8 Ford Explorer Locking Problems (Solved & Explained)

The Ford Explorer is one of the longest-running SUVs on the market.

Despite being fairly robust, door and tailgate locking issues can occur.

In this article we’ll look at the most common Explorer locking problems and how to resolve them.

1. Ford Explorer Power Locks Not Working

If all the power door locks aren’t working on your Ford Explorer there are some very common causes.

Key Fob Battery

A low key fob battery can cause a wide range of issues, especially with central locking. It is also possible the fob is faulty or may need reprogramming.

  • Change the battery in your key fobs.
  • Buy a good quality battery and insert the correct way up.
  • Whilst the fob is open clean the inside with electronic contact cleaner and a cotton swab.

Blown Fuse

A blown fuse can cause issues with the power door locks.

  • Find the fuse box diagram for you model year Explorer
  • Find the fuses related to the power lock doors and BCM
  • Test across the fuse with a continuity tester
  • If the fuse is still ok, you should hear a “beep”.
  • Or, you can pull the fuse and inspect the metal strip, it should be intact

Bad Ground or Electrical Wiring Issue

A bad ground wire can cause a number of electrical issues including issues with the power lock doors.

You will need to locate the ground wire for the door switches and ensure it is not damaged and is connected properly.

A damaged wire or loose connection can cause similar problems.

The best thing to do is have your dealer run some scans and inspect your Explorer.

12V Battery

A faulty or weak 12V battery can cause a wide range of problems including those related to the power locks.

  • The best thing to do is to have a battery health check or simply replace the battery.
  • Be sure to check the battery connections are tight and free from rust, dirt and grime.

Tip: You can try disconnecting the battery for 15 minutes, this can sometimes clear electrical glitches.

“Low battery voltage?” -explorerforum.com

“I too was thinking this could be a possibility.” – explorerforum.com

Bad Body Contol Module

A faulty body control module can cause a wide range of issues including problems with the power lock doors.

  • The BCM is in charge of electrical communication from different electronic systems.
  • This includes the car alarm system, lock-unlock functions, climate control etc.

Your dealer can run some diagnostics tests on your BCM to ensure it is working correctly, it may need to be reprogrammed or replaced.

“They ended up replacing the lock mechanism in each door and that coupled with the new BCM fixed the issue.” – ExplorerForum.com

“The problem is you are getting signal to body control module from all inputs but module is not sending out signal to unlock or lock the right 2 doors. The problem is in module and a mechanic with dealer level scanner can check this to be bad module or wiring issue from module to right side. Module is most common cause.” – Ford Mechanic JustAnswer.com

Broken or Damaged Relay

A door lock relay is an electromagnetic switch that uses minimal electric power to turn a bigger current on and off.

The central part of a relay is a wire coil that turns into a magnet when current passes through it.

  • On many Explorer models the relays are internal to the BCM.
  • One controls the driver’s door, one controls the passenger front and both rear doors.
  • If they are not working they can cause locking/unlocking problems

If you have a damaged relay then the door will not receive the voltage it requires to unlock.

Check Recalls

There have been a number of recalls on the Explorer and some are specifically for power door locks.

Run a VIN check and make sure your Explorer is up to date with recalls.

Door Lock Actuator

Door lock actuators are subject to a lot of wear and tear and are prone to failure.

There’s an actuator at each door – that means a faulty actuator will only affect a single lock.

Thus, if all the other locks work, the problem lies elsewhere.

Related: 8 Most Common Ford Explorer Problems (Explained)

2. Ford Explorer Door Not Locking Or Unlocking

If you have a single door not locking or unlocking on your Explorer here are some likely culprits.

Faulty Door Lock Actuator

If you have a single door that’s not locking properly then most of the time this is caused by a problem with the actuator

If you don’t hear the actuator then it has completely failed or the wiring harness has come loose.

To be certain you’ll need to remove the door panel.

Replacing an actuator is fairly straightforward if you are mechanically inclined and there are lots of tutorials online for this.

Signs of a bad door actuator include:

  • Strange electric motor noises
  • Keeps unlocking on its own
  • Becomes harder to move by hand
  • Door doesn’t latch closed properly

“Check the door actuator if that checks out okay then it may be one of the rods that have slipped off.” – ExplorerForum.com

“Could be your door lock actuator. That’s what mine is I had the same problem.” – ExplorerForum.com

“Your lock actuator is messed up. The gears are probably stripped out, I am going thru the same deal on mine.” – ExplorerForum.com

Disconnected Locking Rods

If you hear the actuator, but the door isn’t locking/unlocking, one of the locking rods has come off.

“I took the door panel off and realized that one of the connecting rods was just hanging there. I looked at the diagram for what the latch mechanism should look like, and the lock cylinder. There is a yellow clip attached to the end and I realized the rod was supposed to be connected to it. It is kind of hard to reach your hands in there, but you can do it by feel. The rod just popped back into place and it all works perfectly now.” – ExplorerForum.com

Broken or Damaged Wiring

A common cause of the drivers door lock not working is a broken or chafed wire.

  • Because the drivers door is opened far more often than any of the other doors the wires are exposed to more movement.
  • Check where the wires come out of the front fender, where they enter the door.
  • Wiggle the wires to try to get the lock to work to confirm the diagnosis.

