‘Tis the season for things to freeze! Of course, with family around for the holidays and a laundry list of things to do this time of year, it’s the worst time for anything to go wrong — which inevitably means something will. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a garage, or enough space in your garage to fit a car, frozen locks can be a major concern. You don’t want to damage your car or affect the locks to the point that your car won’t lock. Here’s what you need to know about dealing with frozen locks and avoiding a call to your local 24-hour locksmith:

Don’t Force It

These days, most cars come equipped with electronic key fobs that will disengage the lock without needing to use the physical key. However, if you don’t have an electronic fob or it isn’t working, it’s not a good idea to try to force the lock. If your car doors/locks freeze and you can’t get into your car, trying to force your key into a frozen lock can result in damage to the lock or to the key, rendering it unable to open the lock. Even if you can get your key into your car lock, trying to force it to turn in a frozen lock can be dangerous because doing so could cause your key to break off in the lock. Generally, forcing a frozen lock will result in the need to call your local emergency locksmith to fix the lock, extract the key, and/or make a new key. Instead of using force, try one of these safer methods:

Push On The Door

If you can get the lock to turn but the door won’t open, try breaking the seal the ice has created. Push gently but firmly on the door near the seams to crack the ice and break the seal. You may need to go along the entire seam of the door to weaken the ice. If the ice is thin enough to crackle from the pressure, that should be all it takes to break the seal enough that you can open the door. Depending on the thickness of the ice, you may also be able to use this method on the ice around door handles and locks.

Scrape The Ice

Just like with pushing on the ice, scraping is a good way to break the seal around the lock so you can insert your key. In the same way that you’d scrape the ice off the windshield, you can scrape the ice off the door handle and lock. Avoid using metal objects to scrape the ice, however, since metal objects can go through the ice and scrape off your car’s protective paint too. Instead, if you can’t get to your ice scraper, you can use a credit card, a plastic spatula, or something similar — just be careful with the credit card because it is possible to damage the magnetic strip and make the card unusable.

Spray On De-Icer

A de-icer product can cut through the ice and prevent the area from refreezing long enough that you can access the lock and open the car door. If you regularly face issues with an iced-over vehicle, it might be a good idea to keep a de-icer around the house. If not, rubbing alcohol or a winterized windshield wiper fluid can be used as stand-in options. Be more sparing with these options, however, as they can damage the rubber gasket securing the lock.

Heat The Door

Heat melts ice, so it stands to reason that heating up your vehicle will melt the ice enough that you can get in and start it up. That’s definitely the case, but only to a point. For example, do not use recently-boiling water to de-ice windows or doors. The huge contrast in temperatures is enough to cause glass to crack or shatter. Cool or lukewarm water are fine, but avoid using hot water.

You can also apply heat by way of a hair dryer, if you have a long enough extension cord or a battery-powered option. Our caution about heat still stands, though. If you do use a hair dryer, use it on the low or medium heat settings, not high. Once the ice is melted enough to access the lock and open the door, dry the area so it’s can’t refreeze.

Heat The Key

If the door seam isn’t frozen over but the lock is, you can heat the key and melt your way through to the lock. However, a word of caution: this only works with non-electronic keys. Heating an electronic key can fry the chip that controls the lock, meaning you’ll need to call your 24-hour locksmith to get the key repaired. For non-electronic keys, grab a heat-protective glove or tongs and a lighter. Hold the key with the tongs or heat-protective glove and heat it with the lighter, then press the key gently against the ice blocking the lock. You may need to repeat this process a few times to melt the ice away enough to insert the key.

Invest In Protection

If you’ve experienced ice issues multiple times before, the best defense is a good offense. It might be worth getting a temperature-rated car cover to help protect your car from freezing over. Not only will a good car cover minimize the risk that you’ll need to de-ice locks, it’ll also help prevent the worst of frosty windows. A remote car starter is also a good investment since it allows you to start the car and warm up from the inside, which will help heat the doors evenly enough that you minimize the risk of damage.

What Not To Do

The methods mentioned above are pretty good at-home remedies with items most of us have around. However, there are some ways to de-ice your car that can actually damage it worse. We mentioned the use of metal scrapers and recently-boiling water already, but there are a few more to be aware of.

One big caution is to be careful of what you spray around or in the locks. A designated de-icer and rubbing alcohol are okay, but avoid spraying lubricants like WD40 or grease/silicone lubricants around the lock. This even includes petroleum jelly (like Vaseline), as these substances can all gum up the locking mechanism. Also, avoid combining different types of lubricants for the same reason.

The other big caution is one that might sound like common sense, but it needs to be said. Don’t try to force the lock open with anything other than the key. Well, don’t try to force the lock at all, since this could damage it, but definitely do not try to stick anything else in the lock. It might seem like a good idea to chip away at thick ice around a car lock with a pen or something else, but you could end up damaging the lock to the point that it can’t be turned.

Call Your 24-Hour Locksmith

If you do happen to damage a car lock or key while trying to get into your car, your local locksmith can help. We have the experience and equipment to open locked car doors, duplicate broken car keys, repair car locks, and more. Contact Pro-Lock & Safe anytime, day or night, for 24-hour locksmith help in Dover and surrounding areas.