Balancing Act

DIY: How to Replace the Door Lock Actuator on Your 3rd Gen Prius

So my door actuator just failed on my third generation Prius and I found Steve’s excellent post on how to remove the door panel (here) and used it to get me half way there. Here’s a “Part Two” for anyone wanting to go to the next step and fix their actuator themselves.

First of all, it’s pretty easy. And I say that as someone who is new to car repair. When I saw the “star” bolt on the door, I had to go to Walmart to try and find a screwdriver that could fit it. I’ve never taken a door panel off let alone removed a piece from inside. If I can do it, so can you!

So, to start off, get a new actuator. I followed a link on the PriusChat forums recommending a guy on eBay: He must be doing pretty well because the thread was two years old and he’s still around. It cost $150+$10 shipping for the piece and he’ll refund $30 when you return your broken one, postage paid. There are cheaper deals, but he’s the only one I found who offered a lifetime warranty and has such great reviews.

Once you get the part (it took less than a week for me), go here and follow the instructions on how to take off the inner door panel. Easy, right?

Next, you need to locate the old actuator in your door. First, you’re going to unplug the white plug on the upper left of the door. This is plugged into the actuator. Plug it into your new one and try it out with your key. It should click just fine. Remove the sticky clear plastic sheet half way. You only need to open it enough to get access to the inside of the door.

Picture A

Now, knowing where the plug goes, look in the hole and you’ll see how the old actuator is positioned. To begin removal of the actuator, unscrew the three “star” screws in the side of the door. You’ll need a special screwdriver for this. I went to Wal-mart and for $5.88 I got a screwdriver and a whole pack of “star” ends I’ll never use again.

Picture B

With that done, note that there’s a metal rod going horizontally into the top of the actuator, and another metal rod going vertically through the bottom. You’ll have to remove these when you pull the piece out. You can wiggle them out pretty easy at this point, and getting them back to the new one in is only slightly trickier, but not a huge deal. Just make a note of where they go so you remember.

Picture C

OK, now the old actuator can be taken out relatively easy. With the rods no longer attached, just turn the actuator in a 90-degree angle as in my picture below. This was the only way I could get it out and get the new one in. The room in the door is TIGHT and there’s a huge rod for the window in the way. This is clearly why your Toyota dealer justifies a $600 bill. Smiling face with open mouth

Picture D

Once it’s out, you’ll have to open the bottom panel (just pop it) and remove the two cords. Note how each one is hooked in and hook them into your new actuator in the same way then close the door.

Picture E

Put the new actuator back in the door, reversing the process for everything. Remember to put it in at the 90-degree angle or you’ll be fighting it, and don’t forget to wiggle those two rods in. I found it easier to do the upper rod first, because the lower rod can be put in by pushing down on the area of the actuator assembly where it connects.

And…that’s it! Basically, 5 screws and a lot of exact placement and you’re good, saving nearly $500. Hope this helps!

BIO: Guest-blogger and guy-new-to-modding-his-Prius, Christopher P.N. Maselli, writes books your kids will love. His writing coaching will put you on the fast track to success.



9 thoughts on “DIY: How to Replace the Door Lock Actuator on Your 3rd Gen Prius

  1. Ed Kranz

    This article was very useful. I was able to swap out the actuator without any trouble. For a few minutes I thought that I might need to disassemble more, but the comment about rotating the actuator 90 degrees to remove it gave me a heads up to keep trying.

  2. LAJay007

    Thanks so much for your instructions! I did both rear doors and the front passenger door yesterday. All done in 2hours. I couldn’t be happier w/my recently purchased 2010 Prius with 64K miles.

  3. J

    Thanks for posting DIY instructions 🙂
    I wonder if that is possible to have you perform the Rear sway bar installation and I will be more than happy to pay for that?
    Thank you!

      1. J

        I see 🙁
        Actually I saw your DIY instructions but the problem is the place I live don’t allow us to work on cars. My time is flexible and please please let me know if you ever changed your mind…

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