Locked Keys in Car

Written by Eugene Song on September 29, 2015

Locked keys in car, keys still in the ignition!

Locked keys in your car? Here is a guide about the pros and cons of the various solutions that you can use to open your car door and retrieve your keys. All the solutions have been listed in the order of potentially cheapest to most expensive, but not necessarily from best to worst. Each solution has it's own advantages and downsides and it depends on your situation.

1. Spare Keys and Open Doors/Not-So-Obvious Solutions

The first obvious but often overlooked method would be to locate a spare key. If you have access to a spare key, either somewhere at home or with another person this would be the ideal scenario. This is often the most time effective solution, and would be the lowest risk in terms of potentially damaging your car.

One should always check the passenger doors and trunk to see if they are unlocked. It seems like a very obvious solution, but you'd be surprised how frequently people believe their keys are locked in the car before they have checked the other points of entry.

Pros

Best if the car is located nearby your home
Cheapest Solution
Most Time Effective
Least Amount of Potential Damage To Your Car
Doesn't require a high level of skill

Cons

Not always available
Requires access to spare keys.

2. Shoe String Method

Some older cars have a lock knob that can be opened by pulling up, and locked while pushed down. If your vehicle has this type of lock, you can use a shoe string or any strong string or rope to unlock your car. The method basically involves inserting the string into the vehicle with a loop called a slip knot, which will wrap around the lock knob. At this point you can tighten the slipknot allowing you to pull up the lock knob up and get your keys from inside your car.

Obtain a long shoe string and tie a slip knot in the middle of the shoe string. The next video shows the entire process of tying a slip knot, while the subesequent videos shows each step on repeat.

Step 1
Create a loop in the middle of the shoestring by overlapping on side of the string over the other. Hold the loop in place with your thumb and your fore finger.

Step 2
Create a second loop with your other hand.

Step 3
Put the second loop through the first one and tighten up the first loop by pulling the string on the side of loop number 1.

Now we want to get the string inside of the car door. Start at the top of top corner of the door and move the string back and forth until the slip knot is inside the car and close to the locking mechanism.

Maneuver the slip knot until it is around the lock, then pull the string until it is tightened around the door lock knob.

Once the slip knot is tightened around the door lock knob you can pull the sting up to open the door lock.

Pros

Cheap Solution
Little to no risk of damage to your car
Readily available tools
Great option if you have a car with a pull up lock knob

Cons

Doesn't work for cars with no door lock knobs
May take practice to make this solution work.

3. Coat Hanger Method #1

The coat hanger can be used in a few different manners to open a car door. Depending on the type of lock system and car you have. If you have an older car you can use the coat hanger like a slim jim (which will be discussed in another solution) or if you have a newer car with a power lock, your can use the coat hanger to push the unlock button. This method involves using the coat hanger like a slim jim to unlock your car door, if you had your keys locked in your car.

Get a metal coat hanger, one that you are able to bend into various positions.

Unwrap the top hook, and bend the hanger until it is straight and has a hook at the end of it.

Take the hook from the hanger and slide it in between the rubber seal (called the weather stripping) and the window itself, near the end of the door which is closer to the door handle. What we are trying to do is to hook the door lock rod and pull it up to unlock your door. Here is an image of a car door with the inside panel removed. The Mickey Mouse-Esque hand is pointing at the door lock rod.

Definitely try to exercise caution at this point because you could potentially damage your car as well. (Another word of caution would be working with a power door. Newer cars typically have doors with a lot of electrical wiring in the door panel that could be damaged by this method. Please consult a wiring diagram of your specific year make and model of car or an expert before attempting to open).

Slowly move the coat hanger down, while gently wiggling. When you get to the locking rod you will be able to see the lock wiggle a little bit. Slowly pull up the hanger to check if the lock rod is hooked. If the lock continues to move then you have probably hooked on to the lock rod.

Once you hook the lock rod with your hook, you can pull it up. Pull the hanger up slowly to reduce the risk of damaging any internal components. The lock will disengage and you will once again have access to your vehicle. Now remember to not lock your keys in you car again!

Pros

Great option for older cars that don't have power doors
Could be an option for people who have the wiring diagram for their car
Cheap Solution
Readily available tools

Cons

Could take a while to learn the techniques.
Not a good idea on some makes and models of cars (especially newer cars with power locks).
Potential for damaging internal car parts, which could end up being more costly than paying for a professional service to unlock your car.

4. Coat Hanger Method #2

Newer cars pretty much all have power controls for their locks and windows. This means that if you can get your coat hanger into the internal compartment of the car you can simply push one of the buttons inside the car that activate the windows or the locks.

