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What to Do When You Lock Your Keys in Your Car

Photo by Julian Hochgesang

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We’ve all had that moment where we’re standing outside our car staring through the window at our keys sitting on the center console. It’s one of the most frustrating experiences you can have as a driver. The keys are right there, and you have no way to get to them without breaking something.

Luckily, you aren’t totally out of options if you find yourself locked out. Read on to learn how to get your keys out of a locked car without breaking a window – and how to break a window safely if you have to.

Check Your Surroundings

The first thing you need to do when you realize you’ve locked your keys in the car is to check your surroundings. Your safety should always come first, and it’s better to break a window or leave your car than to risk being hurt or killed. Depending on where you are, you may also be able to find help nearby.

If you’re in a dangerous area or are on the side of a highway, call 911 for assistance. You may also want to call a loved one to come pick you up if they’re nearby. If you’re in a safer area, see if there’s a gas station within walking distance; they may be able to provide you with tools to get back into your car.

Call the Police

Even if you aren’t in a dangerous area, it may still be a good idea to call your local police. If you’re on the side of the road, they can send an officer out to direct traffic around you and can call a tow truck to move your car out of the road. You’ll have to pay the tab on the tow truck, but in the meantime, you’ll be safe.

In many cases, the police may also be able to help you get your car unlocked. More complex cases will require help from a professional locksmith, but a police officer may be able to unlock older or simpler models. This can save you a lot of money on towing or locksmith services.

Call Roadside Assistance

If you have a roadside assistance plan, such as a membership in AAA, this is the time to call in that service. These groups specialize in getting you back into your car, and most of the time, the cost will be covered by the annual cost of your plan. The only downside is these companies may take a while to reach you, depending on where you are and how many technicians they have in the area.

When you call roadside assistance, you need to be prepared to give them your exact location, a description of your car, and likely a membership number. Your phone’s GPS will be able to tell you where you are if you’re in an unfamiliar area. And it’s a good idea to store a photo of your membership card in your phone in case your purse or wallet is locked in the car with your keys.

Call OnStar

In addition to a traditional roadside assistance plan, services like OnStar might be able to help. OnStar hooks into your car’s systems and can unlock your vehicle remotely. If you have this service, it can make getting into a locked vehicle much quicker and easier.

If you have an OnStar Safe and Secure plan, call their hotline and tell them who you are. You’ll need to give them a description of your vehicle and answer some security questions to ensure that you are who you say you are. Then the OnStar technician will be able to remotely unlock your car within just a few seconds.

Call a Tow Truck

If you don’t have some sort of roadside assistance plan, you may be able to call a tow truck. For one thing, many tow truck drivers can handle unlocking more basic car models. But if they can’t get your car unlocked, they’ll be able to tow it somewhere for you to get it unlocked, which can be especially important if you’re on the side of the road or in a dangerous area.

If you’re calling a tow truck yourself, look for a company that has a good rating on the Better Business Bureau site. Some tow truck companies run scams on vulnerable drivers, and you don’t want to find yourself a victim of one of these rackets. It’s not a bad idea to do your research on towing companies in your area and have a plan for which one you’ll call if you find yourself in a bad situation.

Call a Locksmith

Of course, one of your best options for getting into a locked vehicle is to call a locksmith. These professionals will be able to handle just about any locked vehicle situation you’re facing, no matter how complex. And unlike roadside assistance, they should be able to get to you reasonably quickly, depending on where you are.

As with the tow truck, it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time and find a good locksmith company you can trust. Look for a company that provides 24/7 emergency assistance and a rapid service guarantee. Some of the better companies may even be able to handle on-site key replacement.

Check Your Warranty

If you recently bought a new car, it may be a good idea to check your warranty if you get locked out of your car. Some manufacturers will offer limited-time roadside assistance with their warranty. If you’re lucky, this roadside assistance may include free lockout services.

If you think your warranty may include roadside assistance and it’s during business hours, call your dealership and ask them for details about how to use that service. It may be a good idea to get information about this service when you initially buy the car. Save that information in your phone so you have access to it in case of an emergency.

