Door Handle Latch Buyer’s Guide
- The door handle latch is a mechanism installed inside the door panel that hooks to the door striker plate.
- The door handle latch is a basic security feature found on all vehicles with functioning doors.
- There are two main types of door locks designed for cars: manual and power door locks.
- A bear claw latch has a claw-shaped hook that latches down onto the striking plate.
- Bear jaw latches are slightly more complex than the bear claw since it uses two individual hooks that clamp on to the striking plate; one on top and one on the bottom.
- Latches with a single rotor are common to compartment doors like the hood, trunk, or even the glove box.
- A two-rotor or double latch is the preferred latch for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles.
- A failing door handle latch can be a hazard, especially if it’s keeping the door from being securely shut or preventing it from opening.
- CarParts.com offers a wide variation of good-quality door handle latches at very competitive price tags. You can get an OE replacement for as low as $16, all the way up to $195.
Thanks to advancements in technology in the automotive industry, cars have become more powerful, comfortable, and convenient. But no matter how advanced most automobile systems have become, there are a few notable ones that have remained almost the same. Take the door handle latch as an example, which has remained in its humble state for decades.
What is a door handle latch?
The door handle latch is a mechanism installed inside the door panel that hooks to the door striker plate. The latch and striker plate are the components that keep the door safely shut when it’s not supposed to be open, preventing any unauthorized access from the vehicle’s exterior. The door handle latch is a basic security feature found on all vehicles with functioning doors.
How a door locking mechanism works
There are two main types of door locks designed for cars: manual and power door locks. Manual door locks are made up of mechanical parts while electronic or power door locks are powered by a motor and an actuator.
Both mechanical and power door locks consist of two main components: the latch and door striking plate. The latch is installed in the door jamb, while the striking plate is on the pillar. Once these two come in contact, which is when swinging the door shut, the latch is meant to hug the striking plate so tight that the door won’t move no matter how you pull it.
The latch is connected to the door handle via cables. When the door handle is pulled, the latch releases and goes into the open position. Power door locks and manual door locks differ on the subcomponents that make them up. However, the operation remains similar as both are meant to function exactly the same. Among the components that you can find that make up the locking system of your car are cables, motor, actuator, latch, striking plate, and rods.
Different door latch designs
Not all door handle latches look the same. Manufacturers produce different door latches exclusive for their fleet. There are two main classifications of car door latches: bear claw and bear jaw. Here are the differences between the two:
Bear claw door latch
You’ll find this type in most cars you see on the road simply because it’s the most common and basic type in the market. It is easier to find a replacement for bear claw latches than bear jaw latches so be grateful if your car is fitted with this type of door latch. From the name itself, this latch has a claw-shaped hook that latches down onto the striking plate. The locking is unidirectional as the latch only has to move or swing downwards to lock in place.
Bear jaw door latch
Bear jaw door latches are commonly seen on vintage cars and convertibles. However, other cars of various body types can also feature this type of latch. It is slightly more complex than the bear claw since it uses two individual hooks that sort off bite the striking plate; one on top and one on the bottom. This movement emulates the action of teeth biting onto the striking plate, which is why it’s called a bear jaw latch.
To quickly distinguish the designs, the bear claw has a hook with unidirectional locking motion while the bear jaw has two hooks with hugging or biting motion.
Door latch rotors
Aside from the classification of door latches, there are two categories based on the number of rotors the latch is using.
Latches with a single rotor are common to compartment doors like the hood, trunk, or even the glove box. You can also see this type in most passenger and daily-driver cars as it’s the basic type of latch in terms of rotor number.
A two-rotor or double latch is the preferred latch for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. So if you’re driving a truck, then there’s a high chance of it being equipped with a double latch.
Signs your door latch is failing
A failing door handle latch can be a hazard, especially if it’s keeping the door from being securely shut or preventing it from opening. This can be hazardous since the doors are meant to keep the passengers and any objects inside the car from flying outside when the car is moving. If you think there’s something wrong with one of your door latches, have it serviced or replaced immediately. Here are the hints that your door handle latch is needing a replacement:
Door is jammed and won’t open
There’s a gap when the door is shut
Door won’t lock in closed position
Door is loose and is moving when shut
How much is a door handle latch?
