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What to do When You Accidentally Lock Keys Inside Your Car

It happens to all of us: in a moment of forgetfulness or while rushing around, you lock your car keys in the car and feel an immediate sense of panic. But there’s no need to worry: there are a variety of solutions at your disposal.

The best way to avoid a major headache during a lockout is to be prepared for the unexpected. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best courses of action to take when you accidentally lock your keys inside your car.

The Basic Check-Up Procedure When You are Locked Out

Discovering that your keychain is locked inside your car often yields anxiety, and it brings your day to a standstill. Despite the situation, keep a clear head so that you can easily solve the problem. In some cases, a simple checkup yields the solution.

Photo by Chris F on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.
Photo by Chris F on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Yes, the driver’s side door is locked— but did you check every door? There’s a slim chance that at least one door remains unlocked. You can also attempt to unlock the vehicle if one of the windows is rolled down enough to fit your arm. These simple solutions may sound obvious, but they are easy to overlook during a panic.

Your Insurance Company Might Have a Lockout Policy

Many insurance policies cover lockouts. If all your doors are locked with the windows rolled up and keys inside, call your insurance provider. Even if your policy does not include a lockout service, your insurance agent may be able to refer you to a reasonably priced locksmith or towing company.

Roadside Assistance to the Rescue

Your insurance coverage might offer roadside assistance as well, for an additional fee or as a stand-alone subscription service. New cars often have roadside assistance throughout the duration of the warranty, so check the owner’s manual or call your dealership to see if your car is eligible for roadside assistance if you recently bought your vehicle.

By Kgbo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Kgbo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Stay calm and patient while waiting for the assistance crew to arrive. Depending on where you were locked out, such as on a highway or in a shopping center parking lot, you may see a patrolling emergency aid truck that can help.

Tow Trucks Provide Lockout Services Too

While they can be pricey, a towing company is a convenient option in most locations. If your cell phone has limited Internet connectivity, you can locate a nearby towing company quickly and easily by calling 411. Let the operator know your location, and he or she will connect you with the closest or most reliable tow truck service.

Check with Locksmiths and Dealerships

Conversely, you can call an actual locksmith. Most of them offer lockout assistance for cars as well. In addition, if you locate a dealership that sells your car model, they may be able to cut you a new key simply by looking up your car’s VIN, or vehicle identification number.

Source: Pexels.com / CC0 1.0
Source: Pexels.com / CC0 1.0

You can see the VIN from the outside of your vehicle, on the front of the driver’s side dashboard. Once a dealership has that number, they can cut a new key within a short time, and you simply have to go pick it up or ask a family member or friend to pick it up for you.

Dialing 911: Yes or No?

Dialing 911 for a car lockout may seem dramatic or unnecessary, but if you think you might be in danger, it is the right solution. If a lockout occurs at a remote location or in the middle of the night, requesting emergency assistance via 911 may be your best option. In some cases, the responding officer will be able to unlock your car door. If they cannot, they will request a tow truck for you, at your expense.

Last Resort Solutions

If for some reason, you cannot wait for help to arrive, or when there is a real emergency, you have several last-resort solutions. These solutions can be costly and may end up damaging your vehicle, so please note that you should resolve to these methods only when you have no other option.

Kafziel at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Kafziel at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Break the Window – Breaking a window will give you access to your keys and your vehicle, but it comes at a high cost. Not only will you have to pay to replace the window, but you can also seriously injure yourself on the broken glass. Avoid this solution if possible.

Slim Jim – Those who drive older vehicles can use a specialty tool designed to open doors. Called a Slim Jim or Jimmy tool, the slender metal device fits between the window and door shell. Many drivers find them difficult to operate, and if your vehicle was manufactured in the 1990s or later, it simply won’t work.

Use a Hooked Wire – Another way to gain access to your vehicle is by using a hooked wire to reach the door lock or unroll the window. This method only works if a window is slightly rolled down in the first place, and it is not a foolproof method.

Tips on How to Avoid Getting Locked Out of Your Car

Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0
Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0

Of course, prevention plays a major role in reducing the chance of experiencing a lockout. While these tips may seem like no-brainers, even the most meticulous drivers can get distracted from time to time. You can eliminate the chance of getting locked out by utilizing one or more of the following:

1. Use Key Fob to Lock Doors

One way to avoid getting locked out of your vehicle is to skip the keys altogether. Always use a key fob from outside your vehicle to lock the doors. Make sure that you have an actual physical key attached to the fob as well – by doing so, you can access your car even if the key fob battery dies.

2. Spare Key to the Rescue

Never keep all of your keys in the same place. A spare key can save you time, money, and hassle when you are accidentally locked out. Keep one in your wallet or purse, or give your spare to a trusted friend or family member you can call on during a lockout.

3. Invest in a Car with Smart Solutions

Today’s vehicle manufacturers have come up with plenty of innovative solutions that are designed to prevent lockouts from occurring. Some models will not lock if the key is still in the ignition, and others have numeric keypads mounted on their doors, which give you access to the vehicle as long as you have the security code.

Modern cars can also integrate their vehicle’s telematics system, like OnStar, with a smartphone app. That way, you can unlock your vehicle remotely in the case of a lockout or similar emergency.

A Lockout is No Reason to Lose Your Head

Many of us go through life thinking that we will never lock the keys inside our vehicle. However, all it takes is a simple distraction, and you can leave your keys sitting in a locked car. While the situation is unfortunate and can interfere with our schedule, there’s no need to panic.

First, check for a simple solution, such as an unlocked rear door. If you are still locked out, it is time to seek outside help. Most lockouts can be solved in short order thanks to roadside assistance or your local dealership. If you feel unsafe, it is okay to call 911 when you are locked out, but avoid breaking into your vehicle unless necessary.

Finally, avoid being locked out in the first place by following the simple tips we have laid out for you, such as stashing a spare key in a safe location. By keeping a clear head and focusing on solutions rather than the problem, you can get going again in no time.