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15+ Tips for Getting Inside a Car or House When Locked Out

A spare key is one of those things that never seems like a huge deal until you need it. If you’ve ever lost your keys, had them stolen, or locked yourself out of your house or car, you know how difficult and embarrassing it can be trying to get your door open.

So, how would you open your car door without a key? And what about if you’re locked out of your house? Here are a few workarounds to help you get back in when you’re locked out.

Unlocking a Car Door Without a Key

The locking mechanisms on different types of cars vary pretty widely. All newer models have power locks with remote controls to open them, but older cars open only manually. Also, some vehicles have the locking knob on the inside top of the door by the window, and others have it by the handle.

Before reading on, make sure you know where your car door’s unlock mechanism is on both the interior and exterior of the door. It’ll impact which of these methods you may want to try.

Image via Shutterstock

Car Door Method #1: Use Your Shoestring

The first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It sounds too good to be true, but the car-opening tool you’re most likely to have on you at any given time is a shoestring. Unfortunately, this method only works on locking mechanisms that unlock by pulling up.

You’ll need to tie a small loop in the middle of the shoelace that, when placed around the locking mechanism, can be tightened. Work the string into the interior of the car through space where the door meets the car’s exterior, hook it around the lock, tighten the loop, and pull the string up. It may take more than once if you are not a pro like this guy, but it should work nonetheless.

Car Door Method #2: Use a Coat Hanger

The coat hanger method is one method I’m pretty familiar with—I remember watching my dad use a coat hanger to unlock his car a few years back. I will say that it took him a pretty long time, but he eventually got it, saving him a call to the local locksmith and probably a hundred bucks or so.

You’ll need a wire hanger so you can untwist it and make a hook that goes inside the weather stripping in the window. From here, you have to jiggle it around until you find the locking mechanism. It may take some time, but it’s worth the trouble when you’re desperate. If you have your phone handy, you can try googling your car’s door locking mechanism to figure out where to aim the hanger.

This method works with horizontal locks as well, since you’re working on the locking mechanism inside the door, not aiming too pull up or push down the button inside the car.

If you prefer plastic clothes hangers over metal, then you might want to try some other options…

Car Door Method #3: Use a Rod & Screwdriver

All you need is a Phillips head screwdriver, a steel rod, and 30 seconds. Any long and sturdy pole-type instrument will do, so depending on how much junk you have lying around, you may be able to find a good substitute. Use the screwdriver to pry open the door slightly, then stick the rod in and push the unlock button.

WARNING: Using any metal object to pry the door open can cause damage to your exterior and interior, so be cautious using this method.

If you don’t have the proper tools, it’s still a lot cheaper to buy them if you’re lucky enough to be stuck near a hardware store, rather than waiting around for a tow truck.

Car Door Method #4: Use a Slim Jim

No, not the beef jerky kind of Slim Jim. You’ve probably seen the car version of a slim jim used in hundreds of movies by thieves and for impromptu car break-ins, but it’s not just a Hollywood thing—it really works.

Again, this particular method requires an older style lock. You insert the slim jim into the interior of the car door the same way you would use the wire from a coat hanger, working the locking mechanism inside the door.

Car Door Method #5: Use an Inflatable Wedge

Using an inflatable wedge like Donnie Smith does help you avoid damaging the paint on your car and uses air to force the door open versus a metal object like the screwdriver method shown above. The wedge will create enough space to insert an access tool, a stick or rod, or some kind of coat hanger contraption, and all you need is patience and a steady hand to push or pull the unlock button.

Car Door Method #6: Use a Strip of Plastic

Aside from the inflatable wedge, Donnie also recommends using a plain old piece of plastic to get the job done. It’s pretty much just a long plastic strap which is bent in half and slid through the crack of the door. A set of plastic wedges would also work.

This method works for the pull-up type locks, or any unlocking mechanism inside the car that you can trigger with a stick, rod, or access tool.

For a lot of these methods, you could potentially make due with things around your house or already in your toolbox. You should also call around and ask friends and family if they happen to have any of these tools themselves.

If you have a habit of locking yourself out of the car, you could also invest in a complete lockout tool kit or a long reach tool kit. Or buy a set of wedges or an inflatable wedge, and long reach tool. What tools and methods work for you depend on what type of locks your car has, so make sure to check that against the methods above before buying anything. Also — make sure not to keep it in your trunk!

If you don’t want to get locked out again, you could also invest in some magnetic key holders. Put a spare car key in there and hide it under your bumper.

Car Door Method #7: The Hail Mary (AKA Tennis Ball)

In one of the coolest (and most debated) methods for unlocking a car door, a simple tennis ball could do the trick.

You’ll need to make a hole in the ball, so a heated electric drill or screwdriver would do the trick. Place the tennis ball, with the hole on top of the keyhole, and push. The pressure created in the ball will force your car to unlock…or so they say.

This tennis ball method has more than a million views on YouTube, but does it work? The team over at MythBusters decided to test it out for themselves.

As you can see, there are plenty of arguments on both sides of the debate around this method. If you want to find out whether or not it works, the best way to do so is to try it out. Let us know in the comments if you have any luck.