CarParts.com offers a wide variation of good-quality door handle latches at very competitive prices. You can get an OE replacement for as low as $16, all the way up to $195. You can get it in single pieces, in sets of two, or as a complete assembly. To find a compatible replacement door latch for your vehicle, indicate the year, make, and model in the filter tab under the search menu.
Quick Tips on Choosing the Right Door Handle Latch
Safety is always the priority when onboard a vehicle, especially if you've got kids in the car. You shouldn't travel if your ride's got a busted door handle latch-it is one of the components that ensure passenger safety at all times. So in case you start having trouble opening and closing your doors, make sure you get a new latch. You might ask: "How do I go about the purchase? How will I know which door handle latch to choose?" We might be able to help you out with these simple tips.
Tip no. 1: Know the specifics of your vehicle.
Knowing the exact year, make, and model of your automobile might help, but it would be useless if you don't know the specifics. This makes an owner's manual indispensable; knowing the exact specifications of every part of your auto will not only speed up the search, but it will also ensure hassle-free shopping since you'll get it right the first time.
Make sure you have this information before you shop:
- Door type: Some vehicles such as AUVs and family vans have sliding doors, while other autos like sedans and compact cars use conventional doors.
- Door Handle Latch Type: The next part should be able to give some information about the types of latches you may encounter while shopping.
Tip no. 2: Study your options. Look at the type of door latch design.
There are plenty of door handle latch replacements available, which makes deciding even more difficult. But don't just get any door handle latch because it is cheap or accessible; check out its specs as well.
Here are some of the door latch designs you might encounter:
- Bear Claw Latch: This is the most common door handle latch design used in most makes and models, so you are lucky if your ride's door uses this type of latch. It will only vary for every automobile because of the differences in car door dimension and thickness.
- Bear Jaw Latch: You might use this type of latch if you've got a vintage roadster or a convertible. It can also be used in coupes, sedans, and pickups, depending on the car manufacturer and door specs.
Other sub-classifications of the bear claw and bear jaw latches are based on the number of rotors. If you have a light-duty vehicle, you might need latches with single rotors for its doors. Two-rotor latches are typically used in heavy-duty vehicles.
- Single Rotor Latch: This type of latch can be found in almost every car door. It can also be installed in compartment doors such as tailgates of pickups and trunks of compact vehicles.
- Two-Rotor or Double Latch: This type of latch is commonly found in compartment doors for storage trucks or armed vehicles. If you're the type who uses trucks for the job, then you might need a double latch.
4-Step Guide to Door Handle Latch Replacement
Having trouble getting in and out of the car? There's no need to kick and bust down your door-just switch your busted door handle latch to a new one. Door handle latches wear out easily due to regular use and exposure to friction. No worries though; changing the latch is an easy task although it may take a little longer for inexperienced DIYers. And the best part? You can finish it in 4 easy steps.
Things you'll need:
- Lubricant spray (e.g. WD-40)
- Trim stick
- Torx wrench
- Door handle latch replacement
- Unplug the negative cable from the car battery and disconnect power controls and window cranks before removing the door panel. You can use the trim stick and the hooked tool to detach the connectors, clips, and other interfering components.
- Take out the inner door liners in the trim panel using the screwdriver and disconnect the link or actuator rods held by the clips. Afterwards, remove all the nuts and bolts that secure the door and its handle using the Torx wrench.
- Attach the latch replacement to the door; carefully lace the handle on the door and secure it in place using the nuts and bolts. Connect the latch to the handle and lock cylinder using the link or actuator rods. Secure it with the clips. Reconnect other electrical wirings that you removed.
- Re-install the door and all the components you took out (wires, controls, nuts, bolts, etc.) Get a waterproof seal and apply it around the edges. Leave it to dry for a few hours. Re-attach the liner to the trim panel.
If you have not tried it before, avoid disassembling the locks of your vehicle. It contains small springs and other components that might get lost if not handled properly.