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Did you know that there are 26,756 locksmith businesses operating in the US? They employ over 38,000 people across the country. That means a lot of people tend to get locked out of their cars.

So, you’re not alone if a lockout has happened to you. A car lockout is frustrating but very common. Are you dealing with a locked car and wondering how to get back in? Have no fear because there are plenty of options!

Read the following guide before calling an automotive locksmith. It will give many tips and tricks for getting into your vehicle before resorting to a car lockout service. It will also explain when it’s time to call a professional.

Using a String

Using a string will work for older vehicles that have manual locks. You’ll need a string and shoelaces will work perfectly for this trick. You’ll also need to know how to tie a slipknot in the middle of the string to create a small loop.

Move your shoelace around the driver’s side door in the righthand corner until the slipknot is inside the seam of the door. Then hold your shoelace with both hands and move it back-and-forth over and over in a flossing motion.

The motion will move the slipknot loop further down your window and closer to the lock on your car’s door. Move the loop directly over the lock and pull the ends of the string to close the loop.

Slowly pull the string up once you have a good grip on the lock to unlock the car door. It might take several attempts so have patience. Fortunately, the price is often less for manual locks if you have to call a car lockout specialist. 

Using a Coat Hanger

The coat hanger method also only works on older vehicles with manual locks. But it’s an effective trick if you have a hanger and pliers on hand when you’re locked out of your older car.

Use pliers to unravel the hanger so that one side is hooked and the other side is straight. Next, slide the hanger in between the weather stripping and your window.

Move the hanger around until it is below your window. Once it’s below the window you can start trying to hook the pin in your door’s frame. Once you snag the pin you will pull the hook up and your door will open.

Auto shops also sell slim jims that work in the exact same way. They usually cost under $10 and are good to keep on hand at home. Of course, if you get locked out away from home it won’t do you any good.

Using a Wedge

A car door lockout kit will usually include an inflatable window wedge, pry tool, and rod. Start this process by pulling the top of the door frame out with the pry tool. Next, push the wedge into the frame to hold it out.

Once the frame is pulled out you’ll be able to insert the rod inside to push the lock button. This method is commonly used by tow truck drivers and will work on both older and newer vehicle models.

However, it’s easy to scratch your car’s paint or damage the weather stripping using this method. It can also bend the door frame and require repairs if not done properly.

You can also use a doorstop and hanger or other metal rods if you don’t have a kit. Using a flathead screwdriver instead of a wedge is also an option in desperate situations.

Although, any unconventional wedge methods will increase your chances of damaging your vehicle. Consider the risks and costs of repairing your vehicle. It could end up being much cheaper to just hire a professional.

Using an App

Many newer car models have free Android and Apple apps that let drivers control their cars without using keys. These apps essentially turn smartphones into backup key fobs.

You can lock, unlock, and even start your car remotely with only your phone using an app. Although, you must pair your original keys to the app for this to work. Check to see if your model is eligible and prepare ahead of time.

Some apps even have proximity features so you don’t even have to take your phone out. Once you’re close to your vehicle your door will unlock automatically. Likewise, it will automatically lock when you walk away.

It’s a good way to share your vehicle, too. If someone wants to borrow your car or needs to move it apps allow them authorized access without a key.

Some manufactures like Ford have apps specific to their vehicle makes. But several apps like Mobokey are compatible with multiple makes and models.

Enter Through Your Trunk

You might be in luck if you’re in a situation where your trunk is unlocked but your keys are locked in the cabin.

First, open the trunk of your car. Try to find an emergency trunk cord. These cords are typically found on the driver’s side and will open into the main cabin of your vehicle by collapsing the back seats.

Crawl through the back once the seats are down to access your vehicle and obtain your keys. Emergency trunk cords are common in most sedans and all American vehicles made after 2002 have this feature.

Using Plastic

Using then strips of plastic will work similarly to the string method previously mentioned. Create a loop by folding the plastic strap in half. Insert it into the door’s seam and try to hook the lock and pull it up to open the door.

You can also use pieces of thin plastic for wedges. Fold the pieces over until you get the desired thickness. The plastic will reduce damage compared to screwdrivers or other metal tools.

