Repair of Door Locks on a Subaru Legacy

by Gary Friesen
November 4, 1996

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If your Legacy's door locks insist on locking themselves every time you try to open the door, you probably have a bad "Lock Remote."  The Lock Remote consists of a plastic rocker Toggle that locks/unlocks, and a chrome handle that releases or opens the door.  Here is an explanation of what is causing the problem and two ways to fix it.

In the Lock Remote there is a spring that brings the opener handle back to the resting position after you have pulled it to open the door.  It is a coil spring with one end on the door opener handle and the other end is held on a small piece of plastic that holds it in place to keep spring tension against the opener handle.  When the small piece of plastic that holds the end of the spring breaks, that end of the spring then pushes against the inside of the forward end of the Toggle.  When the handle is pulled, the spring exerts a force against the Toggle and causes it to lock.  You can open the door when this happens by pressing on the unlock button (forward end of Toggle) as you pull the opener handle.

The popular cure is to buy a new Lock Remote and install it.  I have come up with a way to repair the existing Lock Remote and my fix should last longer than a new Lock Remote, since a new one can be expected to break also.

I will explain how to remove it from the door for those of you who will be doing this yourself, as well as how to repair the Lock Remote.  I will refer to each side of the Lock Remote mechanism as it is oriented when installed in the car.  The front is the end toward the front of the car and the outside is the side that faces the outside of the car, etc.

I recommend reading this text at least twice before using it as guidance as you do the work.  Some parts are fragile and I believe that understanding what is printed here may save you from damaging some parts.

Removal of Door Panel and Lock Remote:

Open the door.  Open the window about 3 inches.  Remove the upper and lower screws that secure the armrest to the door that have phillips heads and are concealed.  The upper one is behind a black foam plug that resembles one of those foam earplugs and can be plucked out with a pair of sharp nose pliers.  The lower one is behind a square 1 inch plastic access panel that can be pried away with a screwdriver.

Remove the rectangular trim piece that is around the Remote.  This is done by inserting a thin flat object such as a butter knife or a thin flat blade screwdriver between the trim and the Remote at the top-center and the bottom-center while gently pulling inward on the trim piece.  The clips on the trim piece are grasping on the upper and lower outside edges of the Remote.  They need to be flexed upward (upper) and downward (lower) away from the Remote.  Be Careful, they are fragile. Once the two clips mentioned are free of the Remote, apply a slight rearward pressure to unclip the rear fastener that is clipped around the rear side of the Remote.

Lift the edge of the perimeter of the door liner at all edges except the top edge.  There are about 3-4 plastic fastener snaps, per edge, that will come unsnapped as you pull the liner away about 2 inches. When you pull part of the liner away from the door, your fingers can be inserted between the door and liner so that you can feel where the next fastener to be released is.  Try to lift close to each fastener as the door panel material is rather fragile on most cars.  When the liner is detached at the front, back, and bottom edges, pull it away about 4 inches and lift it upwards to unhook it from the top edge.  It hangs by a lip at the top.  Now disconnect the wiring harness from the panel by pushing on the release clip on the male (door) side of the plug and pulling it out of the female (panel) side.

Remove the two rod linkages that are connected to the Remote.  There is a plastic clip that unclips from the rod and swings away, then the rod is lifted out of the hole in the Remote. Leave them attached if unable to easily remove them.  Now remove the Remote from the door by removing the one screw at the forward end of the Remote and then slide the Remote forward while lifting it gently away from the door.

Repair of the Lock Remote:

Identify the end of the coil spring that is pushing on the inside of the forward end of the Toggle.  It is on the inside of the mechanism and is pushing the forward end of the Toggle toward the inside of the car, especially when the opener handle is pulled.  The spring is about the diameter of a staple and has an "L" shape bend on the end of it. The short side of the "L" is about 1/4 inch long.

Note that there is a small, approximate 1/8 inch, square hole in the plastic housing located just outward from the "L" end of the spring.  You will need to insert a piece of 16, 18, or 20 gauge iron or copper wire (about the size of a paper-clip) up through this hole and snag the "L" on the spring with it.  Then you need to draw the "L" outward until it touches the plastic housing.  The iron wire should then be routed around the outside of the housing, one end up and one end down.

Here is how it is done:  Take a piece of wire about 6 inches long and fold it in half.  At the fold, spread it at the fold to make a loop that is still small enough to fit through the square hole in the plastic back of the lock remote assembly.  Lift the opener handle, insert a small screwdriver or other narrow shaft tool into the mechanism from the bottom or top and use it to lift the "L" wire away from the toggle.  Push the loop of the folded wire into the mechanism from the outside, inward.  Snag the "L" with the loop in the folded wire.  Once you have captured the "L" in the loop, remove the screwdriver shaft.  Now, pull outward on the folded wire until the "L" hits the plastic on the inside of the outside of the mechanism, right at the square hole.  While holding the folded wire in place, bend one side of the folded wire up the back side and fold it over the top of the mechanism.  Fold the other side of the folded wire down the back side and fold it under the bottom of the mechanism.

Now the mechanism should work properly.  When you put the Toggle in the unlock position and pull inward on the release handle, the Toggle should stay put and the release handle should return to rest when you let it go.  The next steps are to modify the door to accept the extra wire, cut the wire to size, and reinstall everything.

The door has two square holes at the back of the Remote.  With a screwdriver or pliers, lift the back edge of each square hole about 1/16 of an inch.  This should allow the Remote to be installed with the new piece of wire fitting between the Remote and the door metal.  You can also push the door metal in a little where the wire will lay by placing the end of a screwdriver or chisel there and giving one or two mild but sudden blows with a small hammer.  Replace the linkage from the lock to the Remote and check for proper operation.

Reassemble everything in the reverse manner that it was disassembled.