoms after the fact. I hope you and your loved ones are okay after your accident, and this car door is your only issue. Believe it or not, a lot of people have troubles with their car doors after an accident, even if the accident occurred on the opposite side of their car.
After doing troubleshooting, you’ll be able to pinpoint the problem and fix it. It’s either a malfunctioning latch, anchor, hinge, electronics, or handle mechanism. It could also be cold weather making things worse or structural damage to your car door’s frame.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through 5 easy fixes and 1 difficult fix. By the end of this article, you should have a car door that easily opens and closes.
Parts of a Car Door
There are a few useful definitions that I’ll go over before diving into the fixes later. These will help you understand what I’m saying in the following sections.
A door latch is the opening slot that allows your door to open and close safely. When your door is locked, this is the area where the door’s anchor is trapped until you unlock the door. It prevents the door from doing things you don’t want it to (namely, flying open while driving on the highway).
The anchor is a metal rod that goes into the latch. It works just like the trunk does — when the rod slides into position, the door’s latch will close behind it and keep it in position.
The hinges allow your car door to swing. All the weight of your door is supported by these hinges, and your car probably has two hinges.
Handles are used to open the door. When you pull them from the inside or outside, the door latch will release and allow you to open your door.
Your door’s frame is the metal skeleton. It keeps your door structurally intact and allows you to repeatably use your door.
5 Easy Fixes for a Car Door That Won’t Close
To get you back on the road, here are 5 ways for you to fix your car door. They are pretty simple, and you should be able to do any of them on your own. It’s a little tough to guess what’s wrong with your car, so you’ll need to do some troubleshooting first. In each of these 5 ways, I explain what the troubleshooting steps look like.
1. Adjust the Latch and Anchor
The latch and anchor are likely suspects when it comes to a door that won’t close. Start by looking at the anchor on your door and see if there are marks on it.
If you see marks, then it could be a positional error. There should be a retaining bolt near the anchor that you can play with. Loosen it and move the anchor to see if that fixes things.
Next, look at the latch. When your car door is open, the latch should be open as well. If you see a metal piece closing the exit of the latch, your latch is stuck.
This could be due to the accident. If something was knocked out of position, your latch could get jammed. In this case, you’ll have to pull apart your door to un-jam things.
See if you can move the latch up and down with a pen, ensuring that it’s operational. If you can, then you just need to lubricate the metal piece.
Grab some WD-40 and spray a generous amount on the latch. Give it a little time to dry. Force the latch to open, then close your door and see if the latch closes. You can test this by pushing your car door from the inside of your car without pulling the handle to see if the door opens.
If the door closes and stays closed until you pull the handle to open it, you just fixed your door. Add more lubricant over time, to make sure it doesn’t get stuck again.
2. Replace the Hinges
Just like a door in your house, the hinges allow your car door to comfortably swing open and closed.
After an accident, there could be a positional error with your door. Your hinges could be restricting your door’s motion, which could stop the door from closing.
With your door open, look at the hinges. If you see any amount of damage to them, then you’ll need to fully replace them.
Before doing that, there is an option that’s quicker and easier. Enlist the help of a friend, since car doors are pretty heavy.
Before doing anything, take a look at your door. If it’s sagging or looks uneven when it’s held against the door jamb, then you could have a misaligned hinge.
Have your friend support the car door by holding it up while you grab your tools and position yourself in front of the hinge.
Loosen the hinge without fully removing it. This will allow you to shift the hinge around in order to get a perfect position. Move the door around and try closing it again, slowly. If it closes, then slowly open it again and tighten the fasteners, keeping the door in this position.
Try opening and closing your door repeatedly to see if this adjustment worked. When fully closed, look at the gap around the door. Is it even? If not, then your hinge isn’t perfectly aligned and you have to redo this process to adjust it again.
If you make these tweaks and your door still doesn’t close, then you can try replacing the hinges. I would only recommend this if you notice actual damage on your hinge (since there are other reasons why your door isn’t closing. It’s not just the hinge).
Only use new, OEM hinges for this. Don’t shop at a junkyard for replacement parts or get an aftermarket option, since you don’t know the origin of those hinges.
3. Check the Electronics
I was talking about the latch earlier, but I only spoke to the mechanical nature of it. There’s also an electrical component.
The electronics will actuate the latch. In other words, a sensor will send a signal to lock or open the latch, then the latch will physically move.
If the electronics got broken from the accident, then there’s no signal going out. Without the “open” signal, the latch will stay closed, preventing you from closing the car door.
Try using a pen to open the latch manually after unlocking the doors. If it doesn’t go up, it could be an electrical issue.
This leaves either a fuse or the lock motor to blame. Start by looking at your fuse box and checking for any blown fuses. It helps if you can find a schematic of your fuses so you know which ones to check.
If you don’t see any blown ones, then you’ll need to look at the lock motor. This is located inside of your door. I fully outline how to do this process step-by-step near the bottom of my guide (follow along by clicking this link).
4. Warm Up the Door
If the accident did minor damage to your door, it could put it out of position a little bit. If you couple this with an especially cold morning, you could be left with a door that won’t close.
Cold weather restricts everything and tightens up tolerances. It’s possible that your door can freely close when it’s warm out, but won’t close when it’s cold.
If this is the case, you’ll need to warm up your door. Never use hot water to achieve this. You can shatter the glass and do lasting damage to your car door.
Instead, use a deicer, hand warmer pouches, or a blow-dryer on low heat. Ideally, you’d park your car in a garage overnight to prevent this issue while extending your car’s life and avoiding mornings where your car doesn’t start.
5. Free Up the Handle Mechanism
Within your car door, there’s a series of cables and rods used to open your door. When you pull your door’s handle, it uses this mechanism to unlatch your door and allow you to open it.
If these rods got bent, rattled loose, or a plastic piece within the mechanism broke, then your door will either get stuck open or closed.
Unfortunately, this problem is a little tougher to diagnose and fix. If you take it to a mechanic, they’ll be able to diagnose the issue, but it will be costly.
To do it yourself, you’ll need to open up your car door. Again, you should follow my in-depth guide here to successfully do it. The short version is this: Remove all the trim from your door, take off all fasteners, remove the plastic housing, then remove the protective plastic film.
By doing this, you’ll have full access to the interior of your door. Look at all the rods and closely scan for damage. It could be something as easy as re-attaching two rods, or as difficult as replacing a full length of rods.
To be honest, this process can get really difficult, depending on what went wrong. It’s difficult to do on your own, so be prepared for a long day of work.
Hard Fix: Adjust Your Car Door’s Frame
I should also address a way to fix your car door that isn’t easy at all. In fact, you won’t be able to do this on your own, unless you have a bodywork shop.
During an accident, there’s a lot of force being transferred. If enough is put into your car door, the actual framework of your door can twist and be pushed out of position.
If this is the case, you’ll need to adjust your car door’s frame. You need special tools and plenty of experience to successfully do that. I’d suggest having an auto repair shop handle it (not a general mechanic).
For reference, the frame is the metal skeleton of your car door. If you pull off all the plastic and leather, you’ll find a metal body. This is where the electronics are run, different cabling exists, and your door’s open/ close mechanism lives. Any damage to this metal piece can result in a problem that you can’t fix on your own.
You just learned everything you need to know about car doors and saw 6 ways in total to fix your door that won’t close after an accident. If you have other car questions, you should check out my website or leave a comment below. I also put together a list of must-have items for car owners — take a look.