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Locked your Keys In the Car? Here’s what to do

This article will explore all your DIY options to exhaust before knowing for certain, that you need to call a locksmith who can meet your budget and specific needs.  The goal is to help you spend the least amount of time and money getting back into your vehicle.  Now we will go in order through the steps beginning with the point where you have locked yourself out

1. Check to see if You’re Locked Out

The doors you already tried might be locked, but there may be another way in.  Keep calm, and troubleshoot the problem. Start with the simplest solutions first.

Check Doors

Check all your doors first.  Don’t just check to see if the driver’s door is unlocked; check them all.

Check The Trunk

You may be able to enter the car through the trunk. If you have a hatchback type car, the trunk is not even separated from the cabin of the vehicle. Sometimes there is a way to get into the car through the trunk. Usually located on a panel between the back seat, this panel will open when you push it from the trunk.

Remote Unlock through Onstar services

Be aware if you have Onstar coverage or something similar. Especially when purchasing a new car, it may be a feature lumped in at the time of sale. This usually comes in the form of a free coverage offer for new cars,that will last about a year.  If you do have coverage, you can have your doors opened remotely.

2. DIY Methods for unlocking your door

String Or Small Diameter Rope

If you have shoelaces, or any string small enough to fit between the frame and the car door, you have the correct tools for this. This method only works on cars with post locks. A post lock is an upright lock that is manipulated when it is pulled up (unlocked), or pushed down (locked). If you have the right string, the next thing you need is to tie a slipknot.  The knot needs to be as close to the center of the string as you can make it.

Make a slip knot:

  1. Make a loop 5 inches left of the string’s center. Make it a little larger than the diameter of the hole formed when you touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb.
  2. Grab the right half tail end of the string and move it into the hole so that the tail end is coming out of the hole toward you. Leave the shape loose. This will result in a pretzel like shape.
  3. Keep your thumb and forefinger on the crease of the original loop.
  4. Pretzel shape has both original loop and loop created by tail end entering hole. Take tail end back through hole it created.
  5. Keep pressure on right end tailpiece of the string and original loop crease and pull the two parts away from each other. This leaves only one loop.
  6. Now by pulling on left end of string, existing loop should contract. You can also expand loop by placing your finger in loop and pulling it apart.

Once you have a string with a slip knot in the middle of it, you’re ready to open the door. Slide the string in between the frame and the door.  Keep one side of the string parallel to the roof, and the other perpendicular to the roof. Slide the string forward and catch the loop around the lock. Pull the loop closed and pull the lock upwards.  If you can’t complete or use this method, keep reading below.

Coat Hanger

In the case you have no laces or usable string, find a wire coat hanger. There are many places you can find one. For example, a laundromat may let you just have one.  If you cannot get a coat hanger, any thin piece of strong bendable material will work. If you find something that is long, slender, strong, and in the correct shape, it does not need to bend. If it is not strong, you will need to bend it over to strengthen the ends that will manipulate the locking mechanism. If it is not the right shape, then it will need to be bent to serve its purpose. If it is not long enough, or too thick, it will need to be bent to change these characteristics.

For Post Locks

Option 1: Make a Probe

  • Straighten out the hanger.
  • Bend hook more severely to get a “V”, or check mark shape, and adapt the shape as needed.
  • Slip the hanger in “V” first, between door and door frame.
  • Try to hook post lock and pull it towards you and upwards.  This will give you some friction on the post.
  • When done correctly the door will open.

Option 2: Make a Slim Jim


  • Straighten the coat hanger except for the hook.
  • Bend the hook more severely to get a “V”, or check mark shape. The small part of the check mark should be around the size of your pinkie finger.
  • Slip hooked end of the hanger in between the window and the weatherstripping.
  • Turn the hanger inside the door so that the hook is facing toward the car’s interior.
  • Move the hanger along the window until you see the post move.
  • Once you can identify what part of the door allows you to move around the post, begin to pull upward on the hanger.  You may have to reform and bend back into place your hook after a few tries
  • You should see the post move upward.
  • Keep trying until the post lock lifts up enough to unlock the door.
  • Once done correctly, the door will open.

For Sliding/Push Locks

  • Begin by straightening out the hanger.
  • Bend end of hanger in a way that gives you enough leverage and power to push/slide the lock.
  • You may need to place bends along length of straightened hanger, where you need to reach underneath door armrests.
  • Slip the hanger in between the door and the door frame.
  • Try to get another person to look through the opposite window and guide you.
  • Depress or slide the lock, accordingly.
  • Once done correctly, the door will open.

