Update: 12/16/2011: I tore down the latch/lock actuator to bare bones and reassembled it paying close attention to making sure all electrical contacts were kept clean. Here is the new post on this problem.
Update 8/6/2009: Since my last update below, the driver’s side door had to be opened up and re-lubed again; the rear driver’s side door did as well, and the front passenger door has quit working all together even after re-lubing it. Based on the number of hits this blog entry gets on a daily basis, this has to be a defect. Too bad this car gets great gas mileage or I would trade it in as a clunker just for principle.
Update11/30/2008: Well once the weather cooled off for the impending winter months, my driver’s side power lock quit working again. The leave the key in and lock the door for a programmed response to unlock it to try and free things up did not help this time. So it was off with the door panel, pulling the latch mechanism, disconnecting the lever and lock cables from the door and lubricating the whole works all over again. It did not take as long to do this time and two weeks in, it’s still working. This time I used some Teflon based lubricant instead of WD-40. Hopefully the new stuff will last a little longer.
Update 9/9/2008: After a few months it seems the problem of the weak actuator reappears. If the condition is fixable, I have found one thing that is a pretty easy and quick fix. With the key in the ignition, open the driver’s side door a little and press the power lock button. The car’s electronics will respond by immediately unlocking the doors. This quick and immediate response must be re-seating the worm gear or doing something else, but it usually works to get my power locks working again.
My post on the GenVibe.com Pontiac Vibe web site forums:
« Re: Questions about Power Door Lock System (bgerlach) « » 12:11 PM 3/16/2008 Reply
My passenger side door went out about three months ago and the driver’s side door went out about two weeks ago. I tried to find out what a replacement actuator would cost from my local AutoZone, but they said it was not available from them at least. They suggested cleaning the electrical contacts. So I a door clip tool and some CRC electrical cleaner. I started with the driver’s side door and tried to clean all of the electrical plugs and then lubricated the cable from the lock toggle inside and the key hole and mechanism. The actuator is housed in a portion of the larger latch assembly. I tried to get some WD-40 inside of this housing and connected the electrical plugs and the power lock started working again. The same procedure was used on the passenger side, but it was still dead. So I removed the whole latch assembly and was able to open the clam shell enough to see a very small electrical motor with a worm gear on the shaft that interfaced with a standard gear connected to the lock toggle cable that went back to the inner door handle and lock. I lubricated these gears and tried to spray to electrical cleaner into the small motor. I put everything back together and this side still failed.During the cleaning and lubrication effort, I noticed the window had come down about an inch so I put the key in the ignition and put it up. I tried the power lock again and it worked. Actually it locked an unlocked as it should when the key is the ignition. I spent a total of about thee hours on the effort. Removing the door panel is pretty easy, you just have to remove the screw from the door grab divot and start pulling the panel from the bottom. The door clip tool was nice, but not a necessity. Before the panel will tilt out and off, you have to pull the little black triangle of plastic at the upper front corner of the panel. This plastic piece should be pulled from the top. The plastic electrical connectors are a pain to get disconnected, so be careful not to break the plug latch clips with them. To get the whole latch assembly out, you have to remove the inside door release handle(one screw hidden by trim cover) then lift the assembly starting at the rear then slide the assembly back and it will come away from the door. Once you have this loose, you can remove the cables. The latch has three torx bolts that need to come off and then pull the black circular cover above the latch to access another torx screw that holds the key mechanism in place. Pull the key assembly and then take off a black metal panel that is between the latching mechanism and the inner door release handle. The hardest part is taking out the latch assembly. It has to be twisted around and past the window track so it can be removed via the hole created where the black metal panel was removed. This latch assembly has a ton of clips all around it and will require some care not to break any off when opening it. There is also a plastic shield around the top of the assembly, which I assume is to shed moisture if you leave your window open in the rain. I could only get enough clips open to have about a 1/4″ opening to see the motor and gears. I need a little bit thicker lubricant than I had. Places I could not really get to I used WD-40. For the parts I could get to, I used some Pedro’s Dry all purpose lubricant. This is bicycle lubricant of medium viscosity. I am glad I tackled it and did not end up with a “basket case” I had to take to the dealer.