Manual vs Automatic Car Locks: Pros and Cons of Each Type

If manual door locks are important to you, finding a new car that has them will limit your choices to a few base models. And most dealers don’t stock them, because most buyers want automatic door locks. However, despite becoming outdated, manual locks still have a few advantages over power locks.

Comparing the two types of locks will either convince you to stick with the manual type or try out the automatic locks.

Manual Car Door Locks


Manual door locks do not have any electrical components. They lock and unlock utilizing a push/pull lever or pin on the inside of the car. And the car is opened from the outside by inserting a key into the lock.

In a strictly manual locking system, each door has its own lock—and has to be locked separately from the others. The driver door and the front passenger door have key access from the outside. But the rear passenger doors usually have to be locked and unlocked from the inside of the door.


In the event of an accident (unless the unlocking lever is damaged), passengers can quickly exit the vehicle by pulling up on the locking pin installed in each door.

Manual door locks are easily operated and have a low failure rate. And no maintenance is typically required. Manual locks usually last for the lifetime of the car.

In the event of an accident involving water, a manual lock can be easily opened when the car is submerged.

If your keys are locked in the vehicle, a simple tool will usually unlock the door.


But manual locks are also easily opened by thieves—making your vehicle more prone to theft. 

Mechanical locks are much easier to compromise than power locks, so if it’s the only safety mechanism you have in your vehicle (except for the alarm, which is always a must), it simply doesn’t meet modern security standards. If installing an automatic locking system is too expensive, you can use cheaper equipment to reinforce your car such as a kill switch, brake pedal lock, and other types of car security devices broken down by Skilled Locksmith—the leading automotive safety experts from Houston TX.

However, no safety mechanism prevents locking a vehicle while the key is still in the ignition. Drivers who habitually lock their doors with the pin instead of the lever can easily lock themselves out of their car.

Because so few cars on the road have manual locking systems, servicing them can be a problem. A problem with a manual door lock may have to be fixed at a factory dealership, which has access to the needed parts and manuals.

Automatic Car Door Locks


Power locks use a combination of electronic and mechanical components to lock and unlock automobile doors. Automatic door locks work utilizing a central locking system. For older vehicles, the doors are locked and unlocked with a keypad on the outside of the door itself. Most newer cars have a remote keyless system that can be controlled remotely with a key fob.

On some cars the doors lock when the transmission is moved from the ‘Park’ position. On other vehicles, the doors automatically lock when the vehicle reaches a certain speed. This informative post on gives a better understanding of the power door lock mechanism.


Automatic door locks are convenient to use. While carrying a child or a bag of groceries, there’s no need to rummage through a purse or pocket to retrieve a key. With a simple touch of a button on the key fob, the passenger doors and the fifth door or trunk can be unlocked. Many modern vehicles will open just by touching the door handle (if the key fob is on the person).

Automatic locks have other advantages:

  • If the system is working correctly, you can’t be locked out of the car.
  • Because there’s no key to copy, auto locks offer added security.


But if the battery goes dead on the key fob, the manual back-up key is not convenient to use.

And when that rare malfunction occurs, auto door locks are not cheap to repair.

If the auto-locking system begins to lock the doors randomly, the driver can get locked out at the most inconvenient times. And a technician who is troubleshooting a sporadic problem usually has to replace more parts than when the problem can be isolated.

Automatic locks increase the cost of a new or used vehicle. And to replace a key fob can cost $100 or more, as compared to a couple of dollars for a copy of a mechanical key.

Lastly, David McAdams, an experienced technician from Advantage Limousine Services, a limo service in Houston, TX, warns: “Sometimes the easiness to lock a car distantly with a keyless entry system causes drivers to forget to turn the ignition off. This results in carbon monoxide poisoning. At our garage we have an audible alarm that goes off when a carbon monoxide detector is triggered by an excessive amount of the gas in the air. Consider installing such alarm in your garage at home too.”


From a convenience standpoint, automatic locks win over manual locks:

  • No key to fish out of your pocket or purse.
  • Not as likely to lock yourself out of your vehicle.
  • Can remotely unlock doors for passengers.
  • Can remotely lock doors from a distance.

But there’s no clear winner when it comes to safety.

If you live in an area of the country where an accident could leave you submerged underwater, manual door locks are unaffected by water. But electric auto locks can fail.

If, however, you live in an urban area, automatic locks are safer. In a parking garage, for instance, you can get in and out of your vehicle much quicker with a remote keyless entry system. Luckily, with a fairly good skill set it’s possible to convert a manual lock into a power lock following the instructions on

Author: Brandon Park