De-icing your car door lock, demystified

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During a lake effect snowsquall an unfortunate driver looses control and ends up in the ditch on hwy 404 while heading southbound (near Stouffville Rd). Ontario Provincial Police officer and York Region EMS personnel assessing the scene. Adverse weather conditions under squalls often catch drivers off guard due to their highly localized nature.

Several extra precautions need to be taken for winter driving. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Theonlysilentbob/Wikipedia)

Cold winter weather inevitably leads to a frozen car door lock, no matter how well you’ve winterized your car. That’s why it’s a good idea to know about de-icing your car lock. You can deal with a frozen lock yourself, using only standard household items.

Have a frozen car lock? Don’t panic

The first rule of de-icing your car lock is don’t talk about de-icing your car lock until you’ve approached the situation with common sense. Try getting in through a different door, or even a hatchback. If you make it in, start the engine and let it run for several minutes. A warmed-up car may produce the necessary heat to de-ice the lock.

Still frozen? Try something homespun

If you’re still facing a frozen car door lock, there are a number of ways to deal with the icy situation, many of them involving common household items. Here are a few things that can help melt the ice, notes AOL Autos:

  • Matches or a lighter
  • An electric hair dryer
  • A toilet paper tube or drinking straw
  • An alcohol-based lock de-icer
  • A can of WD-40

Fire it up

First, heat up the key. The warmth may be enough to turn the tumblers in the lock. Keep in mind that you should wear gloves for safety when using an open flame on your car key. Also, make sure that only the end of a standard key should be heated. Modern key fobs with internal electronics can be damaged by flame.

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Breathing life into a frigid situation

Sometimes, a car door lock may only be slightly frozen. In such situations, the warmth of your breath can thaw out the lock. This is where the toilet paper tube or drinking straw comes into play. Place it over the lock and breathe into it.

Have an outlet? Try a hair dryer

In situations where an electrical outlet is available and your breath falls short of the dragon’s breath needed to melt the glacier in your car door lock, a hair dryer can be useful. If the outlet isn’t within a few feet, get an extension cord. The toilet paper tube can help focus the warm air in this scenario, too.

Try some WD-40 or hand sanitizer

Having a can of lock de-icer (available at any auto parts store) or even WD-40 on hand during winter months should be standard stock for winterizing your car. At the end of each day, spray the locks to keep any internal condensation from freezing. And speaking of condensation, never use hot water on a frozen car door lock because residual moisture will freeze later.

Considering that hand sanitizers like Purell are alcohol-based, apply some to your car key and wiggle it gently into the frozen lock. The alcohol can burn through the ice in seconds.

If the problem isn’t the lock being frozen but the door seal, AOL Autos suggests covering a rag with baking spray, then wiping down the rubber weather strip seal around the inside of the door frame. Unfortunately, this is something you must do ahead of time. Make it a part of your evening routine.

Try a keychain lock de-icer


AOL Autos

DIY Life

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