I am posting this - as a group DIY of sorts. Recently there seems to be a rash of broken door latches (as there is every winter).
I'll add this as a link to my DIY page since, I too got struck be the broken door latch issue last weekend. I was lucky, my latch broke in a way where the door would simply not close. So I was able to change the latch without gutting the door.
So there's the start.
You put the key in the door, and go to unlock it, nothing happens, lock just spins .
Your door lock tumbler and paddle have broken. Get a new one, or go to the dealer. They carry these parts in stock. Unlock and open the car from the inside and then change the handle.
And finally, check your remote! If the key/tumbler is frozen try your remote. Of course if your battery is dead (in the car, or in your hand), it won’t help!
Door Handles - (GAP) - with keys and "paddle"
The door will not open from the outside, OR the inside, even though its unlocked
1 - Before you do anything else, park the car, with the sun beating down on the passenger side. I know you said it "dry".. but still a drop of moisture in the lock will cause it to lock solid. Give it a shot before the next step.
2 - I'd bet the catch on the release is broken. This is inside the latch, and sadly, the only way to get to it.. is from inside the door.. its ugly, very much so. You have to cut a hole in the door card to get to the latch. From there you can try to smack the latch with a hammer to free it up. If that does not work, your left with gutting the latch from inside the car. Its 100% not fun.
Locks and Handles are another very common entry point for water to freeze. If your handles are frozen use a de-icier spray. NEVER pour boiling hot water onto any part of your car to thaw it out! You may crack glass, and worse, it will just refreeze again.
To prevent water and ice from migrating into door locks and handles - spray a small amount of graphite lock lube into each lock cylinder and insert the key a few times. Lock and unlock the door a few cycles to make sure lube is inside the lock cylinder.
There are actually two parts that freeze/break in the latch.
One is the "big hook" - this part pivots and "Grabs" the body pin.
This part will freeze, and prevent the door from being opened from the inside or outside of the car. The trick is, you have to spray the lube "up into the latch" and move the hook around to try to spread the lube around. To move the latch around, press it back with a screwdriver blade, it will click into two positions.
The 2nd part that gets frozen is the lower part of the catch ratchet. This part is what "holds" the latch open. If this freezes or breaks, the door will not close at all. Again, spray the hell out of the pivot point, and move the latch to spread it around.
If the latch remains frozen/refreezes the latch can be ""thawed" by pointing a small electric heater at the latch area from the outside. Do not walk away, and keep an eye on the surface temperature so as to not damage the car.
Door Latches - (GAP)
Driver/Passenger front latches come in OBD 1 and OBDII styles (split mid 1995). They can work in each car, you'll just have to swap over a small plastic part carefully. this part is what runs the central locking on OBDI cars. OBDII cars do not have this part. (THIS IS PART 2 IN THE DIAGRAM BELOW)
OBDII -> OBDI = direct swap
OBDI -> OBDII = Swap over the central lock part @ the base of the latch.
Door latches are the same Jetta/Golf.
Anyone who has information and wishes to help is more then welcome to comment.
Modified by Dan J Reed at 2:27 PM 3-3-2009