Opening Frozen Car Door Locks

Frozen car

Frozen car

During cold snaps, people sometimes find that their vehicle’s doors are frozen shut. Being frozen out of your car — especially when you already have the keys in your hand — is a frustrating experience. Luckily, we have some methods  you can use to thaw those locks to get inside your vehicle.

Don’t Do This

First, let’s get this one out of the way: Don’t throw hot water on your car’s door or windows. The change in temperature will crack the glass, and you’ll still be locked out with the added problem of replacing your window.

Try This Instead

Heat does help thaw the locks on your vehicle. Use a hair dryer to heat the physical key. A warm key has a better chance of melting frozen locking mechanisms than a cold one. Just be careful not to overheat the key, as it can bend if it gets too hot. You can also use a hair dryer directly on the locking mechanism, though we’d caution you to move the heat source around. You don’t want to leave the heat source in one place for too long, as it can damage your vehicle’s paint. Leaving a heating element near your vehicle’s window can also discolor the window glass permanently, so be careful.

Other Methods

You probably have some isopropyl alcohol in your house or apartment. It’s often a component of rubbing alcohol, and it lowers the freezing point of water. That means it’s good for making ice melt. Also: isopropyl alcohol won’t damage your vehicle’s paint if you spill some. Because isopropyl alcohol is a great disinfectant, it’s often used in hand sanitizer. In an emergency, you can try using hand sanitizer on the frozen locking mechanism without damaging the lock.

Vinegar is another common household product that lowers the freezing temperature of water. Diluted with a little water, vinegar can act as an effective thawing agent. But be careful with it, because it’s possible for vinegar to discolor paint or glass.

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Store-bought Solutions

You can find de-icing solutions for sale at most auto supply stores or general department stores. Of course, you may not be able to get your hands on those if you can’t get into your car to drive to the store.

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