Using a Tennis Ball

This method is not very effective and has a low success rate. In fact, some people debate if this method even works at all. But if you’ve tried every other free option and have a tennis ball handy it’s worth a shot.

First, burn a small hole in the tennis ball. You can also use a heated drill or screwdriver to make the hole.

Next, align the hole of the tennis ball on top of the keyhole and give it a push. The pressure created in the ball will sometimes force the door to open. Again, there is a slim chance that it will actually work.

Call Family or Friends

Sometimes people panic when they get locked out of their vehicle and forget that a friend or a family member has a spare key. It sounds simple because it is. Try to remember if anyone you know can access your vehicle’s interior.

Consider making a spare to give to a family member before a lockout occurs. We will cover other preventive measures later in this guide. 

Friends or family members might have the tools to help unlock your vehicle even if they don’t have a spare key. You’ll owe them one so be prepared to return the favor in the future!

Using Roadside Assistance

Many roadside assistance programs like AAA offer free lockout services. Before hiring a professional check to see if you have any free services available to you.

These services are often available 24/7 and will even help get your vehicle to its specific dealership if necessary. You might even have a free trial to services like OnStar you’ve forgotten about if you’ve recently purchased your vehicle.

Standalone roadside assistance memberships usually cost between $50 to $165 monthly. Costs vary depending on your location and type of vehicle.

Memberships are also offered by several insurance providers, vehicle manufacturers, and credit card companies.

Calling Security or Police for Assistance

Security officers sometimes help with lockouts if you’re parked at an apartment or office building. This is hit and miss as they don’t always have the necessary tools or want to take responsibility for damaging your car.

Calling the police should be your last resort and only used if you feel you’re in danger of being locked out of your car. You don’t want to waste their time unless it’s a total emergency. They’ll help if you don’t have other options.

Some fire departments will also help people deal with lockouts. They are often faster than roadside assistance services but are only for extreme cases just like the police.

If a pet or child is locked in a vehicle and in danger it’s considered an emergency. They may simply break your window out if necessary. The service will be free but you’ll be responsible for covering any damages caused.

Damaged or Lost Keys

If you unlock your car but your keys are missing or damaged they will need to be replaced. Damages to keys such as total breaks, bending, warping, or chips will render them useless when starting your vehicle.

Some lockout services offer rapid on-site replacements for these situations. They can even replace key fob remotes and re-program proximity keys. Even transponder keys using RFID chips can be quickly replaced.

If the key isn’t damaged you may still experience ignition problems. Attempted robbery, general wear, or inserting the wrong key into the switch can cause these issues. Luckily, locksmiths can easily fix this problem as well.

Lubricate your car locks every now and then. This will allow the key to turn more easily and reduce damage. It’s also helpful to replace old keys periodically to avoid bending and breaking.

How To Avoid a Car Lockout

If you routinely get locked out of your vehicle it can become time-consuming and very expensive. Lockouts are avoidable and it’s good to take preventive measures.

Try to form a habit of holding onto your keys and locking your car from the outside. Avoid using the locks on your doors to prevent locking your keys inside. The beep from locking your car with the fob is a helpful reminder.

Put a flashy keychain or lanyard on your keys to help grab your attention before exiting your vehicle. You can even attach your keys to your clothing if you need extra help remembering.

Keep a spare key in your purse, wallet, or your pocket all the time. Of course, you could lose the spare as well but it will greatly decrease your need for a locksmith or calling friends and family. 

You could also try stashing a spare key somewhere on the vehicle itself. It’s important to pick a very clever and hidden location for this method. Although, the risk of theft makes this option unfavorable. 

Replace the batteries in your key fob every 3 years. This way you’ll always have access to your vehicle even with a damaged key. Some vehicles even start using only fobs but if the fob battery is dead you’re out of luck.

Get In Your Car and Back on the Road

Now you know several tricks for solving car lockout situations on your own. You can save money if you have the available tools or technology, the right model of car, or an active roadside assistance membership.

But maybe you don’t have a coat hanger lying around or a doorstop in your back pocket. You might not even have a shoelace to spare! That’s ok because professional services are available around the clock.

Are you needing assistance unlocking your vehicle in the Austin Texas area? Please contact us or request service now and we’ll be happy to help you out!