What Are Electric Car Door Locks and How Do They Work?

Automated power door locks give the driver the control to lock or unlock one or all the car doors simultaneously by pressing a button or flicking a switch. The locks are aimed to keep the car, driver, and passengers secure.

Electric cars are designed to be more technologically advanced than most gas-powered cars. Hence, their built-in power door locking system is superior and more energy-efficient.

Continue reading the article below to learn what an electric car door lock is and how it works. Moreover, the article will also cover the differences between traditional car locks and power door locks.

What Are Electric Car Door Locks?

Automobile engineers first introduced electric power locks for vehicles in 1914. However, it was not until 1956 that they got reintroduced into commercial luxury cars by an American luxury automobile company called Packard.

Electric car door locks are a technologically advanced version of traditional door locks. These electric car door locks have a built-in automated locking system that gives the driver full control of all of the car’s locks.

The buttons or switches that give access to all the door locks to the driver are located on the driver’s side car door panel. Apart from locking and unlocking a door, the diver can also take the

These automatic car door locks are also called speed sensing door locks. This is because the technology of these electric locks is designed to automatically lock the car’s doors once the vehicle reaches a certain speed.

Sometimes, the car’s lock is designed to automatically lock after some time has passed. Usually, this happens five minutes after the car’s engine has been started.

Now, electric car door locks have replaced almost all vehicle locking systems in modern electric and gas-powered vehicles.

Once vehicles have been locked or unlocked, a small light or sound goes off on the remote to confirm the fact that the car has been locked or unlocked.

electronic power locks in electric cars
Electronic power locks in electric cars

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How Do Electric Car Door Locks Work?

Educating yourself on the mechanisms behind an electronic car door locking system will help you deal with situations where a lock malfunction or gets stuck. This information is extremely important to ensure passenger safety and prevent vehicle theft.

All door locks have a lever or a latch visible to the driver that allows them to lock or unlock a door.

Many hidden mechanisms and other components used to operate the vehicle locking system are fitted inside the vehicle door’s panel. They are connected to the visible lever or latch.

When a vehicle has an automated electronic power door locking system, it has a visible lever or a button and many additional components.

Some of the main components that play an important part in automating the vehicle door locking system include:

  • A button, lever, or latch
  • An electronic sensor or internal magnet
  • An actuator

Continue reading below for an in-depth understanding of each of the three components.

A Button, Lever, or Latch

The button, lever, or latch is the only visible part of a vehicle’s automatic door locking system. The driver has to press the button, move the lever, or push or pull the latch to lock or unlock one or all the car doors simultaneously.

Some modern cars like Tesla have a built-in touch screen display that allows the driver to control the vehicle’s door and trunk locks with a simple touch.

An Electronic Sensor or an Internal Magnet 

An electric car door lock contains an electronic sensor or an internal magnet with a built-in reversible switch. Usually, a problem in the car lock’s electronic sensor or internal magnets inhibits a car door from being unlocked or locked automatically.

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The Actuator

When a car’s key is inserted in its key fob, it transmits radio signals. These signals are picked up by the electric car door locking system, which then signals the actuator to activate.

The actuator is an electronic component that converts the energy into a physical command or force.

Hence, once when the activated actuator has received the energy carried by the transmitted signals, it converts that energy to a physical force to perform the desired locking or unlocking action. 

How Does the Actuator Perform its Task?

A metallic rod connects the actuator to the vehicle door’s latch or button. When the actuator is activated, it creates kinetic energy to move the connecting rod.

This movement adds pressure to the metallic rod, which in turn transfers this pressure to the lock switch. The pressure causes a pair of jaw-like structures on the door’s locking mechanism to open. This leads to the released jaws striking a center pillar.

Once the jaws have touched the center pillar, a connection gets built between the automatic electric door locking mechanism and the door’s handle. As a result, the vehicle’s door opens as the passenger lifts the vehicle’s door handle.

The same automated mechanism is used when the door is opened from the inside or outside of a vehicle.

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How Does a Computer-Controlled Automatic Electric Car Door Locking System Work?

Some modern cars have a computer-operated locking system that allows further control and convenience to a vehicle driver.

Like the mechanism explained above, the computer-controlled locking system also depends on detecting transmitted radio signals to get activated to lock or unlock a door.