Check Your Credit Card Benefits

It may sound strange, but you might also want to check with your credit card company if you get locked out of your car. Some companies will offer roadside assistance services as a perk, much like you might see travel points or cash back rewards. You have a better chance of getting this perk if you pay an annual fee for your credit card.

If you think you might have roadside assistance through your credit card, give your company a call. Many companies will have twenty-four-hour customer support lines, so you might be able to get this assistance even outside of business hours. Once more, it’s a good idea to look into this ahead of time rather than when you’re standing beside your locked vehicle staring at the keys.

Talk to Your Insurance Company

Getting back into your locked car can be expensive whether you call a tow truck or a locksmith. But the good news is your car insurance company might cover some or all of these expenses for you. Some policies include roadside assistance, although not all comprehensive policies include this perk.

If you get stranded during business hours, call your insurance company and ask them what sort of assistance, if any, your policy covers. Even if you already have a tow truck on the way, it’s a good idea to call from the side of the road and let them know that you’re having your car towed. They may be able to get the ball rolling on covering those towing expenses for you before you ever have to pay out of pocket.

Get a Temporary Key

If your car is somewhere where you can leave it for a little while, one good solution is to get a temporary key made. Call a friend or family member to come pick you up and while you’re waiting, write down your vehicle identification number. This is usually visible through the lower edge of your windshield and should be printed on the dashboard above the steering wheel.

Get your loved one to drive you to your car dealership, explain your situation, and give them your VIN number. The dealership may be able to make you a temporary key for a small fee. This key will unlock the doors of your car, but it won’t start the engine; you’ll need your real keys for that.

Coat Hanger

If all of these methods fail, you may be able to break into your car yourself. It’s important to note that this should only be attempted if you have no other way of getting into the car. This method can damage your car, and it only works on older models of cars with fewer security protections.

Get a long, thin piece of metal like a coat hanger and unfold it out straight, bending one end into a little hook. If you wear an underwire bra, you might also be able to pull out the wire and use that in a pinch. Insert your wire between the rubber molding and the side window, carefully hook the wire around your door button on the window ledge, and pull up to unlock the door.

Metal Rod

If you have some additional tools on hand, you may be able to use a similar method to unlock your car. If you can, get an inflatable blood pressure cuff or other sturdy inflatable device. Start by sliding this device in between your car door and the car frame, and inflate it enough to create a small gap.

Slide a thin, flat metal rod or your coat hanger into the gap, being sure not to damage your car. If your unlock buttons are on the door ledge, you may be able to use this rod to push the unlock button. But if your car has its door locks recessed inside the door handle, give it up and call a professional.

Break a Window

If you absolutely must get into your car right this moment, your last-ditch resort option is to break a window. This should only be used in extreme emergencies, such as if you have a child or a pet locked in the car. And before you try this, if your child is old enough, see if you can get them to unlock a door for you.

If you’re going to break a window, pick a side window as far away from your child or pet as possible. You’re going to need something sharp; a screwdriver or a claw hammer would work the best, but a sharp rock can also do. Aim for the edge of the glass, where it’s weaker, and use as much force as you can muster; car glass is tempered and so is extremely strong.

Have a Spare Key

But the best solution to getting into a locked car is to use the scout method and always be prepared. Make a plan ahead of time for what you’ll do if you find yourself without your keys or locked out of your car. Talk to your friends and relatives about who you’ll call depending on the time of day.

Have a spare key made for your car and either keep it at home or give it to someone you trust. You can also place this key on the underside of your car with a magnetic strongbox. Make sure to place it someplace inconspicuous to avoid burglars finding it.

Learn How to Get Your Keys Out of a Locked Car

Getting locked out of your car can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even frightening. The best policy is to have a plan for how to get your keys out of a locked car ahead of time. That way you’ll know who to call and what your options are if you find yourself in that uncomfortable situation of staring at your keys sitting in the center console.

If you need help getting into a locked car, give us a call at New Braunfels Locksmith Pros. We provide 24/7 roadside assistance for car lockouts, and our mobile locksmiths are estimated to respond to all calls within thirty minutes. Request service and get back on the road faster today.

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