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Opening a Locked Car Door

Everyone’s been there. You’re standing in the parking lot peeking through the driver’s side window of your vehicle and you see that you’ve locked your keys in your car by mistake. So close, yet oh so far out of reach. What should you do?

There are a few different ways to get into a locked vehicle, depending on the type of vehicle. We’ll go over each of them in this blog, and show you why calling a licensed locksmith technician is far safer than any do-it-yourself solution you may find searching for “How to open a locked car door.”

Before we do though, Guardian Safe & Lock does not condone using these methods on how to open a locked car door to break into other peoples’ vehicles. Even attempting these tips in most cases on a car that doesn’t belong to you is a felony in most places. 

Also, be prepared for at least a car alarm to go off. If the police do show up to your location, remember what breaking into your own car may look like to other people and have your ID ready. When trying to gain entry into your own vehicle, people calling the police is a common occurrence.

Program New Key

Method 1: Own A Spare Key

By far the easiest way to open a locked car door is with the key. Having a magnetic key box on the frame of your vehicle saves you hours and potentially hundreds of dollars in getting a replacement. 

Be sure if you use one of these key boxes to mount it directly to your frame, somewhere secure where it won’t fall off while you drive. A few extra minutes on the ground stretching to get your spare is always much better than a thief finding it and taking your whole car! 

Another option is to keep a spare at a safe location. Like in your wallet or purse, or at home where calling a friend or family member to retrieve it for you becomes a quick and free option.

Method 2: The Shoestring

For older style vehicles that have vertical-post locks, (the buttons that pull up and push down), a locked car door can be opened with something most people have every day. Yes, a shoestring is a valid way to enter some cars. The method is a simple one, beginning with tying a slipknot in the center of the length of a shoestring. 

You then shimmy each end of the string between the door and weatherstripping down to the post. When the loop of the slipknot is over the post, pull on both ends of the string to grip the post and pull it to an unlocked position. 

Again, this method does only work on older style vehicles. Also, depending on the type of post you have and possible pre existing damage it may destroy the material over the post. And due to the angle that you have to position the knot, you also carry the chance of bending the lock post and damaging the lock.

Vehicles that have spent years or even decades in the sun sometimes have these plastic covers explode into powder using this method. Let alone possibly tearing damaged weatherstripping.

Method 3: The Slim Jim

No, not the type of beef jerky stick. A Slim Jim is a specialized tool designed to bypass vertical or horizontal manual locks. Again, this tool is designed to open locked car doors on older vehicles and this method should never be attempted on newer models. 

Simply insert the long, flat piece of metal between the glass of your window and its’ weatherstripping with the hook of the tool facing away from the engine. Twist the tool so the hook is facing you and fish for the locking pin inside of your door and pull up.

You must be careful when attempting this method as there are many wires that run inside of doors, and pulling one may tear a critical piece of your car. You also carry a higher than usual chance of damaging the door locking mechanisms of your vehicle. This usually ends up costing people a lot more money than a call to a locksmith.

Vehicles with power locks have more wires lining the inside of the doors, and most agree it isn’t worth trying to Slim Jim them versus the risk of damage. And some cars include plates designed to block access to this mechanism entirely.

If you do attempt to use a Slim Jim make your attempt on the passenger side door. There are usually fewer obstacles than the drivers’ side door has to be yanked or torn on accident.

Most locksmiths don’t usually resort to using a Slim Jim anymore, due to the risk of damage versus success. Even when performed correctly, a Slim Jim can scratch and damage windows. 

It’s a flat, metal bar that must be pulled up and down between the window and door to function properly. It’s not worth trying a Slim Jim unless you are driving an older model vehicle without power locks. Even then, this method may not be worth it.

Method 4: The Wedge And Rod

This method is both incredibly dangerous to try, but also the one people find the most success with in regard to how to open a locked car door. Before we get into it, Guardian Safe and Lock does NOT condone this method by an untrained amateur. It 

Open Car with Tool

can cause serious damage to the vehicle even when performed properly, as scratched paint or dented metal is a best-case scenario.

What you’ll need for this is a long metal rod (even as thin as a straightened wire coat hanger) and a wedge of some kind. This can be a door stop, a triangular spare piece of wood, a putty knife, or anything else of a similar shape and sturdiness.

Begin by placing your wedge between the door and frame of the car and the top of the door, between the frame and weather stripping. Push this in until there’s enough space to slide your rod into your car.

Then, use the rod to push the unlock button, or bend the tip of the straightened wire hanger into a hook and use it to pull the handle. This unlocks the car quickly. However, this method will most likely scratch the paint of your vehicle, pull the weatherstripping off of your door, or even bend the door out of shape. 

This can make your ride home noisier since this method tends to bend the door frame and tear the weatherstripping allowing more road noise to enter the cabin.  Attempt this method at your own risk.

Method 5: Smash The Window

Let us make one thing absolutely clear. This method WILL damage your car and cost you money to replace, let alone additional damage if rain gets into your vehicle while it does not have a window. 

However, if you are in an emergency situation, your front windshield will be almost impossible to break. And don’t aim for the center of your window, that’s where it is the strongest. Preferably, you’d like a sharp tool, such as a glass breaker or the back of a hammer. Be sure to aim for the outer edge of the glass to break it as easily as possible, as it is weaker than the center.

It’s never worth purposely destroying a part of your vehicle to open a locked car door unless it’s an absolute emergency; such as an infant or toddler being trapped inside. While this method is definitely the quickest way into your car; the trade-off is a lot of financial pressure you otherwise wouldn’t have to deal with. There’s also a high chance of harming yourself to consider, too.

Method 6: The Best Way To Open A Locked Car Door

The safest, easiest, and most cost-effective way of unlocking a car door is to call a local automotive locksmith. Our locksmith technicians are trained to gain access to all kinds of vehicles and have specialized tools to do so.

The most common method we use is similar to the Wedge and Rod method. But, with a powerful airbag instead of a wedge so your paint isn’t scratched and your door and/or window doesn’t break. Instead of using a standard rod, we carry long-reach tools that are coated in rubber to prevent interior damage as well.

We also will sometimes use a variation of the Shoestring method with specially reinforced flat plastic straps that more evenly grip and pull posts. This unlocks the doors without taking a chance at damaging the posts. Sometimes, we may even need to cut a new key from scratch to get a vehicle with a missing key open. Definitely not something the average joe can do on their own!

While it might seem like a cost-effective option to just Google “How to Open a Locked Car Door” and try a do-it-yourself method, it’ll just leave you with a headache and potentially hundreds of dollars more than calling a professional to help. We are trained, licensed (TX #B16642), insured, and bonded. When you can’t get into your vehicle, don’t take chances. Call the best in the industry. Call Guardian Safe & Lock.

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