Range Rover Classic/ Discovery I Door Lock Repair

Central locking failure is not uncommon on old Range Rovers and Discoverys, but it’s seldom a serious or expensive issue.  Normally, the failure will result in the lock actuator still moving (which is what makes the noise) and trying to operate the door lock, but the lock lever doesn’t move through its full range.  This can result in the central locking failing either to lock or to unlock the door, with the internal lever in the top of the door trim being needed to operate the locking mechanism.  The latching function still works normally if the locking lever is operated manually, though on very worn locks it may need to be held up for opening.

The reason for this fault is the failure of a small over-centre spring on the lock unit itself.  This spring pushes an arm on the lock, operated by rods from the central locking actuator and the vertical interior lever, to either end of its arc of movement, locking or unlocking the latching mechanism.

These springs are unavailable from Land Rover, so strictly speaking, this reduces the entire lock mechanism to scrap.  However, the springs are available separately on ebay and, of course, from scrap vehicles.  The spring is the same regardless of which door it is being fitted to.  So, you should be able to repair your lock for pennies rather than over £90!

To repair the lock, it has to be completely removed from the door.  It sounds daunting to novice or only moderately experienced home-mechanics, but is in fact a pretty simple job.  This is a step by step guide on how to do it.  The door in question was the rear left door of my Range Rover Classic, and there are slight differences to the other locks: obviously they have to be symmetrical from left to right for opposite doors, and the front door locks have a slightly different shape to follow the straighter door profile and don’t have the child-lock levers, but the method of removal is basically the same.  I haven’t worked on a Discovery rear door, but I’m prepared to assume that they use a lock similar to the front right door.

Firstly, the door’s interior trim has to be removed.  On a later Range Rover, this involves removing the collar around the vertical lock lever, the backing panel around the internal latch lever and the main handle insert in the arm rest.  The vertical lever is left in place, but its outer collar can be removed by pushing the lever down and then prying the collar upwards.  The latch handle trim has a single +head screw hidden behind the front end of the handle, and can be removed with the handle pulled to the “unlatch” position.  The main handle insert is fixed by two +head self-tapping screws hidden under curved plates in the bottom – these inserts should be pried out using a small screw driver in their small cut-outs.  Discoverys have a different door trim using grab handles and different vertical levers – their fixings should be easy to find, though – but they use the same latch handles (as do Defenders).

With the grab handles, latch handle trim and vertical lever collars removed, the main door trim can now be pulled away from the door.  Do this gently and as evenly as possible to avoid breaking any of the plastic lugs that hod the trim into the door.  As the trim panel comes away, the wiring connections will become visible inside.  On rear doors, this is just a single plug for the central locking and electric windows.  On front doors, there will also be wiring for the stereo’s loudspeakers and the puddle light (the light in the bottom edge of the door to illuminate the ground); make a note of all the wiring connections, and if uncertain, use masking tape labels and a pen on each plug to note where to reattach them later.

With the trim removed, the door’s weather sheet is now visible.  This could be just partially removed for access, but I find it easier to remove it entirely.  In the case of Range Rovers, there is an anodised steel bracket that the door handles attach to – remove these before the weather sheet, noting the positions that the screws come from and also carefully noting where any spacing washers are fitted (in this case, both upper bolts had spacing washers between the bracket and the door carcass).

Once the weather sheet is removed, you will be able to see the majority of the lock system components.  The central locking actuator and vertical lever have rods that connect vertically to a bell crank inside the door cavity.  This crank in turn operates a horizontal rod that extends towards the middle of the lock unit.  Parallel to this rod is another which runs from the interior latch handle to a white plastic lug in the lower inboard arm on the lock unit.  A third short vertical lever connects the exterior handle to the upper most arm on the lock unit.

These links must all be disconnected.  Access is difficult because of the anodised plate blocking the way.  This has to be removed after removing each of its screws, but the horizontal rods prevent this plate from rotating enough to be withdrawn.  So, before removing the anodised plate, first remove the latching handle and its mounting plate by undoing the two self-tapping screws.  Note their positions relative the the back plate slots first, so that you can refit the assembly in exactly the same position later.  The assembly can be tipped vertically to ease the back of the handle off the cranked end of the rod.