Car Door Method #8: Just Call AAA

If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help. AAA is probably the most well-known car assistance provider in the nation. If you have the service already, you can call and have someone come and help you within half an hour. Even if you don’t have the service, you can call in, become a member, and have someone at your car that same day.

Car Door Method #9: Use Police/Security Assistance

I recently locked my keys in my truck when I was visiting my old university. I called the public safety department, and an officer came and opened my door using a car opener toolkit. It was as easy as that. Thankfully, I was dealing with an organization I knew, and they weren’t busy at the time.

Calling the police is another possibility, but not one I would try unless you have no other options. While plenty of officers have the tools to help you, it’s never a high priority, and you could be wasting their valuable time by calling in. However, if you feel like you’re in danger staying where you are, they may be more willing to help.

Unlocking a House Door Without a Key

For locks on houses and other types of doors, the method depends on the type of lock. Older locks are typically easier to open without a key, while newer ones can be a bit more tricky.

House Door Method #1: Use a Bump Key

Bump keys are specially crafted keys that are used to unlock pin based locking systems, which are used on the vast majority of homes. Most pin systems are spring-loaded, and the ridges of the keys press against the corresponding pins, which then unlock the lock.

Image by Wapcaplet/Wikimedia Commons

Bump keys are usually used for common home locks since most of these use a single-sided key. Since most cars have a double-sided key, these bump keys are generally not as useful on them. Check out this tutorial to find out how to make and use a bump key.

House Door Method #2: Use a Professional Lock Pick Tool

If you have a lock pick set, you can use it to break into your own house, as long as you know how to use it. You can buy a cheap lock picking training set, but if you don’t want to spend any money or don’t have the time to wait, there are a few ways to make your own.

House Door Method #3: Use Paper Clips

If you’ve got a couple of paper clips, you can turn them into a lockpick using a basic multitool.

House Door Method #4: Use a Butter Knife

A butter knife can also be turned into a makeshift lock pick. Check out the video below to see how.

This is only the first part of the tutorial, but you can find the rest here.

House Door Method #5: Use Bobby Pins

And of course, you can’t talk about lock-picking without bringing up the humble bobby pin. It’s one of the most common household items that can be used to pick many different types of locks.

However, if you don’t have a female in the house, you might not have any bobby pins lying around, so you might want to try out the butter knife or paper clips method.

House Door Method #6: Use a Credit Card

If you’re trying to get through a door with a standard spring lock—not a deadbolt—you can use a credit card or another flexible plastic card to open it. Just wedge the card into the gap between the door and the frame and bend it away from the knob.

If it’s the right kind of lock, it should come right open.

If Worse Comes to Worst, Just Call a Locksmith

If none of these methods work, the local locksmith will be fully equipped to help you get back into a locked house or car. Just remember to call around, because locksmith pricing varies pretty widely, and you could wind up paying 60 bucks for something that should have been $20.

Hide a Spare Key

If your neighborhood is fairly safe, there are many types of key hiders to keep a space in plain sight. Try this rock, a fake sprinkler head, or even a this cute turtle. No one will ever know your reptile friends hold a secret. If you’re a little warier about your neighborhood, hide a spare key in a lockbox or combination-locked key safe. Keep the combination in your wallet, car, or on your phone for emergencies.

Also, give friends, family or neighbors one of those copies of your keys, just in case. Not only can they check on your house while you’re out of town, but it could also save you from a costly locksmith call.

Other Ways to Unlock Locks Without Keys

Not trying to get inside a car or house? You can break into padlocks using a beer can shimmy, bust into suitcases using a pen, decipher combinations on Master combo locks, brute-force your way in to American combo locks, and even break into safes with a little know-how. For more information on this hacks, check out our previous guide on breaking into locks.

Image via Shutterstock

Know of any other cool methods for opening a car or house door without a key? Let us know in the comments section.

OPEN A LOCKED CAR DOOR

If you’ve ever locked keys in the car, you know how frustrating it can be. Assuming that you’ve decided not to risk hiding an extra set of keys on your car, here are a few tips on how to open a locked car door.

locked-keys-in-car

If you tend to be absent-minded and lock keys in the carfairly often, you might be tempted to hide an extra key somewhere on the vehicle. Unless you’re very clever about where you hide it, you may be inviting someone to steal your car or its contents. Those little magnetic boxes that stick to the metal surface of the body or frame are the best bets here, but be sure to place your box in an obscure and hard-to-reach area where it can’t jiggle loose and fall out. Be imaginative! Struggling a little to reach that extra key is better than giving the car away easily. And don’t hide your extra house key with it. You don’t want to give everything away, do you?

Even better, get a spare key made and keep it in your purse or wallet. Rather than hiding it on the vehicle itself, you’ll have it with you, unless you happen to leave your wallet or purse in the car, too.

OPENING LOCKED CAR DOORS

Figuring out the best method for how to open a locked car door depends on the tools you have at your disposal as well as the type of vehicle you have — more particularly, the type of locks installed in your car.