Take a metal coat hanger which you are able to bend into various positions.

Unbend the coat hanger till it is one long straight piece of metal. We are going to use this as our tool to actually push the button which will unlock the car or open a window.

Now we have to wedge open just enough space in the car door to get our coat hanger into the car. This can be done through a few different methods but it is important to exercise caution here because there is the potential to damage your paint job, car door, or window in this process.

Use a plastic wedge near the top corner of the door. You can just use a conventional door stopper. If you are having difficulty inserting the wedge into the door, you can utilize a car door wedge which you could purchase from a local automobile shop. Some examples could be purchased online here.

When trying to create space for the coat hanger, you must be careful not to wedge too much space in your car door. If you pull open the car door too far, the window might break. Or you could possibly damage the car door as well. You only need a little bit of room to insert the coat hanger. Here is a great video which quickly explains a few different types of wedging tools and techniques, and how to do it without damage to your car!

Once you have managed to wedge open the car door, now it's time to unlock your car and get your keys! Depending on the make and model of car there might be several things you can do to gain access to your car.

The most obvious solution would be to push the unlock button. However some cars may have this button located in a location that is hard to reach with the coat hanger. If this is the case with your car, you can try using the coat hanger to push the power window buttons.

Another option could be to leave one of the ends of the hangers in the shape of a hook and attempt to pull open the door handle from the inside.

Pros

Cheap Solution
Fast Solution
Most of the tools are readily available

Cons

Some of the tools may need to be purchased
Potential for damaging your car
May not work on all cars

5. Slim Jim Method

Very much like Solution #3 , the first coat hanger method, except the Slim Jim is a tool which is specifically designed to unlock cars. The slim jim is a think peice of metal designed to slip down between the window and the weather stripping and grasp on the locking rod. (Not to be confused with the questionable brand dried sausage ).

Just like the first coat hanger method, this method has serious potential to damage your car. Inserting the slim jim into the door panel can lead to damage of wires and other mechanisms. Definitely consult a wiring diagram of your specific make and model and year of car before attempting the slim jim. Also attempt to open the passenger side door first, because the passenger side door typically has less components then the drivers side.

Enter the slim jim between the window and the weather stripping around six inches from the edge of the car door (the side that's closer to the door handle). Slowly push down the slim jim in case to reduce the chance that it does not damage anything.

As you move the slim jim down wiggle it back and forth until you see the lock itself move. When you see the lock jiggling this means that your slim jim has caught the locking pin. Slowly pull the slim jim up which will release the lock. Be careful when moving the slim jim from inside the door panel, as their is still the possibility that you could damage the wires or the internal components.

Pros

Great solution for older cars, especially without power doors.
Slim jims are easy to find at your local auto store.
Slim jims are a very affordable solution
Can be a very quick procedure.

Cons

Risk of damaging components on the inside door panel (which could be potentially much more expensive).
Need a slim jim to execute this method.
Not a good idea on all cars, especially newer models. Should consult an expert or a wiring diagram. Damaging wires can potentially cost more than just calling a professional in the first place.
May require some level of skill

6. Call a Professional - Locked Keys in Car

If you're stuck far away from home, and none of the other solutions are viable options, you could also consider calling a professional for assistance. You might be discouraged from pursuing this method because you think it might be expensive, but there are a few factors that may make it worthwhile.

Professional locksmith will have specialized equipment and years of experience. This means that they will be able to quickly and effeciently get your keys out of a locked car, and at the same time make sure that the vehicle is not damaged in the process.

Check with your insurance company and AAA to see the roadside benefits. AAA will provide service assistance or reimbursement for up to $60 if they need to call assistance with a professional locksmith, and this is for their more basic service.

If you are in a hurry or you have a newer car that is technologically advanced, it might be the best solution to call a locksmith service. Many mobile locksmiths offer 24 hour service and can arrive in 30 minutes or less. Check out our locksmith Anaheim service if you happen to be in the Anaheim, CA area. Professional locksmiths have years of experience and they can provide these services and make sure to minimize the potential to damage your car. Usually mobile locksmiths will charge a standard service call fee in addition to labor. However this may be worth it if it prevents damage while trying to access your car, which could easily be much more expensive.

Just make sure to specify the time of arrival and ask them about their experience with your particular make and model of car. If the technician is unclear about the actual procedure he will perform for you make and model, you may want to consider calling another service!

Pros

Experienced professionals can minimize damage potential for you vehicle.
Mobile locksmiths can offer fast service for urgent situations.
Will provide a solution for most makes and models of cars.

Cons

Will cost money for service call and labor.