With the latching handle removed, the horizontal rods have enough free play to allow you to rotate and remove the anodised plate.  Wind its screws back into its captive nuts for safekeeping.

The lock is now fully exposed (well, as good as it gets).  The three operating rods must now all be removed.  The latching handle lever rod can simply be prised towards you to unclip it from its groove in the white plastic lug.  Put it with the handle.  The other two rods have rotary retaining clips.  They’re pretty self-explanatory – rotating the clip arm off the rod allows the end of the rod to be withdrawn laterally from the lock arm.  While the upper clip is retained on the arm, the lower clip is loose, so don’t drop it into the door!

With the operating rods all disconnected, you now just have to unscrew the unit from the door frame.  In this case, there are two countersunk +head screws in the rear and one 10mm hex head screw in the side; other doors may vary slightly.  The hex bolt goes through the pivot point of some of the unit’s arms, but don’t worry – it won’t come apart.  Remove all three screws, supporting the unit while you remove the last one.  The lock can then be rotated forward and out through the aperture.

Once cleaned up on the bench, the failed spring was pretty obvious.  If any of the spring is still in place, make a note of its orientation.  You’re looking for the hooked ends through tear-drop shaped holes in the arms.  Remove the old bits and fit the new spring in the same orientation, then try moving the locking (middle) arm – it should move with only spring resistance and be held positively by the spring at either end of the movement, but it should not bind.  If it is binding, then try fitting the spring the other way around and repeating the test.  Also make sure the spring’s hooks are correctly engaged in the holes.

It’s worth spraying the lock assembly liberally with white lithium grease before fitting to help with lubrication and corrosion resistance.  Refit the lock to the door frame with the same bolts, tightening the countersunk bolts first, drawing the lock tight against the frame before tightening the hex head bolt.

Refit the operating arms, starting with the short vertical rod to the exterior handle, and then the locking rod to the middle lever, remembering to use the retaining clips.  Insert the interior latch handle rod through the frame below the locking rod and fit its rear end into the white plastic bush.  You will see that the bush has a slot in one side of its hole – this is where the main length of the rod should sit as it’s pressed home.

Next, refit the anodised steel plate by passing it through the hole and rotating it into position.  You will see that there is an ant-rattle pad on the rod-facing side of this plate, and this pad may have worn through like mine.  If so, remove it and fit a replacement of neoprene strip or draught excluder tape, or even glue the old pad back in a new position to prevent contact between the rods and plate before refitting it.  I used a piece of Noise Killer mating offcut.

With the plate in place, you can now refit the interior latch handle, feeding the rear of the handle on top the cranked rod end and then using the two self tapping screws.  Try to refit this latch in exactly the same position as it came from to avoid the need for adjustments.

Now that the mechanical reassembly is complete, conduct several tests of all aspects of the lock before refitting the trim.  Test that the door closes and latches easily, then try the central locking.  Unlock it again and then try opening the door.  Repeat the procedure several times, locking and unlocking while keeping the door shut, and opening and closing the door with it left unlocked, using the interior and exterior latch handles, the interior vertical lock lever and central locking, and the child lock lever (if a rear door).

Once satisfied that it all works correctly, refit the weather sheet (repairing any tears first), followed by the anodised bracket (Range Rover), noting those spacer washers, and then the main trim panel.  Start on the trim panel with all of those electrics, otherwise you won’t be able to see or reach them properly.  Lift the corner with the vertical lever aperture over the lever and align the panel in that corner.  Then press the plastic panel studs into their mating inserts in the door, working round one by one and lining them up by hand (they have a small amount of movement to allow alignment).  Once the trim panel is fully clipped in and pushed home, refit the remaining trim pieces in the manner in which they were removed.  Don’t over-tighten any countersunk screws as they will crack the plastic part they are securing.

Hopefully, that has just saved you £200-300 on garage bills, depending on whether you use a franchised or non-franchised workshop.  Of course, this method will also allow you to replace a completely broken lock with a replacement unit too.

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  1. Great article, might have a go at this now .

