I recently ran into this problem on my 1980 Rabbit:
My rear door was stuck closed with no way to open it. The outside latch was either broken or somehow disconnected internally from the door latch. The inside latch didn't work either. I am in the process of stripping this car down completely to functionally restore into a usable vehicle. So I need to be able to open the door since you have to open the door in order to be able to remove it. What to do?
Note that if you are able to remove your interior panel and pull the wire inside the door to open the latch, then you are lucky and don't need to use this procedure. In my case, the wire inside the door did nothing, because it couldn't pull the mechanism enough to accomplish anything. In any case, I think this procedure is actually easier than removing the door panel anyway and saves you from having to replace damaged door panel clips.
In the above photo you can see a phillips screw that is accessible after removing the handle cover. Do ** NOT ** remove this screw. It is not necessary and may even make things more difficult.
Here is why:
The door latch is able to be removed only by unscrewing the two screws shown in the photo above. However, that is not a very easy feat to accomplish with the door closed! So we need to figure something else out.
Don't get out the hammer, saw, grinder, drill and jackhammer and start molesting your door to try to get it open. There actually is a way to do this without damaging anything.
Look at the latch in the photo above and study how it is supposed to look when in its unlatched position.
Now look at the next photo of the same latch in its closed or locked position:
Go to one of your other doors, open it and practice the following procedure a few times to get a feel for what needs to be done in order to unlatch your stuck door.
Find a 4mm allen wrench. This size seems to work best for the tight fit between the door and car body. Use the SHORT end of the allen to push down on the little button behind the latch as shown in the picture below:
The spring in the latch will now flip the mechanism to its partially latched position or halfway point.
Now use the long side of the 4mm allen wrench to push down on the button one more time. This should cause the mechanism to unlatch completely allowing the door stop post to be freed and the door opened:
Now, go inside your car. I have removed the rear bench seat and the rubber gasket from around the inside of the door as shown. I have not tried it any other way, so maybe if you are more dexterous, you might not have to. But these are easy enough to remove and replace, so I just went ahead and removed them for more space:
Now, using the SHORT side of the 4mm allen wrench just as before, push down on the same button like you did when practicing on your good door. You will see why the short side of the wrench is used here because you need the bend to get around the door crack to access the latch button. This is a bit more tricky that when practicing on the open door and requires a little bit of patience and a slightly expanded vocabulary. But, the theory of it is exactly the same. After doing this a few times, you can actually open a door very quickly this way.
Here is a photo of pushing the button with the short wide of the wrench through the crack in the door:
When you have successfully pushed the button, the door will magically pop open to its partially latched position. You will still not be able to open the door at this point. This position is the equivalent of not shutting your door hard enough closed. It is only half latched:
Tada. Now we have a lot more room to work (relatively speaking) and can easily use the long side of the allen wrench to push down the button again to release the latch fully:
Once the latch releases, the door can be pushed open. No damage, no sweat:
Now you can remove the screws that hold the door handle and latch and see what the problem is with it and fix it.
Hope someone finds this useful because I know I sure could have.
very good info ,while we are on the subject of opening things has anyone ever been able to open the hatch when it is locked and you dont have the key, gerald
Get in to the Trunk via the back seat and parcel shelf removal as it goes forward with the seat.
Then you can get to the trunk rod and pop it. Or you can get to the lock and pop it, or remove the latch and have a key made from it.
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Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.
92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.