It’s a Monday morning, you overslept, and now you’re running late to work. As you’re unlocking your car, you spill coffee on your clean shirt.

Furious, you set your belongings down before heading back inside to change your clothes. In your distracted state, you overlook a key detail — literally. 

You locked your car door before you could grab your keys from inside.

We’ve all been there. In fact, four million of us have. But now is no time to panic, because you’ll know how to get your keys out of your locked car after reading this comprehensive guide. 

Where’s the Spare?

Before you resort to forced entry, assess the situation. There may be easier solutions to your car lockout. 

First, ask yourself where you keep the spare key. Your spare won’t do you any good if you keep it in the purse or backpack that you just locked in your car. 

If you don’t have a spare key when you get locked out of your car, make a mental note to get a copy of the key once you’ve gained entry to your car. Then, leave the copy with a friend, partner, or family member in case of emergencies. 

If you don’t have any friends or family who live nearby, consider hiding your spare key in an inconspicuous location that you’ll be able to remember in a pinch.

Remember this method won’t work with some keyless vehicles. Before you get locked out, familiarize yourself with your owner’s manual and know how your car’s locking mechanisms and ignition work. 

Do You Have Roadside Assistance?

There are four ways you might qualify for roadside assistance:

  • Through your auto insurance 
  • Through your credit card
  • Through your car’s warranty
  • Through an automotive club, like AAA

Take note that roadside assistance isn’t automatically included in your car insurance — even if it’s comprehensive coverage. Check with your insurance provider to see what coverage you have.

Some providers have mobile apps for you to access this information straight from your phone. Some might even let you request roadside assistance directly from the app. 

Still, it’s good practice to keep a copy of your insurance coverage in your glovebox. In case of a lockout, snap a picture of your card, and keep your insurance provider’s contact information in your phone.

Then, keep a hard copy of your card in your wallet as well, in case your phone dies.

If you pay annual fees for your credit card, you might qualify for roadside assistance. While it may not be automatically included, it might be available for purchase. Call your credit card company to get the lowdown on what perks you are eligible for.

Similarly, newer cars typically come with warranty services from the dealership. Sometimes, the warranty includes roadside assistance for lockouts. If this applies to you, keep a copy of your warranty information in your car, phone, and wallet. 

A dealership warranty could help speed up the process — plus, you won’t have to pay for redundant coverage from your insurance provider.

Lastly, auto clubs like AAA usually provide lockout assistance. If you’re covered, keep your documents accessible. 

Bear in mind that even if you have roadside assistance, they may not be able to get into your car. If they call a locksmith to the scene, that service may not be covered, or you may have to file your receipt for reimbursement. 

How to Get Your Keys Out of Your Locked Car 

So, maybe you don’t have a spare key or roadside assistance. Don’t smash that window just yet! What to do during a car lock out will ultimately depend on what kind of car you have and what kind of tools are readily available. 

Below are a few methods that might work for you.

The Coathanger 

We’ve seen it in the movies: Crooks using a wired coathanger to break into a locked vehicle. This is the go-to method since it doesn’t require any specialized tools.

The process is simple. Straighten out a wired coathanger, and bend the end into a hook. Insert the hanger between the window and the rubber molding, hook the hanger around the lock, and pull it up. 

If you locked your house keys in your car and you can’t get a wired coathanger, note that other long, skinny objects work, too. Think shoelaces and strips of plastic.

You might even have success with a rod and screwdriver, though this approach will require a bit more precision to avoid damages.

It’s important to note that this method won’t work with all locks. The best types of locks suited for this are standard key entry, with the locks positioned on the door ledge that can be pulled up. 

The Wedge

Similar to the coathanger method, this approach involves creating a gap in the door. What you’ll need is either an inflatable wedge or a blood pressure cuff — something strong enough that won’t tear when inflated.

Slip it into the top corner of your driver’s side door — opposite the hinges — then begin inflating until you have a gap to work with. Be wary of overinflating, though. This can bend the door and lead to a lot more costly damage than simply calling a locksmith. 

Then, using a coathanger — or other long, skinny object of your choice — try unlocking the door.

Using air to create a gap between the door and the car helps reduce your risk of damaging your vehicle’s interior or exterior. On the downside, if you don’t have a blood pressure cuff, inflatable wedges can be quite pricey to purchase.

As an alternative, you could consider felling wedges or construction shims. The best materials for this purpose are nylon and plastic, followed by wood. Metal should only be used as a last resort.