If you have the old-style door locks with little buttons on the window ledge, you should be able to unlock your door with a wire coat hanger. To do so, straighten the hanger and bend the end into a little hook. Insert it between the rubber molding and the side window and then carefully hook it around the door button and pull it up. You’re in!

If you have smooth buttons, you can try to hook one using the hanger technique, but most will refuse to budge. Another method is to use a door stop (or wedge) and a long metal rod. Then, you take the same approach, inserting the wedge into the top of the door to make an opening. Place the rod into the opening and use it to push down on the unlock button of your car.

In either of these cases, you’ll need the right equipment on hand if you lock keys in the car.

Unfortunately, if your vehicle has door locks that are recessed inside the interior door handle, get professional help.

If you happen to lock yourself out of the vehicle while you have the trunk open, you may be able to move the rear seat out of the way and gain access to the rear of the car (or you can hide an extra ignition key in the trunk or your emergency car kit or toolbox).

ELECTRONIC CAR DOOR OPENERS

Fortunately, many new vehicles come with electronic door openers or “digital keys” that don’t allow you to lock the doors with the keys in the vehicle. The downside is that if you lose the gadget, it can take days and hundreds of dollars to replace it, and you’ll probably need to have the vehicle towed to a dealer who will order a new key.

If your vehicle has an electronic door opener, you may be able to get the door open, but if you’ve lost the opener outside your vehicle, the ignition may fail to start without it. Some vehicles have override switches for this, so find out whether you’d be able to start your vehicle without your opener, and locate the override switch now, if there is one.

If you lock keys in the car and need professional help, call emergency road assistance and ask if they will be able to open the door. If not, ask them to send a local locksmith. The good news is that each car key is coded by the auto manufacturer, and if you have the key code number and personal identification, a locksmith can make you a new key. Write down the key code number and leave it where someone at home can read it to you in an emergency.

You might need the VIN (vehicle identification number). This is usually located on a panel on the dash above the steering wheel. It should be visible from outside the vehicle. Unfortunately, it is sometimes inside the door panel, which will do you no good if you lock keys in the car. If you can get to your insurance paperwork, or your insurance agent (have one on speed dial?), your VIN is on each page of your policy.

Car keys are supposed to be one of a kind, but it helps if you know the year your car was manufactured, the make, and the model. For example, a 1975 Chevrolet Nova or a 2015 Chrysler Sebring.

 

Besides the obvious helpers—AAA and other roadside emergency programs—you might be able to turn to your local dealer. If you’re driving a Chrysler, for example, and there’s a Chrysler dealer nearby, you can probably get them to provide an emergency key that unlocks the doors and trunk. These keys will not enable you to drive. Be prepared to show proof of ownership, however. If you’ve borrowed your uncle’s vehicle for the day, dealers won’t be too willing to help you.

Unlock a Car Door with Your Keys Inside in 30 Seconds

You know that moment of slow motion when you realize your keys are still in the ignition while the car door is closing? If you’ve accidentally locked yourself out of your car, check out this tutorial.

In this video, learn how to use nothing but a screwdriver and a steel rod to get into your locked vehicle. This method works much better than a coat hanger and can save your tons of money on a tow truck. So, if you are stuck on the wrong side of the door, grab these simple tools and you will be inside in 30 seconds or less!

Break Into Your Car Safely with a Door Stop and Metal Rod

Break Into Your Car Safely with a Door Stop and Metal Rod

If you’ve owned a car for awhile, chances are you’ve locked your keys inside. You can pay to have a professional break into your car for you, or you can just learn how to do it yourself to save both time and money.

Note: This should go without saying, but do not use this knowledge to break into someone else’s vehicle. That is illegal and not particularly nice. Use this to unlock your car when you lock your keys inside.

According to YouTuber assertivecrystalgg45, all you need is a door stop/wooden wedge and a long metal rod. To break in, you insert the wedge into the top part of the driver’s side door until it makes a small opening. Then you can stick the long metal rod into that opening and use it to push the unlock button on the car. This works much better with electronic locks but can be done with regular locks as well. If you have a normal lock, you may also be able to use a crimped plastic strap to lift it into the unlocked position. Which method will work best will depend on what type of locks you have, so before you go out and get your materials be sure you’re getting the right stuff.

Personally, I was able to break into my car using a small putty knife instead of a wedge. A wedge would’ve been more effective, as a putty knife is flat, but thanks to the old days of Mac mini hacking that’s what I happened to have lying around. Presumably a wedge will work better since it can create a wider opening. This won’t be a problem when it comes to getting the rod through the door, but it should make it far easier to navigate the long way to your tiny unlock button. If you have any ticky tack (or something sticky) to put at the end of the rod, this also may make it easier for you to push difficult and/or small buttons.

All in all, this looks to be a very effective method for breaking into your own car so long as you have these tools handy. Despite how it may look, it’s pretty easy to do this without damaging your vehicle. If you can manage to only lock your keys in the car when you’re home (or near a hardware store), you’ll be in good shape!

Tips on how to safely get into your car if you lock your key | YouTube