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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

How To Open A Frozen Car Door | 5 Ways To Unfreeze Car Door Locks

by Ralph October 6, 2021

When you are looking at how to open a frozen car door, you need as many options as possible. But before you try to unfreeze a car door, it is important to know more about the various methods. What are the pros, cons, and best practices?

A frozen door can refer to the freezing of the door to the frame, the internal lock assembly, or the car door lock cylinder. So before you start worrying about the cost to replace your car door lock, take a look at how to open a frozen car door.

Check out the five best ways for how to open frozen car door locks: 

  1. Alcohol
  2. Vinegar
  3. De-Icer
  4. Ice Scraper
  5. Heat


How do I know if my car door is frozen?

To determine whether the cause of a car door lock stuck in the locked position is the ice, look for signs of frost elsewhere. If the lock was functioning perfectly before the weather changed, this is a good indication of a frozen lock. Look at how to open a frozen car door and choose a method to test.

Can you prevent a car door lock from freezing?

Apply oil to the area you want to prevent from freezing. This will keep moisture from accumulating. Oil attracts dust and grime that can jam the lock over time, so if you would need to oil your keyway directly, it may be better to find a reliable way to open a frozen car door.

Why do car door locks freeze?

Moister can enter the crevices of a car door, worn gaskets, torn weatherstripping, wet keys, or broken keyhole covers. Once the moisture has accumulated, all it needs is cold enough weather to freeze. A key to preventing a frozen car door lock is fixing any broken weathering protection.

Is my lock freezing going to damage the vehicle?

The long-term worries for sustained damage from frozen car door locks are mainly rust. If the melted ice is not cleaned off the metal, it can oxidize and jam the car door lock. If you do not look up hot to open frozen car doors properly, you can also damage the door when opening it.

1. Isopropyl Alcohol

This widely available chemical has similar de-icing properties to salt in that its freezing point is much lower than water. However, salt is not viable to put on a frozen car door, and it will clog the keyway to the point where you will need a car door lock cylinder replacement.

Even if you have never heard the term isopropyl alcohol before, you likely have some lying around the house or maybe on your person. This chemical combination is found in rubbing alcohol and even hand sanitizer. However, not all of these products use isopropyl alcohol.

For most people, this will be the most accessible and inexpensive method for how to open a frozen car door. Simply apply the isopropyl alcohol to the frozen car door and attempt to open the door again. The alcohol will also evaporate quickly, limiting residual moisture.

Key Takeaways:

  • Found in some rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer.
  • Lowers the freezing point of water.
  • Apply to frozen areas and attempt to open the door again.

2. Vinegar

You can use a vinegar solution to lower the melting point of water, the same as you can with salt or isopropyl alcohol. How to open a frozen car door with vinegar is simple on paper, but there are a few hazards that you should be aware of.

The first risk is the window glass can discolor. In some cases, vinegar coming in contact with the window of a frozen car door can yellow the glass. Your paint job can also be damaged by overuse. It can be incredibly hard and sometimes impossible to dissipate the smell of vinegar.

Before you go any further with figuring out how to open a frozen car with this method, you should limit the harsh effects of vinegar by mixing it with water. The three-parts vinegar to one-part water formula seems to be the most recommended concoction.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Can discolor glass, damage paint, and retain a distinct smell longer than desired.
  • Limit the amount of vinegar used and mix it with water.
  • Spray on ice to lower the freezing point of the water molecules. 

3. De-icer

If you are not interested in a home remedy, there are many products branded as de-icing agents. Almost all of these de-icers use calcium chloride, which not only lowers the melting point of water but also absorbs the water molecules to prevent re-freezing.

With vinegar and isopropyl alcohol, you are melting the ice without clearing out the resulting moisture. The absorption of the resulting water is not present in any other of the listed methods of how to open frozen car doors. Only chemical de-icing agents offer this feature.

The trouble with de-icing agents is that you do not always have access to one. If you are locked out of your car due to a frozen car door, going to the store to retrieve this type of product may not be possible.

Also, check to see if there are any warnings about corrosion or materials your de-icer is meant to be used on. Some stronger de-icers can harm metal as the chemicals sacrifice gentility on structures for more effective melting or frost prevention.

Key Takeaways:

  • Calcium chloride decreases the freezing point of water and absorbs moisture.
  • The water is melted and sucked up to prevent re-freezing.
  • Check that your de-icer is not corrosive or not recommended for use on metal.

4. Ice Scraper

In terms of how to open a frozen car door, this method is one of the simplest and most troubled. Chipping away at accumulated ice may not always be effective, especially if the ice has formed in crevices, inside the door, or in the lock cylinder.

Breaking up the ice is only going to be viable if the problematic freezing is visible. And even when you can access the ice to scrape it, the scraper can easily glance off the door. This added difficulty makes the task take longer and increases the risk of damage.

If you are working the ice scraper into the gap between the door and the frame to fix car door latches, you risk scuffing the paint and even indenting the metal. In terms of how to open a frozen car door, an ice scraper is not the ideal tool and prevents the most risk.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ice can only be scraped where your tool can reach.
  • Slickness and the shape of your frozen car door increase the risk of damage.
  • Common damage includes chipping pent and marking metal.

5. Heat

Hot water is not recommended. Though this is a quick and effective way of delivering heat to the stuck components of the frozen car door, it is also adding water. This method increases the likelihood that the car door lock will refreeze and can damage electrical wiring.

Though hot water is a bad idea, using heat more generally is included in the list of how to open frozen car doors. Something like a heat gun or hair dryer can direct a scream of hot air at the problem area and melt ice the same way the changing seasons do.

If you are using hot air, be sure not to over-expose one area to the heat for an extended period. Move the heat source around. And if you have a frozen car door lock, you may be able to heat your key.

Do not overheat the key, or the malleability may leave you struggling to get a broken key out of a lock in the cold. You are looking for “warm” rather than “hot.” Though more heat can speed up this slower method of opening a frozen car door, the more heat, the greater the risk of damage.

Key Takeaways:

  • Do not pour hot water on or in a frozen car door.
  • Move your heat gun or hair dryer, so you do not overheat one area.
  • If you are warming a key, stop before the metal softens.

Closing Thoughts

How to open a frozen car door lock comes down to what is available to you at the moment. In these circumstances, you may have limited resources. And rather than staying stranded in the freezing cold, use the tools at your disposal to unfreeze the car door lock.

Out of all the methods for how to open a frozen car door lock, a de-icer for cars is the most professional and reliable product. Out of all the DIY options, isopropyl alcohol is going to do the most with the least risk. Heat and scraping the ice present the most risk for damage.

If none of these methods fix your problem, you may need more extensive car door lock repair. Ice is not always the reason a car door won’t open from the inside or outside. But if your lock is troubling you, see if United Locksmith serves your area, and give us a call.

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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