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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

When Should You Replace Your Car Door Lock Cylinder?

by Ralph February 15, 2017
Car Door Lock Cylinder

There are many reasons that you may need a car door lock cylinder replacement. Though the issue with most car troubles is, every complication could stem from a variety of sources. That is why it is important not just to know what signs to looking for or the instances where it is necessary to seek a car door lock cylinder replacement but to also know how to troubleshoot the issue. But before we get into the reasons that you may need a car door lock cylinder replacement, be sure that you know what a car door lock cylinder is.

What is a car door lock cylinder?

Car door lock cylinder replacement, is pretty much what it sounds like. You are replacing the door lock cylinder on your car. A door lock cylinder is similar to any other type of lock cylinder. It is a metal tubular shape that a key can be inserted into. Turning the proper key in the lock will actuate the physical latches that keep the car door secure.

This is not to be confused with the car’s ignition cylinder. Ignition cylinder replacement and car door lock cylinder replacement are two extremely different tasks. The ignition cylinder of a car turns over the engine and can only be accessed once the car door has been opened.

Though both the ignition and the door locks both work with the same key, they are not the same type of cylinder. All of the cylinders will come keyed alike, commonly using either sliders or wafers for internal components. These are different than the pin tumbler locks that people are used to interacting with on residential buildings, which is why your car key looks different from your house key. This is also why bump keys do not work on cars.

Some modern cars use key fobs that replace the need for a key to the ignition. However, most of these vehicles will still have a car door lock cylinder. Often this will be in the form of a small length of metal, which is concealed in the plastic housing of the car key fob. So even if you don’t regularly use your physical car keys, you still may need a car door lock cylinder replacement.

Signs You Need Car Door Lock Cylinder Replacement

Car Door Lock Cylinder

1. Key Won’t Turn In The Car Door

A key not turning in the lock does not necessarily mean that you need car door lock cylinder replacement. It is a good indicator of an issue that will require a car door lock cylinder replacement, but it will depend on whether the issue is with the lock or the key. A car key not working shares many symptoms with a broken lock. Both devices can become worn depending on the user and the quality of either.

To know if you need car door lock cylinder replacement after being confronted with this issue, you can a bit of troubleshooting. If you have a spare car key, check to see if the car door opens easily while using that key. A spare will not have the same amount of wear, so if this second key does not work in the lock, you will need to undergo the full car door lock cylinder replacement.

You can also use the key in the other door locks of the car including the trunk lock and the ignition. It is very rare that you will need car door lock cylinder replacement for every cylinder simultaneously. So if the key does not work in any of the locks, the key is most likely the culprit. In this case, you can have a new car key made by simply giving a locksmith your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

If only one door is an issue, car door lock cylinder replacement will be the key to fixing the issue. And the car door lock that is replaced can be re-keyed so that it can be opened with your same key that still works.

2. You Replaced Your Ignition Cylinder

A common situation for car owners who replace their ignitions is that technician will not rekey the new cylinder. This leaves the driver with two keys. One for their ignition, and one for their doors. Inevitably, the owner only uses their car key remote to open their doors, and takes the physical key off their ring.

Once the car key remote is lost, damaged, or runs out of battery, most people try and find their other key. They realize that it is gone, and then are faced with the dilemma of returning to using two separate keys or just doing a full or partial car door lock cylinder replacement.

For some car door locks, you will not have the option to rekey them. The car door lock cylinder replacement may need to be ordered with a specific key code preassigned. And once you have lost your keys, it is also a good reason to go with car door lock cylinder replacement instead of changing anything with the replaced ignition cylinder. But there will be more on the issue of losing your keys in the next section.

3. You Lost Your Car Keys

It might seem like losing your car keys does not mean that you need car door lock cylinder replacement, it just means that you need car key replacement. But this depends on just how you lost them. And if you even know how you lost them.

If you saw your car keys fall into a sewer or drop into a large body of water, then there is no reason to go through a car door lock cylinder replacement. If you simply cannot find your car keys, and you do not have the faintest idea where they are- You think they could be at the club- but they might be in a lost and found at your work- but you don’t know, and you can’t figure out how to get them back- then you cannot be sure that someone does not have your keys.

For security reasons, it is best to undergo a full car door lock cylinder replacement. This will protect the inside of your car from being accessed. It is the minimum level of protection that you can offer your vehicle after losing the keys. A step further would be to rekey or replace the ignition cylinder inside of the automobile.

4. Decreased Functionality

Before the lock breaks entirely and absolutely demands a car door lock cylinder replacement, it may begin to function less than perfectly. This can take on the form of decreased functionality, such as rotating the key in the cylinder does not complete its electronic functions. Some cars will have a way to lock all doors from the outside with the physical key, as well as lock all door by rotating it the opposite way in the keyway. When this stops working, it should act as a red flag.

An easier to dismiss warning sign of decreased functionality are issues with the key sticking in the lock. A need to wiggle the key in the lock to get the door to fully unlock. Occasional partial-locking or unlocking. If it is happening every once in awhile, there is a chance that you will need car door lock cylinder replacement.

Without solving the issue early, you put yourself at risk of many different issues. The lock may suddenly stop working, leaving you in a car lockout. While trying to get the lock to work, you may end up breaking the key off in the lock. Then you will need to call a locksmith to remove the broken key from your car lock and have to purchase a new car key. If the doors are not locking properly or reliably, then there are all kinds of risks of theft. It is best to invest in car door lock cylinder replacement before the issues get out of hand.


Nothing lasts forever. That goes for cars and car locks. Car door lock cylinder replacement is just a part of a car’s natural life cycle. It should be treated with the same level of respect and urgency as any other type of car maintenance. Even if you are making the right decisions out of begrudging resignation to the service’s necessity, it is better than not doing anything. If you need car door lock cylinder replacement, don’t hesitate to contact a professional.

Category: Automotive, Lock Types

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