How to Fix a Cargo van Back Door That Won’t Open

Here are the easiest fixes to try when your cargo van back door won’t open from the inside or outside:

  1. Disable the deadlock
  2. Lubricate the door lock and hinge
  3. Heat up the door (if it’s frozen)
  4. Call a qualified locksmith

However, note that you might have to eventually replace specific mechanical parts that may be broken, such as the latch, handle and even the entire door.

Keep in mind that you may need to use multiple fixes to unlock your door, depending on what’s causing the issue.


The Top 4 Fixes Explained in Detail

Below I will provide a detailed explanation on how to apply the fixes, and I will also share the reasons why this is happening.


1. Disable the Deadlock Function

Just about any modern cargo van will have a deadlock feature.

This feature is added to vehicles as an anti-theft system as unlocking the vehicle is only possible via the rotation of a lock cylinder.

And it’s typically triggered when someone tries to enter the car without carrying the keys i.e. a thieve.

Although essential and valuable, this security feature can easily get on your nerves by preventing you from opening your van’s back door.


Here’s what to do if your van’s deadlock is triggered:

  1. Grab your cargo van key
  2. Turn the key a bit more than normal when trying to unlock it
  3. Alternative step: Use the spare key if the main one is locked inside

Basically, you should be able to open your deadlocked vehicle if you have one of your keys with you.

But if you don’t have access to any of your keys,you’ll need a locksmith to open the door and even make new keys for your van.


2. Lubricate the Door Lock and Hinge

Some parts of your van’s doors are exposed to the elements, making them susceptible to dirt build-up.

Another is the rust that can form with time, which can negatively impact certain parts related to how the door opens.

As a result, certain door components like the hinge and lock can jam, meaning you’ll have a hard time using the door/s.


Give the following instant fix a try:

  1. Get a spray lubricant (e.g. WD40)
  2. Spray the lock, hinge, and any part of the locking mechanism that you have access to
  3. Repeat until the locking mechanism has been properly lubricated

A spray like WD40 will ensure that all moving parts inside the locking mechanism are functioning correctly.

This should help you to open your door, and you can even get a dry lubricant for later use, which should provide great long-term results.


3. Heat up the Door (if it’s Frozen)

If you live in a particularly cold state, the cold temperatures can make certain parts of your doors freeze.

The freezing cold can form ice around or inside components like lock or handle, which will make it difficult or outright impossible for you to open the back door, or any door for that matter.

And let me tell you, the last thing you want to do if your door handle is frozen is to use excessive force while trying to open the door as it can simply break.


The most intelligent solution is to:

  1. Fill a container with warm or hot water
  2. Carefully pour it over the door by prioritizing the handle and lock
  3. Try to open the door and if needed, pour some more warm water

The warm water should be enough to unfreeze the door and let you enter your cargo van.

And to try to prevent this from happening, you can apply some vaseline or even WD40 to the door lock and the area around the door handle due to their antifreeze properties.


4. Call a Qualified Locksmith

This is the last easy fix that you can try before you start replacing various parts of the locking mechanism.

Don’t hesitate to call a qualified locksmith to come and hopefully open your door if none of the methods I mentioned above work.

A professional locksmith who specializes in unlocking cars and vans should be able to unlock your cargo van’s back door causing little to no damage to it.

Even better, a professional locksmith should typically be able to come to your location and assist you on the spot, without you having to bring your van to them.

But I have to warn you that this service might prove to be rather costly, depending on the complexity of the problem and which state you live in.

Regardless, your last resort for a somewhat simpler and possibly faster solution would be to pay a qualified locksmith to try and open that jammed back door for you.


The Reasons Why Won’t the Cargo Van Back Door Open

These are the 5 main reasons your van’s back door refuses to open:


1. Deadlocking has been Triggered

The deadlock is an anti-theft feature that’s fitted to modern vehicles.

It prevents the doors from being opened from the inside and outside when the car is parked.

So even if you smash a window, you still won’t be able to open the door without the key.

On most vehicles the deadlock is activated by pressing the Lock button on the remote key fob twice.

And you should be able to deactivate it by pressing the Unlock button if the system is functioning as intended.


2. Rust and Dirt Accumulation

Your cargo van is exposed to the elements all year round.

As a result, dirt and rust might build upon the various door components.

Rust can be especially destructive as it typically accumulates in the lock assembly, potentially jamming the door latch.

Other components prone to rust are the latch springs and the door hinge, which will inevitably negatively impact your ability to open your van’s back door.

