For all of you early risers out there who drive to work, having to go through the tedious ritual of scraping ice off the windows every morning while it’s still dark can be a real pain. Alongside this, sometimes even trying to open the car door can be hard work too. If it’s rained the night before and the morning heralds a particularly hard frost, even getting the door open can be a struggle if water freezes in the doors-shuts. To compound things further, you may find that you can’t even get your car key in the lock, or if you can, the key won’t even turn. With this in mind, here a few handy tip to help you unfreeze the car door lock so that you can gain access to the vehicle.
1. Heat the car key
If you try this, make sure you only heat the metal and NOT the plastic. Hold the key over a gentle flame for several seconds and then try to gently and slowly insert the key into the lock. Be careful not to force it and if the key only goes in a fraction of the way; simply repeat the process until you can get the key fully in the lock. If the key still won’t turn, heat the metal shaft of the key again, put it back in the lock and leave it for a few seconds and then gently try turning again. This should work eventually as the heat from the key will dissipate inside the barrel of the lock, thus thawing and freeing the pins.
2. Try another door or the boot hatch
It may sound obvious, but trying the passenger door instead can sometimes get you back in. Depending on how your car is parked and the direction of any wind, a lock on one side may freeze, but the other side won’t. If that doesn’t work then you can always try the boot or rear hatch if you have a hatchback. Assuming you don’t mind clambering over the back seat, this can be a last resort if needed.
3. Extension lead and hairdryer
Again, this common-sense approach can work quickly and effectively, assuming your car is within reach of a plug socket and you have an extension lead handy. If you’re fortunate enough to have your car on a driveway or it’s outside your home in the street, most standard extension leads will easily cover the distance. Simply hold the hairdryer a few inches from the lock and keep the warm air blowing into the lock barrel. After a few minutes, you should be able to get the key in without a problem. Similarly, this approach can also be used if you’re at home and are faced with a frozen lock. For example, if the lock on the shed door has frozen, this approach will also prove to be extremely effective.
4. Use hot water to defrost the lock
Boil a kettle, let it stand for a few minutes and then gently and slowly pour some hot water over the lock. If you can, try and pour some warm water inside the lock too. If you’re trying to pour water inside the lock, make sure it’s not at a temperature that will scald you if you accidentally spill some. This method will work eventually but depending on how cold it is, it may take a little while.
5. Buy or make your own de-icer
This method IS NOT one we generally recommend but if it’s urgent, this can be a one-off “get out of jail free” card to play. Although it may work quickly if you’re in a real rush, using this method repeatedly can eventually cause the lock to seize as de-icers will strip the interior of the lock of the grease that keeps it working smoothly. Repeated use of de-icer can also damage your car’s paintwork and trims if not washed off quickly or thoroughly. Furthermore, if it’s a deep freeze outside, this method won’t always work as the fluid can’t always get to the part of the lock that’s frozen. Oh, and one last thing… If you only have one can of de-icer, don’t leave it in the car overnight; it’s not much use if you can’t get to it!
If you prefer to make your own, you’ll need to buy some isopropyl (rubbing alcohol). It’s easy to get hold of and fairly cheap simply use a mix of 70% isopropyl and 30% water. This will do pretty much the same job as shop-bought de-icer. The benefit of this is that isopropyl is a great cleaning agent and disinfectant and has a multitude of additional uses around the house so it’s good to keep a bottle handy.
Similarly, we advise against spraying WD-40 into the lock. Whilst it may be convenient, especially with that handy little tube it comes with, it can lead to a seized lock over time as it will dry inside the lock and cause the delicate pins to stick.
6. Use purpose-made lock de-icer
In case you’re not aware, you can buy de-icer specifically for locks. These typically have a small nozzle that you insert into the lock and then squeeze/press the trigger. Many claim to contain “nanoparticle technology” that prevents the lock from re-freezing, even down as low as -60°C. They also claim to contain a corrosion inhibitor to help preserve the components inside the lock. You should, however, check the ingredients as if it’s mainly isopropyl, it will strip the lock of its grease as mentioned above.
Alternatively, get professional help fast
Although this is necessary for a simple frozen car lock scenario if you’re prepared to do it yourself, calling an auto locksmith in kent is an easy remedy and will allow you to sit in the comfort of your warm home while you wait for the car locksmith to arrive. If you’re in Maidstone or Gravesend, Keys 4 Cars Ltd. are locally based so we should be able to get to you quickly. Obviously, this applies to any car key or car door lock emergency, not just when it’s freezing cold outside.