The Tennis Ball?

If you Google “I’m locked out of my car,” you might run across some YouTube videos telling you it’s possible to use a tennis ball.

The method claims that cutting a small hole into the ball, pressing it against the lock, and squeezing the air out of the ball provides enough pressure to unlock your car door. Unfortunately, Snopes debunked the myth in 2016.

If unlocking a car was as easy as using a tennis ball, we’d likely see a rise in car burglaries. And, you probably wouldn’t feel as protected by your car’s safety features.

If a tennis ball is all you have — and you’re desperate enough — it might be worth a try. But don’t expect a favorable outcome. 

What About Lockpicking Kits?

While you might think it’s a good idea to invest in a lockpicking kit, it’s not enough to simply have one; you also have to know how to use it. 

Although it’s not illegal in most regions to own a lockpicking kit, you may have to prove to police that you weren’t intending to commit a crime with it.

After all, it could look suspicious if you are seen using a lockpicking kit, especially if bystanders don’t know it’s your own car.

Most lockpicking kits contain three main tools:

  • A tension wrench, which is used to apply tension to the plug of the lock
  • A lock pick, which is used to manipulate the lock’s inner pins
  • A rake, which is scraped against the pins to disengage them

Lockpicking kits are most effective when the lock is clean and undamaged. You might also need a lubricant to make the process easier.

Using a lockpicking kit takes practice, as it requires you to be familiar with the structure of your car’s locking mechanism.

Instead of trying to figure it out during your first lockout, it’s best to practice lockpicking in a controlled environment when your keys aren’t stuck inside your car.

Try some of the other methods in this article first, then teach yourself the skill after you’ve gotten your keys back. You’ll be prepared for the next time you’re locked out of your car.

Know the Right Maneuvers 

No matter how you create a gap in your door, the trickiest part will be knowing how to unlock it. If you don’t have an older vehicle with push-down locks on the door ledge, you might have a harder time. 

Luckily, there are a few options if your interior door lock switches are hard to manipulate. The sturdier your rod, the easier this will be. 

Try using the rod to pull open the interior door handle itself. If this isn’t working, see if you can reach your keys. You can either try to pull your keys out through the gap in the door, or you can hit the key fob button if you have one.

If the keys were in the ignition and the car is running, don’t overlook the power of automatic windows! You might be able to push down on the window button and reach in for your keys. But drivers of older cars might be out of luck here.

Force as a Last Resort

You should only resort to breaking a window if someone is in imminent danger by the lockout. This might include young children or pets being locked inside, especially on a hot day.

If your child is old enough, they might be able to unlock the door for you. But don’t count too much on your pet to do the same.

You may’ve seen some viral videos of smart dogs unlocking cars from the inside, but chances are, you haven’t reached that level of training.

Before you proceed, remember that breaking car windows can be both dangerous and expensive. Don’t aim for the windshield, as these are often impossible to break and create unnecessary repairs. 

Instead, focus on a window farthest away from your trapped child or pet. In most cases, it’s best to call 911 for rescue situations. But if you’re running out of time, here’s what you might use to break a car window:

  • A sharp object, like the clawed end of a hammer or screwdriver
  • A golf club
  • A window scraper
  • A rock

Car windows are made of tempered glass, making them harder to break. While this protects you and your passengers in an accident, it can be an inconvenience during situations like these.

For best results, try breaking the window from the edges or corners as opposed to the center. Since the center is the strongest point, you’re more likely to break the window by targeting the weaker edges. 

Benefits of Calling a Locksmith

As our cars get smarter, their security features become more advanced. Sometimes, retrieving the key itself isn’t enough to get your car started if you have a keyless engine and you’re missing the key fob. 

Fortunately, locksmiths have both the equipment and training to know how to get keys out of a locked car. This enables them to do it both quickly and with minimal damage.

They are also familiar with the various types of car locks and security systems. So if you’re unsure of what to do next, a locksmith will have the answers.

Leave It to the Pros

Knowing how to get your keys out of your locked car will come in handy in a pinch. If you’re looking for fast, reliable service that won’t damage your car, it’s best to trust the experts.

At Round Rock Locksmith Pros, we will meet you in 30 minutes or less — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are licensed, bonded, and insured, and we will always provide you upfront pricing so there are no surprises.

It’s easy to request service online. Plus, we have a variety of offers to help save you money. Get in touch today, and get back in your car in no time.