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Frozen car doors and locks: Prevention and troubleshooting

Frozen car doors and locks: Prevention and troubleshooting

Freezing cold, warm spells, snow, ice—every year, extreme winter weather pits drivers against an array of challenges. And sadly, the challenge of frozen car doors and locks is all too common. 

But here’s some good news: There are plenty of things you can do to prevent it from happening to you, and to fix the problem if it does occur. Read on for our best prevention and troubleshooting tips! 

No one wants to be locked out of their car because of a frozen door or lock. The secret is to keep all the parts well lubricated. Here are some tips.

Preventing a car door from freezing 
Few things are more annoying than a car door that just won’t open. Most of the time, frozen rubber is the problem. So how can you stop your car door seals from freezing? 

  • To prevent damage, it’s best to use a protective product specially designed for rubber. But some people use a glycerin-based skin moisturizer. Simply spread it on with your fingers.
  • Silicone sprays or petroleum products will do the job but the downside is that they cause wear and tear to the rubber.
  • In extremely cold temperatures, you can also cover your car with a tarp.

Preventing car door locks from freezing
There are a host of tips and tricks for preventing your car door locks from freezing.

  • One way is to stop the cold from penetrating by placing a magnet over the lock, for example. 
  • You can also spray compressed air into the lock to force out any moisture. The same spray you use to clean your computer will do the trick.
  • Glycerin and Vaseline work well because of their antifreeze properties. Apply some to your key then insert it into the lock a few times. Do this regularly in winter.
  • The best thing is to regularly use a lubricant spray designed for car door locks. 

You should always have a liquid lubricant handy. But don’t keep it in the glove box because it won’t be much use if you’re locked out of the car! You also need to make sure you don’t mix lubricants.

If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself locked out of your car due to the cold, don’t panic! You have options for solving the problem. 

Opening a frozen car door
Is the door stuck? Once again, there are things you can do:

  • First try pushing on the door. Strong pressure can break up the ice.
  • You can also scrape the ice with a rigid plastic object like a scraper, spatula or credit card. Don’t use metal. It can damage the glass and paint.
  • You can also pour warm water on the rubber seals to melt the ice. Be sure to wipe them dry once the door is open.
  • A de-icer will work too, but regular use will damage the rubber.

If you have a remote starter and time to spare, warm your car up! About ten minutes should be enough to resolve the problem. 

Thawing a car door lock
To thaw the lock, use the method that applies to your situation.

  • If you have a metal key, heat it up with a lighter or a match. Then put the key in the lock. 
  • Spraying a de-icer that contains lubricant on the key or into the lock is another excellent technique.
  • If you don’t have any de-icer, try lip balm or hand sanitizer. Products like these can make it easier to insert the key and melt the ice.

Important: Never use heat if your key has a chip!

What not to do
As well as knowing what to do, it’s important to know what not to do.

  • Never tug sharply on the handle of a frozen car door. You could break the handle and the rubber seals.
  • Don’t try to force a key into a frozen car door lock without trying one of the troubleshooting tips first. The key could break off in the lock.
  • Never use hot water. Thermal shock will damage your car and make things worse.

Now you know just what to do if your car door or lock freezes.