How to Open a Frozen Car Door Lock

Close up of white sweater-knit mitten trying to put a key into a frozen lock on a black car door with snow on the handle.

How to Open a Frozen Car Door Lock

Locked out thanks to frozen door locks? When you live in a climate where temps quickly drop below freezing, any moisture that gets into your car locks can freeze and leave you locked out. If you can’t insert the key after a particularly cold day and inclement weather, it’s likely that your lock is frozen shut. Here are some tips to help you out.


Don’t use hot water. Don’t use hot water. Don’t use hot water.

It’s so tempting, probably readily available with a coffee thermos, and seems like an obvious solution, however, pouring hot water on frozen locks is more likely to freeze the hot water rather than melt the ice, which creates an even thicker barrier between you and a defrosted lock.


How can you get back into your car when the car lock freezes shut?

First: Try all of your doors.

Obvious? Yes. But sometimes the simplest solution is the one we overlook when we’re stuck in the cold and running late. If you have automatic locks on your vehicle, sometimes the passenger door or one of the back doors will unlock even if the driver’s side is frozen shut. If you have an SUV, you can even try getting in through the hatch.


Don’t have a source of heat? Try hand sanitizer.

If you can get a hold on some hand sanitizer, the ethanol and isopropyl alcohol in the gel can actually help melt the ice inside of the lock cylinder. Simply coat your key in hand sanitizer and try the lock again.


Try a commercial defroster.

You can pick up a can of aerosol de-icer at most auto shops, which use chemicals to melt the ice jammed in your car door locks. Consider keeping a can of this on hand at home and in your office if you live in a colder climate.


Grab a hair dryer and an extension cord.

It’s not ideal, but forcing warm air in and around the lock is key to thawing the ice in your lock and around door seals so you can safely open the door. Blow warm air into the lock until you’re able to insert your key without resistance. Don’t force the key into the lock, as you might break the key, lock, or both. Go ahead and use your source of heat to heat the key before you try to unlock the door again, which will help thaw any ice remaining in the lock.


However you’re able to defrost your car locks, be careful not to jam or force your key into a lock before the ice is completely thawed, or you’ll end up with a car that’s frozen shut and a broken key. Know what to do if you do end up with a broken key and check out:

How Can I Have My Car Key Replaced?

Locks frozen shut? Contact Discount Lock & Key! We can help.

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