Other Common Causes

  • Water damage
  • Blown fuse
  • Power lock issue
  • Something blocking the doors mechanism
  • Latch needs cleaning and/or lubrication
  • Worn out or faulty locks
  • Electrical wiring fault
  • Faulty solenoid

3. Ford Explorer Door Not Opening

A number of Explorer owners have reported not being able to open their car door, this can be caused by a broken spring in the latch assembly.

  • When this spring breaks, the door doesn’t open.
  • The only way to open the door is to – from within the cabin – remove the interior panel from the door, and manually pull the door release rod REALLY HARD.

“It’s the classic syndrome of your Door Lock Latch gone bad (the part of the door lock you see on the door when the door is open) There’s a little spring inside of the lock that breaks, and jams up all of the lock work. Ford has NEVER re-designed the latch as it’s a cash cow for their parts department.” – ExplorerForum.com

“Also I took out the interior panel and inside/top of the door there is some sort of rod flopping about. Then i looked at the door locking mechanism and found broken spring.” – ExplorerForum.com

You can also try giving the latch a good clean and spraying it with some lubricant like WD-40.

4. Ford Explorer Tailgate Not Locking

There are a number of causes why your Explorer tailgate might not be locking.

Faulty Actuator

The most common cause is a faulty actuator, replacing the actuator should solve the problem. However, it is important to also check that the actuator is receiving voltage.

Here’s what owners on ExplorerForum.com had to say:

“Mine did the same thing. Replacing the actuator fixed it.”

“My Explorer’s liftgate lock is fixed. It was the actuator. Thanks for the help!”

“Sounds like you might have a bad/seized up lock actuator in there. Its pretty common for water to get into those hatches it seems like, so it may just be corroded and not able to move the lock.”

Tailgate Latch Needs Lubrication

If the tailgate isn’t locking try spraying some WD-40 into the latch mechanism.

Other Causes

  • Frozen lock recall
  • Bad ground
  • Loose electrical wire
  • Faulty BCM

Related: Ford Explorer Alarm Going Off? (8 Causes & Solutions)

5. Ford Explorer Tailgate Not Unlocking

A Ford Explorer tailgate that won’t unlock is often caused by a failed actuator/solenoid. If you’re mechanically inclined you can buy a replacement part online and fit it yourself otherwise it’s best to visit your dealership.

Another common cause is the latch is broken – this is especially true if you cannot get the liftgate to open.

A blown fuse is another common cause, you will need to check the fuse diagram for your specific model year truck, locate the tailgate fuse and test the fuse with a continuity tester.

It can also be caused by a failed relay or a wiring issue.

6. Ford Explorer Keeps Unlocking Itself

If your Ford Explorer keeps unlocking itself it may be caused by the Intelligent Access feature.

Here’s what the manual says:

You can unlock and lock the vehicle without taking the keys out of your pocket or purse when your intelligent access key is within 3 ft (1 m) of your vehicle.

Intelligent access uses a sensor on the back of the door handle for unlocking and a separate sensor on the face of each door handle for locking. The system does not function if:

  • Your vehicle battery has no charge.
  • The key battery has no charge.
  • The key frequencies are jammed.

Note: The system may not function if the key is close to metal objects or electronic devices, for example keys or a cell phone.

Note: If the system does not function, use the key blade to lock and unlock your vehicle.

Other Common Causes

  • Damaged or broken wires
  • Low 12V battery
  • Low key fob battery
  • Faulty key fob
  • BCM faulty
  • Electrical interference – HAM radios, overhead powerlines etc.
  • Water damage
  • Bad ground

You may have some kind of electrical bug or glitch. You can try disconnecting the battery for 15 minutes and see if that clears it.

7. Ford Explorer Keeps Locking Itself

Common causes of the Explorer locking itself include:

Water Damage

If your Explorer keeps locking itself this can be caused by corrosion or water on the contacts on the switch inside the door.

You can try removing the door trim and using a hairdryer to dry out the electrical components.

“The door switches are simply shorting out from the rain.” – ExplorerForum.com

Auto Locking

If the doors lock whilst driving then this is due to the Auto Locking feature which can be disabled in vehicle settings.

Autolock locks all the doors when all of the following occur:

  • All doors are closed.
  • The ignition is on.
  • Your vehicle reaches a speed greater
    than 12 mph (20 km/h).

Faulty Door Switches (sensors)

The door switch (sensor) is designed to detect whether the car door is open or closed. If these are broken or faulty they can relay incorrect signals and affect the locking of doors.

“Mine went away when I replaced the driver’s side power door lock switch with one from the junkyard.” ExplorerForum.com

8. Ford Explorer Not Locking or Unlocking With Key Fob

If your Ford Explorer won’t lock or unlock with the key fob then this is usually a problem with the key fob.

This includes:

  • Dirty contacts inside the fob – clean with a cotton swab and contact cleaner
  • A weak fob battery – change the battery in your fob(s)
  • A faulty key fob – have your fob replaced or reprogrammed

Try using your spare fob and see if that works – if it does then you know that there likely an issue with the original fob.

Other causes can include:

  • A weak of faulty 12V battery
  • BCM issues
  • Wiring issues / electrical short
  • Door not shut properly

Related: Ford Explorer Beeping? (8 Causes & Solutions)






  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...