    Thanks – like the site

  2. Yeah, great write up and very useful. thanks.

  3. I own a car Range Rover 2002 I have a problem in the back door is not open , so how solve it

  4. Sorry, but I’m not familiar with the workings of later Range Rovers.

  5. Good writeup… With my ’94 LWB, I have a left rear door that works, sort of, but I usually have to pull the handle a few times and pull kind of hard. It is acting like the handle just won’t pull it quite far enough to go over the latch, but I’ve taken the panel off and I don’t see a way to adjust this. If I had a broken spring, would it be working at all, or is this the correct symptom for the problem you are describing? The door handles all retract properly after pulling on them, and the locking mechanism seems to work OK too, the doors lock and unlock OK… Does my vehicle sound like a candidate for this procedure?

    Thanks, Mike S.

  6. It sounds like the same problem, Mike. You can test to be sure by having someone hold the locking plunger at the top if the door trim all the way up to keep the mechanism unlocked while you open the latch – if it behaves normally, you have confirmed the diagnosis. You can get the springs on eBay.


  7. Jonathan says:

    Only one door will open on my 2002 rr and the windows stopped working too. Could the door locks and window locks be the same problem?

  8. If a single door had problems with the central locking and window, I’d be looking at the wiring to that door, mainly in the area of the convoluted rubber guide tube between the door and the pillar, and especially at the earthing wires, but for three doors to fail, I suspect it is more likely to do with the alarm/immobiliser unit or the wiring associated with it. I’m not good at electronics, and have very little knowledge of later Range Rovers, so all I can recommend is joining the forums lr4x4.com or rangerovers.net and asking advice there. Sorry!

  9. Does this apply for a 2006 discovery 3 too? And if so what do I search for on ebay for the spring? Thanks in advance

  10. Hi Vicki

    It would apply to the Discovery I. I don’t think it would apply tot he. Discovery II and I’d be very surprised if it do the Discovery III, but I simply don’t know. They probably have a comparable mechanism, but I doubt they share specofic compnents.

  11. Silverset says:

    I have a 1992 RR Classic…. Drivers exterior door handle is broken… I have scoured the online world looking for one, can you help??

  12. I don’t have parts to sell, but I’m sure you’d find one on a Land Rover internet forum. As a temporary measure, a Discovery handle will work – they are identical except for having smooth black surfaces instead of the textured silver finish.

  13. Silverset says:

    Great thanks.. I managed to get both… i’ll resell the black Discovery one….. incidentally, can you talk me through or send a pic of how to remove the door card – got everythgin besides the up down lock / unlock button


  14. The vertical locking button stays fitted to the mechanism while removing the door card, but its surrounding guide trim is slid up vertically for removal. Use a small screw driver under its bottom lip to lever it up. It’s self fixing with plastic locking tabs, so will initially resist. If you use too much force, the tabs can snap, so be as gentle as possible. The ideal way would be to use a drift with a wide, slightly soft tip that you can sit under the bottom edge of that trim and then thump upwards with middle firmness to pop it directly upwards without any twisting or prising force on the part itself.

  15. silverset says:

    Brilliant, thanks, managed to get the new door handle on and repaired the back door too, the white push pin on the mechanism wasnt pushing the lever far enough inside to open the door. The up link ias adjustable which made this fix easy.
    Can I ask you, the neutral / park position switch – are the symptoms grinding noise when in either and the electrics not working? … Ive read the NPPS is the culprit… the auto transmission works fine – I’ve figured out that if I park either up or down hill, put it in par and switch off the engine then release the footbrake and let it bounce forward a few bumps it seems to reset it…. or maybe this is just a fluke… but it works.. Where is the NPPS – is it an easy fix?? IS it on the trans or under the selector inside the car?

    Thanks for everything

  16. I’m glad the lock repair page helped. Unfortunately, I have never worked or used a ZF on a Land Rover product, so I really can’t help you with that beyond recommending that you contact Ashcroft Transmissions in Luton – Dave knows everything there is to know about them and is a very helpful man. I’m sure he can not only give you an answer but also supply any parts you might need very swiftly.

