Locked Keys in Car

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Most drivers have experienced the panic and anxiety of having locked keys in a car. You may have done it once, twice or several times yourself. Don't panic - there are ways to get into your car without having the key and without damaging your car.

What Not To Do

When you realize you've locked your keys inside your car, don't panic. Plenty of things will get the door open, but there are a few things to avoid.

  • If your car is newer than an early 1990's model, don't bother trying to use a Slim Jim. Slim Jims won't work on most cars newer than around 1990.
  • Don't break the window. Unless there is an emergency and you need to get into the car immediately, breaking the window is one of the worst things to do. A new window can be several hundred dollars, in addition to the cost of having a professional install it for you.
  • Don't try to open the door with someone on the other end of a cell phone using the remote door lock opener. Many people believe that someone in another location could press the button on the remote while holding it next to the phone and the door would open if the caller on the other end held the other phone near the door. This is an urban legend and does not work.

If You Locked Keys in a Car

Standard Procedure

Once you lock your keys inside your car, go around to each door to see if they are all locked. This would obviously be the easiest way to get back inside the car. Also look to see if any of the windows are down far enough to get your arm into. You only need to be able to reach the door handle, which is usually near the top of the door panel.

Call your insurance company if your policy includes lockouts. If not, call a locksmith to unlock your doors. Most locksmiths offer car door unlocking services.

Call the local dealership that sells the same make car that you have. Give them the VIN number located on the front of the dash on the driver's side. You can see it from the outside of the car and read it to them. They can have a new key cut and ready to use in a matter of minutes. This only works if you have someone to go pick the key up for you.

If All Else Fails

If you don't have roadside assistance and need to get into your car soon, you can try these methods.

Use a Slim Jim, which is a device made specifically for opening car doors. This works mostly on cars older than early 1990. Newer cars have mechanisms to block the use of a Slim Jim.

Find a long wire, like a wire clothes hangar, and make it straight. Bend the very tip around to make a hook. Use a long screwdriver to pry the top of the door away from the car. Place a rag or thick material under the screwdriver so it doesn't scratch any paint on the car. Pry the top open just enough for the wire to fit through. Use the hooked end to open the door handle, reach the door locks, unroll the window or grab the keys.

To Avoid Future Lock-Outs

There are some things you can do to protect yourself from being stranded because of locked keys in a car.

  • Check into the details of your car insurance policy to see if towing or roadside assistance is covered, and if it is, make sure locking your keys inside your car is a reason for the assistance. If your insurance doesn't allow either of these options, you can become a member of AAA. Becoming a member allows many perks like roadside assistance, hotel discounts, limited auto repair and other benefits.
  • Find a place on your car to keep a spare key. Some vehicles have a holder for spare keys inside the gas door. You can hide a key under the license place by screwing it to the car, but you need to have a screwdriver to get to it if your keys are locked inside. There are sturdy metal key boxes available that stick to almost any part of your car by use of a strong magnet. The problem with these boxes is that most car thieves know about them and will look for them before breaking into a car. If you choose to get one of these boxes, place it in a well-hidden area on the underside of your car.
  • You can also keep a spare key with you in your purse or inside your wallet. You can tape a spare key to the back of a business card and slip it in with your pictures or credit cards.


There are several ways to get inside your locked car, although most are not immediate. If there is a child locked inside the car, whether the car is running or not, call 911 immediately. For more information about other types of car repairs, please check out the following LoveToKnow Cars articles.

  • Written by Traci Benoit
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