This will make it difficult or outright impossible to open the door without special equipment or the help of a qualified locksmith or mechanic.


3. The Door is Frozen

Another potential cause related to the elements is a frozen door.

If you live in one of the coldest states like Maine and North Dakota, you’re more susceptible to not being able to open your van’s door due to very low temperatures.

The freezing cold can affect the various parts and locking mechanisms in the doors, rendering them useless.

Note that a frozen door will mean that you can’t open a door both from the outside and inside.

Thus, if you live in a cold area, either park your van in a warm and dry place or grab some warm water to defrost your door/s.


4. Mechanical Failure

Each door on your cargo van is a complex structure consisting of various mechanical components that all work together so that the doors open and lock effortlessly.

But this also means that any (or even worse all) of those parts can fail and result in a jammed door.

Damaged or broken door latch, lock, handle, interior locking switch etc. are just some examples of the various components that can malfunction.

Other common culprits are broken or loose cables and rods in the door that will either need to be repaired or outright replaced.


5. Structural Damage

Your van’s back door might suffer from core structure damage that might be caused by a recent accident.

Even the slightest bump from another vehicle may cause internal damage to the door, even if the outside looks fine.

For instance, the latch can be damaged or even disconnected from the lock assembly, making it hard or near impossible to open the door.

Another door component that can develop problems from a traffic accident is the door lock.

And depending on the severity of the impact, it might make sense to replace the entire door instead of trying to repair the various damaged parts.


What Should be Replaced to Avoid Future Problems?

Although my recommended easy fixes do work, they might only provide a temporary solution.

So to ensure that your van’s back door will open as intended in the future, you may have to replace certain parts that can be broken or faulty, such as:


Replace The Door Lock Actuator

This little electric component utilizes a motor that drives a gearbox that’s responsible for locking and unlocking your cargo van’s doors.

You can find door lock actuators on vehicles equipped with door lock switches, which is just about any modern vehicle, be it a car or a van.

But the small electric motor in one of the doors malfunctions, you might have problems locking or unlocking the door.


The main symptoms of a bad door lock actuator are:

  • Power locking doesn’t operate correctly
  • You can hear strange noises coming from the door
  • The power door locks start functioning intermittently

Although you can replace this part yourself, my advice would be to seek the help of a qualified mechanic if you’re not mechanically inclined.


Replace Broken or Worn Door Handle Springs

Another common mechanical failure associated with not being able to open your vehicle’s back door is the handle.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s not only the outside door handle that can develop issues – the inside door handle can be problematic as well.

Or even worse, both the outside and inside handle might be defective.

Typically, your door handle will not let you open the door due to broken or worn springs that are responsible for activating the unlock mechanism.


The common signs of a bad door handle are:

  • The handle is loose
  • The door won’t open
  • The door won’t shut properly

If the problem stems from broken door handle springs, then you could consider repairing it, although simply getting a brand new handle makes more sense.

And the good news is that cargo van back door handles are not that expensive.


Replace The Door Latch Mechanism

The latch is the part of the door locking mechanism that’s responsible for securing the door shut and keeping it that way.

This component is linked to the handle so that when you open the door handle, the latch is released and you gain access to your vehicle.

However, the latch mechanism can develop issues, giving you a headache when you try to open or close the door.


The typical symptoms of a defective door latch are:

  • Difficulty closing the door
  • The door doesn’t stay closed
  • The door won’t open

This is why you don’t want to slam your doors too hard when closing them.

If you regularly slam your van’s doors with plenty of force, certain components such as the door latch can become damaged and develop issues.

Replacing the latch mechanism will be your best bet if it’s bad or failing.


If Nothing Fixes it, Replace the Entire Door

Eventually, your vehicle’s back door might prove to be an unsolvable puzzle for locksmiths and mechanics.

It could be anything from particular damage to the structure of the door or different locking mechanism components failing simultaneously.

In this case, the best fix for your problematic door would be to simply replace it.

Keep in mind that a complete door replacement doesn’t have to be very costly as you can also go for a used (second-hand) door.

Just make sure that the used door came from the exact same make and model so that it fits.



As you can see, there are several effective and easy fixes that you can try to get your cargo van’s back door open.

And even if you’re not successful in opening the door yourself, you can always ask for the help of a qualified locksmith.

However, this will only be a temporary solution because the root cause of the problem might be a specific mechanical failure that calls for repairs or even replacement.

But the good news is that door lock mechanism components aren’t very expensive to either repair or replace.

Now, make sure to check our other content for even more useful and helpful information or your cargo van!