  17. Bob Williams says:

    I live in Mexico and would need to order the spring from the US. When asking for the spring, what do I call it? I have a 97 Discovery 1. The key moves freely in the driver lock and I cannot lock the door and actuate the auto door locks. Is the round spring my problem?

  18. Bob Williams says:

    I don’t see my post, so I will try again. I live in Mexico and have a 97 Discovery 1. The driver door lock is free-moving. The key inserts but moves without any action – no resistance. I suspect that this spring is broken. Would you agree? I will likely have to get it from the US, so what exactly do I ask for?

  19. Hi Bob,

    That sounds like a fault with the lock barrel or the mechanism it sits into rather than the spring – the spring failure allows you to operate the lock manually but it tends to relock as the internal plunger drops under its own weight, the actuator really just moved the locking mechanism past centre and the spring (an over entre spring) will then push the mechanism the rest of the way and hold it locked or unlocked.

    The lock barrel is a cylindrical body with a small protrusion at the inner end with flat sides. That protrusion sits into a receiving hole in the lock but the metal is weak and the protrusion can corrode, wear or shear off and I suspect that may have happened to you. Hopefully it will just be the barrel and not the lock mechanism itself as the mechanism is expensive. If it is the barrel, then buy a kit so that the two doors and the tailgate all match. I think you might be able to get a kit with the ignition switch barrel included, so four barrels all using the same key.

    Before you order any parts, remove the door trim and have a look at the mechanism while you operate the lock to see what moves and what doesn’t. If it is the spring, look on eBay – they’re available cheaply, but not as a separate item from Land Rover who will sell you a whole lock.

    Good luck


  20. So very helpful on my 1992 RRC. Excellent write-up – great details and clarity. Thanks Nick!

  21. Glad it helped!

  22. Hi,
    Can this be the solution to all 4 door locks bouncing back open whenever I try to lock my ’91 RRC with the key on the driver’s door? If not, what could it be?
    It was working fine the other day. Any thought? Thanks

  23. Hi Stefano.

    It’s possible. If the driver’s door lock doesn’t register full locked or unlocked, then the system doesn’t know quite what to do and so relocks all the doors. It could also be an electrical or ECU issue, but the spring is a cheap place to start as you don’t need diagnostic gear to check it.

  24. Daniel Lawrence-Sansbury says:

    Hi there Nick,
    Quick question if I may. On my 1990 Vogue SE, the driver’s lock mechanism pops out of the that white plastic channel stuck to the insude of the door frame, that is supposed to support the rod (enabling the pivot movement) so that the rotation of the lock lifts the appropriate latch. Any idea whether this part is available or what it is called?

    Many thanks

  25. Hi Daniel,

    I don’t have a parts manual to look up the diagrams or part numbers, but I can recommend Dunsfold Land Rover for guidance and for likely being the only supplier to stock the part – their expertise is unrivalled and their service and stock are very good. If anyone can help, it’ll be them.

    Good luck.


  26. Richard Carrington says:

    Hi, good article. The springs on mine are not Broken but I have the intermittent operation. The solenoid is also ok. I’ve noticed a lot of lost motion in the bell crank linkages. Could this cause the same issue?

  27. Hi Richard,

    Anything that prevents full motion of the levers, rods or cranks could easily be your problem. Have a look for bonding and worn joints, but if you can’t see anything, a light oiling of the links and the lock mechanism may well fix it. They get very little attention over their lives.


  28. Espen Iversen says:

    I have a problem with one of the doors on my ‘93 classic, as it opens fine from the inside. But from the outside I would need to press the door inwards towards the door frame in order to open. Anyone had this problem? Thanks in advance


  29. Hi Espen,

    I’ve not come across that, but if the internal handle operates the larch normally, it would appear to be an issue with the external handle. I’d try adjusting the link rod between the exterior handle and latxh to remove an slack that has developed and give it all a spray with a can of white grease. You could also check the striker pin for signs of wear, particularly a ridge that would cause extra friction on the latch when the door is being pulled open.


  30. Fantastic Nick this post is 10 years old but still spot on. Thanks for the help. I’ve spent 2 weeks trying to sort this problem out only to see the spring was broken after reading your post!

  31. I’m glad it’s still helpful, Grant!

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