1. The driver's door wouldn't open by pulling either handle and is now stuck closed, but unlocked. How do I open it with no working handles? Can I pick the lock mechanism?
Answer: When the inside and outside handles don't release the door latch, that usually means the latch is still in the locked position or the handle's linkage rods are messed up. With the window down, peer downward inside the door with a small flashlight, perhaps gently wedge a piece of wood or rubber to spread the gap between the door and inner door panel for a better view. Then work the lock and the release levers back and forth while observing where they connect to the latch assembly. There may be linkage that broke or came loose, and you may be able to use a slim-jim, coat hanger, or a long screwdriver to release the latch. If all linkage is attached and the lock and release levers on the latch seem to be moving correctly, the latch could be defective and the job gets much more involved. I've gotten doors open by removing the driver's seat and the door panel from the inside to gain access to the latch assembly. When that's not possible, you may be able to get to the door striker bolts from inside the B-pillar and grind or torch them off to open the door.
2. The cruise control light comes on when the switch is turned on, but will not set to a cruising speed from the steering wheel button. The fuse is fine.
Answer: This could be caused by a number of things. The "cruise on" light tells us the system has power, but it's not activated until you hit the set button on the steering wheel. The most common cause is the brake light (and/or clutch) switch being out of adjustment. Next time you're on the highway, pull up on the brake (and/or clutch) pedal with your left foot while engaging the cruise control. If it works, the switch is no good or out of adjustment. If it doesn't, you'll need experience, a wiring schematic and a digital multi-meter to diagnose the problem properly. It could be a module, vehicle speed sensor, bad electrical connection, vacuum pump, actuator, relay, and so on.
3. The hood won't pop open when I pull the handle in the cabin, but if I jam a screwdriver in the side over the tire to put strain on the cable and then pull the handle, it opens fine. Is it a screw, or the cable from the handle?
Answer: Inspect the lever under the dash, the latch assembly under the hood, and the cable that links the two together. Make sure nothing is loose or bent and the cable is not shredded and ready to break. Also lube the latch well and make sure the hood is aligned correctly (not too tight) and the spring near the latch isn't missing or misaligned.
4. The front-passenger turn signal is out. The rear one works fine but is blinking rapidly. The fuse is fine.
Answer: Change the front signal bulb (and inspect the socket for corrosion or bad connections). That should fix the problem. The front and rear directional are on the same circuit. When a bulb goes out it changes the total circuit resistance and causes the flasher to blink rapidly.
How To Reach Alex
If you have a technical question regarding your pickup, SUV, or van, feel free to contact Alex, a master technician with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Send a letter to him in care of Truck Trend Garage, 831 S. Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA 90245, or e-mail us at email@example.com. Please include the VIN with your question. Due to the volume of questions received every month, we cannot guarantee that everyone's question will be personally answered or will appear in the magazine.
Can't wait for help with a problem you're having with your Truck or SUV? Ask the expert we trust here at Truck Trend Garage—visit Alex Steele at www.RealWorldAutomotive.com.