What To Do When You are Locked Out of Your Car

Car lockouts happen all the time, for all sorts of reasons. You might lock your keys in your car or lose them altogether. Your door locks or the key could break suddenly. It doesn’t matter if you are on a road trip or just on your way back from the grocery store, these things can happen with no warning. But when you are locked out of your car, it is important to remain calm and not to do anything that will damage your vehicle or cause you to injure yourself. Instead, take a look at some professionally recommended tips for getting back into your locked car.

    1. Troubleshoot Your Locks

    No matter the reason you have found yourself locked out of your car, you might be able to find a way back in by simply checking all of the doors. If your key is in the car or lost, there might be a door lock that did not close properly. Be sure to check that every door or window was successfully locked. If you do get in this way, be sure to fix the malfunctioning lock once you’ve retrieved your keys, as unlocked cars are the leading causes of car break-ins.

    If you have your keys, but your car door lock is broken or malfunctioning, try the other lock cylinders on your vehicle. Even if you don’t have a hatchback, you might be able to get into your car to unlock the doors through the trunk. Also, be sure to use your physical key (if you have one) to try to unlock the door, as there may be an issue with your car’s remote.

    2. Phone a Friend

    If you are nearby any friends or family, don’t hesitate to give them a call. Being locked out of your car can put you in a vulnerable position, even if it does not seem like a full-blown roadside emergency. You are put at risk by having to potentially get help from strangers or stand by the side of the road, so it is always a good idea to let people in your life know where you are and the situation you are facing.

    Best case scenario: one of the people you contact has a spare key you can use to get the car open without further incident. But even if they do not have a key, they may be able to bring you some supplies to help you manually unlock the door. Some tools that you might find helpful include; shoelaces (or comparable string), a door stop, and a wire coat hanger, to name a few.

    3. Use Your Shoelace

    This method requires your car to have post locks, which are the type of locks that stick straight up on the window-sill. You pull up to unlock them and can clearly see them from outside the car. If you have that style of lock, start by removing your shoelace. Eyeball around 5 inches from the middle of the lace. Tie a slip knot at that point. Work the shoelace between the door and the doorframe of the car at the midpoint, holding one end of the lace at the top of the window, and the other end on the side where the door would open.

    It will take a bit of finesse, but using a flossing motion, you should be able to loop the slip knot around the post lock. Then pull on both ends of the shoelace to grip the post and pull upward while continuing to restrict/tighten the knot. If you don’t have shoes with laces, ask the people you’re with.

    4. Reach Tool Inside

    Out of all the tips for purchasing a car, chances are you did not consider whether your vehicle had post locks or not. If your car doesn’t, don’t worry, you can still use another DIY-friendly method to get back into your locked car. You will need a wedge-shaped object (a rubber door stop will suffice), and a thin, strong, rod-like tool. Create a gap between your door and the door frame with the wedge and then insert the long-reach tool into the gap to try and manipulate the lock.

    You’ll want to place a small piece of fabric over the wedge so that inserting it does not scuff any part of the car. Also, do not make the gap too wide or hold it open too long, as this could damage the door or the window glass. If you can get something like a wire hanger, you might be able to bend the reach tool to work better/faster.

    5. Get Professional Help

    Any of the professionals listed below can come to your location, but you do need to know where your car is. Using the GPS function on your Metromile App, you can locate your car even if you had to leave it to get a signal. For customers with roadside assistance support, help will come to your location and open your car.

    In some areas, the police will respond to non-emergency car lockouts, but it is best not to clog up the line if there nothing pressing about the situation (such as a child locked in the car). For those who do not have roadside assistance, you can contact a car locksmith. They will be able to open your car without causing harm, fix any broken locks that may have led to this predicament, and make you new keys if yours have been lost or broken.

There are a lot of ways to open a locked car and the options listed here are the easiest to execute and present the least amount of risk of harm to yourself and/or your vehicle. I do not recommend breaking the window, as this presents both of these risks. And tools that enter the car door, such as slim jims, are a bit risky nowadays as modern cars have many important wires stored in these spaces. Stick to these five methods and you will be able to get your car open safely.

Ralph Goodman is a security expert and lead writer for the Lock Blog, the #1 locksmith blog on the Internet. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about locks, safety and security. They offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, homeowners, locksmiths, and security professionals. Ralph has been featured widely throughout the web on sites such as Business Insider, Zillow, Bluetooth, Apartments.com, CIO and Safewise.