To assist you with any of these processes, you may use a wedge. A wedge can be made out of any material, as long as it is shaped, or can be shaped, into a wedge. Be aware that the material may scratch the paint on your car. You can mitigate this by using a rag or piece of cloth between your car and the wedge. A screwdriver can also be used to wedge the door if one is handy (this poses the largest risk of damage).

3. Buy Materials

If you don’t have any of these materials just lying around, you might need to spend some money at the right store.  Some good options are locating either a home improvement, auto body, or big box store.

Again, these items don’t have to be exact. Any similar object will work.


Auto Body stores may have air or rubber wedges for auto lockouts. If they don’t carry these, try and find a door stop made out of hard plastic or rubber. A hammer might also help to get the wedge deeper into the gap.  You can also use a screwdriver to wedge the door.  If the store you are shopping at has a lumber section, it should have a way to cut a piece of wood into a wedge. You will also need to use a probe tool.


The probe follows the same requirements as the wire hanger section. It does not need to bend if it’s long, slender, strong, and in the correct shape. If it’s not strong, you can bend it over to strengthen the ends that manipulate the locking mechanism. If it’s not in the right shape, then it will need to be bent. If it is not long enough, or too thick, it will also need to be bent to change these things. If you’re using a wedge, then depending on what type of wedge you’re using, less characteristics of your probe will be constricted.

Plastic Strap

Another method that only works on post locks. Tool will be used similar to option 1 in the post lock section of step 2. The plastic strap must be long and thin. The length should be longer since it must be folded to work. The thinness of the strap will need to allow it to slip between the door and door frame once folded.  Sand paper in the crease of the folded plastic strap will help immeasurably. You will try to loop the folded plastic around the post and pull it up and toward you. The plastic will often slip off due to the slick materials.  If you want the process to go quicker, insert, a folded sandpaper into the crease of the folded plastic strap.


If you are experienced, and have the correct tools this will work. Don’t bother otherwise. The tools can be anything from paper clips to professional lock picks. Cars from around the mid 90’s and before can be picked easily. As long as the lock uses wafers it can usually be raked, rocked, jiggled, single-pin picked, etc. Take a look at your key.  And know what type of lock your car door has.  Laser cut keys often used with modern cars, are more difficult to pick if you are not a professional. If you are not sure of your ability, do not try to pick the lock. Breaking or ruining the lock in any way, will make it harder for the technician you end up calling.  It will also be very expensive to replace the lock.

Slim Jim

This method will be similar to option 2 in the post lock section of step 2. The biggest difference with this option, is that the tool will already be made. The effectiveness of the different methods depends on the specific make and model of your car. Be careful when using this tool. There are a lot of wires inside the door, and when you disconnect or interfere wit them, other complications to your car may be incurred. This method gives you the biggest chance for you to harm the car. Because of this fact, the last tool you buy is the slim jim.

4. Get Assistance

If all else fails, call a professional car lockout service in the event that none of the procedures work.  Before you call, make sure to relax and Have information like your:

  • location
  • type of car, make, model and year.
  • Where the keys are
  • More information might be required/requested

Call the Police

Many police officers are equipped for this situation. Depending on the department and the busyness of the area, they may not come. Certain areas require the car be running to require police intervention.  The reason this option is so high up on the list for assistance is because it’s an emergency. Use this service if there is a child or animal locked inside. Also, if any other major reason makes it necessary for you to get back into the car out of fear of physical harm, definitely call the police. They are not just protect you once there, but will be able to get you in your car faster than any other service can. The option to use this service will vary depending on availability and their willingness to provide this service to people in their jurisdiction.

AAA/Roadside Assistance

If you have AAA you can call them to unlock your vehicle.  According to USAA’s website, If key that operates or provides access to passenger compartment of vehicle is lost or broken, service will be sent to get you into your car. If you need a locksmith, services valued between $50-$150, exclusive of ignition repair/replacement, are covered with whatever member plan you have.  Towing services are also provided if needed. If  your roadside assistance provider is not AAA, lookup the membership handbook of the company to see if they offer this service. They should be able to tow your car somewhere safe at the least.

Locksmith Services

A locksmith is going to use the safest and most responsible option from this list based on the situation, type of vehicle, etc.  Do a bit of research to know what to expect when you call a locksmith.  Try and detect if the company has the experience and ability to perform the service you need and choose.


Once again, this article is meant to cover the right ways to go about finding the most cost-efficient and timely solution to getting into your car, whether it be through DIY or assistance.

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