The door of your vehicle serves many purposes. Not only does it block sound and weather, it is also a structural component designed to protect you in the event of a crash.
A door that won’t close properly is potentially dangerous. If you were to get in an accident, the door could fly open and leave you vulnerable.
Special Note for Jeep Drivers
For safety reasons, it may be wise to spec your rig with solid metal doors if you use it for daily driving. You can always remove them later when you hit the trails.
Table of Contents
Reasons a Car Door Won’t Close All the Way
1) Stuck Latch
On the back of the door, there is a latch that is supposed to clamp down on the striker plate when the door closes. If this latch becomes stuck, the door bounces open if you try to close the door.
How to Fix
To fix a stuck door latch, you may be able to use a flathead screwdriver to gently free the stuck latch. Sometimes it helps to pull the door handle while you try this.
Remember not to use too much force with this technique, and be careful not to score the surrounding paint.
2) Broken Door Handle
Even if the handle looks OK on the outside, the door handle mechanism may be broken inside the door.
Doors have a lever that connects both the inside and outside handles to the door latch. If either of these levers bend or break, it could create a condition where the latch cannot move properly.
How to Fix
This one will depend a bit on the vehicle. Typically the inner door mechanism is accessible under the door card. Most door cards can be removed using a special trim remover. Some door cards clip into place, while others use screws to secure them.
If your door card uses plastic clips, gently pry against the edges of the door card (starting near the bottom) until the panel starts to lift. Check for videos online or a repair manual for your specific vehicle.
Once your door card is removed, inspect each handle for proper operation. Make sure the levers are securely attached to both the handle and the door latch. You may need to compare to a working door on the opposite side of the vehicle as a reference for what it should look like.
3) Previous Accident
Doors and body panels often end up bent after an accident. A previous accident may have deformed the door, the fender, or even the frame of the vehicle. This could cause the components to not line up for a proper fit when you attempt to close the door.
How to Fix
If your car has been in an accident, never attempt to force the door to close (unless it's an emergency). Doing so could cause further body damage.
Doors and fenders usually come with a bit of adjustment to account for differences in manufacturing tolerances. You may be able to loosen the door hinges and/or fender fasteners for a better fit.
While you do this, make sure you have at least one helper with you. Doors are very heavy, even on smaller vehicles.
If you need more adjustment than the manufacturer gives you, a fame puller may be necessary to bring the vehicle back into proper alignment. This should only be done with the help of a professional, and requires specialized equipment to pull the frame correctly. In many cases, a vehicle will be declared a total loss at the point a frame puller is necessary.
4) Door Is Frozen Shut
In the winter months, you’re likely to encounter ice in many parts of the world. Ever walk outside to be greeted by a frosty car? That moisture works its way into the door as well, forming a temporary bond between the door sill and the weather stripping.
How to Fix
It's best not to force the door open when it is frozen. Doing so could pull away or tear the weather stripping surrounding the door. This will lead to excessive wind noise and even water leaks.
Spray some deicing spray in between the door and the body of the car. It may also be wise to spray the door handle. After waiting a moment, the door should open easily.
5) Suicide Doors
Some four door vehicles such as the Mazda RX-8 and extended cab Chevrolet Silverado have rear doors that open rearward, and front doors that open forward like normal. In order to close the front doors on these vehicles, the rear doors must be shut.
If either door is misaligned, this could cause an issue with one door not shutting properly. This is more likely to happen on a vehicle with this door configuration because the two doors need to line up both with each other and the body panels of the car.
How to Fix
Try closing the rear door, then the front door. If this isn't possible, close one door at a time to check the alignment against the body of the vehicle.
Next, inspect the latches and strikers on the rear door. If one of these latches does not engage properly, chances are your door won't latch right until it is addressed.
Although there are many reasons your door might not shut properly, an observant inspection should quickly reveal the cause. Fortunately, most doors are easy to repair and some can even be fixed for free, depending on the issue.
Sean is an avid car enthusiast who maintains his own personal fleet of vehicles and wants to help others do the same. He has received many hours of professional driving instruction, is a member of the SCCA, and takes the art of driving seriously. Thoughtful, skilled driving has the potential to save many lives. Sean can often be found at the race track, autocross course, or hillclimb event.