This is how the computer-controlled vehicle door locking system works:

  • Once a passenger wishes to lock or unlock the car doors, the computer-controlled system sends out a specific signal to the main computer. The computer here functions as the key controller module.

This controller module takes care of the vehicle’s automated locking and unlocking and ensures the vehicle’s auto security.

  • Once the controller module receives the computer programming, it takes very little time to read the programming details and immediately starts working toward performing the desired command.
  • The same automated mechanism is used to carry out the following functions:
    • Starting the car with a remote. This mechanism is very common in most modern keyless and electric cars
    • Opening and closing the trunk lid of a vehicle
    • Rolling the windows of a vehicle up or down
    • Turning off the car

The auto security system operated by the controller module includes many programs that allow the vehicle to come to a halt or get disabled. Activating this system protects the vehicle from theft by making the vehicle undrivable.

Although some modern vehicles come with a built-in computer-controlled automatic door locking system, consumers can purchase an off-the-shelf system and have it installed in their vehicle that does not have these features.

The price will depend on the number of mechanisms the consumer wants to automate and the reputation of the manufacturer.

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Automatic Vehicle Door Locking System Using a Keypad

Moreover, some cars companies such as Ford have an even more advanced locking system that uses a keypad. The keypad system requires the owner or driver to add a specific computer code for the desired action.

The controller module decodes the computer code and passes the required command to the system’s actuator. As a result, the actuator gets activated and adds pressure to the connected metallic rod to cause a door to be unlocked or locked.

What are electric car door locks and how they work
What are electric car door locks and how they work

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Electric Car Door Locks or Traditional Vehicle Door Locks: Which is Better?

Although manual locking door locking systems are still found in some vehicles worldwide, automatic electric vehicle locks have largely replaced them in most types of vehicles.

Manual vehicle door locking systems do not have any electrical components at all. They use a push/pull lever or switch located inside the car to lock or unlock the car door.

The key has to be inserted inside the door’s key port to lock or unlock the door in a manual system. Moreover, every door has a lock that is not connected to any main locking system. Hence, the driver cannot simultaneously lock or unlock all the doors of the vehicle.

Benefits of Using Manual Vehicle Door Locking Systems

  • Manual locks do not get jammed as easily. Hence, if the vehicle is to get in an accident, the passengers can easily unlock the door of the vehicle and escape.
  • Manual vehicle locking systems have a significantly low failure rate compared to automated door locking system. They are easy to operate and their issues get fixed easily as well.
  • Manual vehicle door locks require minimal maintenance and hence usually outlive the car.
  • If the driver accidentally leaves the keys inside the car, a simple tool such as a thread or a metal ruler can be used to open the door.

Downsides of Using Manual Vehicle Door Locking Systems

  • Although at times it is an advantage to be able to open a car’s door with a simple tool, the same can be done to steal the vehicle.
  • Manual locks are much easier to damage and open than automated electric vehicle locks.
  • A driver has to check every lock individually before leaving their vehicle. This could take more time and any error could increase the chance of vehicle theft.

Automatic electric vehicle door locks are designed to be superior to manual vehicle locks; however, they too have certain downsides and limitations.

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Benefits of Using Automatic Electric Vehicle Door Locking Systems

  • Automatic electric vehicle car doors allow the driver to lock and unlock all the doors simultaneously right from their seat. This saves the hassle and time to check every door individually.
  • If a person is carrying a child or a lot of luggage, inserting the key to unlock the car becomes very inconvenient. Instead, with the electric system, all they have to do is press a single button on their key fob to unlock a passenger door or the vehicle’s trunk.
  • Electric car door locks have eliminated the chances of a person getting locked outside their car. If the keys have accidentally been left inside, the doors of the vehicle do not get locked.
  • Since the electric car door locks cannot be compromised or damaged easily, the chances of vehicle theft are greatly reduced.
  • In keyless car systems, since there is no key to copy, the vehicle’s security is further improved.

Downsides of Using Automatic Electric Vehicle Door Locking Systems

  • Since the key fob works on a battery, if the battery is dead, one will not be able to lock or unlock their vehicle.
  • Since the automatic electric vehicle door locking system is more advanced and pricier to install, its maintenance and repairs are also expensive.

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Final Thoughts

Just like all the other components and systems of a vehicle, the door locks have gone through innovation to become more advanced and automatic. They allow a driver to control all the door locks right from his seat and significantly reduce the chances of vehicle theft.