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1997 RAV4L - Passenger Front Door Won't Open
Hoping that someone will have some suggestions.
My RAV has had some issues with its front doors for a while. After coming back from a 6mo. absence I've started to tackle some of them with significant help from the forum -- Thanks all!
Here's what's been going on.
Before I left, the drivers door wouldn't unlock (the key wouldn't turn) on cold/damp NW days. Most cases I would open the passenger door (on the warmer/drier side of the car sun-wise) and crawl over the stick get the car running and warm it up. Generally this would take care of the driver's door not opening. Obviously not optimal but you do what you gotta do. At the time the passenger door worked fine.
Since I returned, the drivers door would take several attempts to turn the lock cylinder to get the door unlocked. This was in July so cold/wet wasn't the excuse any more. I took off the door panel, pulled the actuator, cleaned the little motor brushes and reinstalled things. We took a careful look after this made things better (less frequent) but not perftect at the lock itself. Even with graphite it seemed not to work particularly smoothly. A newer key often worked better, but now both new and old keys take a lot of patient (& sometimes not-so-patient) turning in the lock to get it to fully open and open all of the doors -- except, and this is the most problematic -- except the front passenger door.
Now the front passenger door will not open at all. The manual lock/unlock button under the door handle (interior) does not fully unlock (showing the flag) so it always appears in a partially locked state. I'd love to see what's going on inside the mechanism, but since the door will not open, I haven't been able to get the inside panel off to do so.
Last attempt at fixing the passenger door we found that one of the rods had detached and managed to re-attach it by going down through the small slit on the door sill with the window open. Using a flashlight and various items of stiff metal and wood we were able to get the thing back in the plastic snap-on. At the time we were pretty stoked - maybe this would solve the problem. But no, the door still would not fully unlock.
Writing this reminded me of another thing I used to try when I was coming in through the passenger side to get the driver's door to unlock. I would repeatedly try to unlock using the lock/unlock all door mechanism on the driver door. Once things got thawed enough, the driver door would unlock (the passenger and all other doors would consistently lock/unlock properly at that time). Don't know if that has anything to do with the passenger side door issue though.
So, my questions for the forum...
1) Any ideas on getting the passenger front door inner panel off while it's closed? (Aside from take it to a dealer...)
2) Should I be replacing the door lock cylinders since the key doesn't seem to want to turn in the driver's door and the passenger door seems headed the same direction?
3) Does the passenger issue ring any bells for anyone on what I should be looking for?
Any ideas would be helpful. I'd like to avoid taking the car in if I can since most things I could probably replace myself, but I'm stumped on how to remove that inner panel and wondering if the lock cylinder replacement will fix the drivers side issue (you can actually feel rough turning in the cylinder when you try to lock/unlock).
Thanks in advance for any ideas/help!
p.s. I've been through the door lock issue threads/search, so I'm hoping for some additional ideas/thoughts. Thanks all!