There are few things that ruin a good morning more than discovering that your car lock has been frozen shut. Although a frozen lock might cost you a little time, there are several ways you can unfreeze the device and get your day back on schedule.
Step 1 - Check all Locks
Before you bust out the chemicals, there are a few things you can try that might help you get inside the vehicle. For starters, walk around the vehicle and double-check all available locks. You might get lucky and find the passenger door’s lock is not frozen shut. If all the doors are iced over, proceed to the next step.
Step 2 - Apply Pressure
If you can unlock the car remotely, push on the door. The pressure should be enough to break thin layers of ice around the door frame and allow you inside. This method will not work, of course, if you have to unlock the car with a key and the door was already locked. You can also try and break the ice away from the lock with a scraper. Just be careful not to hurt the paint or damage the lock with repeated blows.
Step 3 - Use Body Heat
Place your thumb on the car lock and keep it in place for a minute or two. The heat from your body might be enough to free the lock. After a few minutes, try to stick the key inside the lock. Do not apply too much force on the lock, however, as this can damage the key. If you feel any resistance, stop and try an alternative method. Repeat this a few times until the lock is unfrozen.
Step 4 - Heat Source
If your body heat is not enough to free the lock, then it's time to turn to a different heat source. You can start by heating the lock with a hair dryer. The heat from the dryer should melt the ice in no time. If you do not have access to a dryer, you can heat up the key using a lighter. Run the flame across the key, being careful not to melt anything plastic. Once the key has heated up, place it against the lock. Repeat the process until you can insert the key without resistance.
Step 5 - De-Icer
If the ice on the lock is thick, you may want to use a de-icer. These chemical agents will chew through the ice with little problem and have you up and running in no time flat. Avoid storing de-icer in your car as you won’t be able to get to it if the doors are frozen shut. You should keep the chemical inside the house or garage. You can also keep some in your winter coat in case of emergencies.
Step 6 - De-Icer Alternative
If you do not have a good de-icer on hand, you can use hand sanitizer as a substitute. Hand sanitizers are made of alcohol, which can melt ice if there is a large enough concentration of it. Simply pour the sanitizer on the key and then use the key to apply the liquid onto the lock. Only use hand sanitizer if you are not going to use a heat source. The alcohol could catch fire around an open flame.
Things to Avoid
You should not use hot water to unfreeze the car lock. The hot water might melt the ice at first, but it will re-freeze later and further complicate the problem down the road. You should also avoid jamming the key into the lock. This can damage the lock and potentially break the key. Finally, avoid using other chemicals to de-ice the lock. For instance, white vinegar will melt ice quickly, but it can leave marks on the handle and paint.