Living in a cold climate location offers many irreplaceable dynamics while presenting obstacles at the same time. Our family’s first experience of snow and sub-zero temperatures was moving to Vermont in the middle of winter with no snow tires. We learned some things quicker than others: That salting our walk way would prevent us from slipping, wearing waterproof boots would keep us healthy, stopping the car 15 ft before it actually needed to be stopped to account for sliding would keep us safe, and knowing how to deal with frozen locks would make sure no one was stranded or left out in the cold.

Preventative Measures

There is nothing worse than being locked out of a vehicle in below freezing temperatures. There are many ways that we can help you and your family prevent that frustration. By utilizing preventative measures you can avoid it happening all together. One thing we recommend doing on a routine basis is attempting to park with at least one lock facing the sun. This sounds fairly intuitive, and may not actually be possible in some places and climates where the sun is non-existent for many months during the cold season. Also, some recommend spraying cooking oil such as Pam in the door locks before a big freeze comes, thus preventing the the low temperatures from freezing up the locking mechanisms.

If preventative measures fail, there are a number of proven tricks to get that lock unfrozen quickly and safely without damaging the mechanisms of the door or the weather sealing around the perimeter of the portal. Whatever you do, do not attempt to force the door open or the windows down as this could permanently damage the door mechanisms, window motors, and rubber weather seal.

An Alcohol Based, No Wash Hand Sanitizer

Some professionals recommend an alcohol-based hand sanitizer since it contains more rubbing alcohol than any other ingredient. This will immediately unfreeze and evaporate the frozen liquid encasing the locking mechanism. Unlock vehicle immediately after application to avoid refreezing.

Heat: There are two simple and proven methods involving heat that will unfreeze any lock.

Heat up the vehicle key with a grill or cigarette lighter. Be careful to not burn yourself while doing this as the key will sometimes get hot enough to inflict a minor burn. We recommend that you not expose the key long enough to turn it red because of this and because it may damage the integrity of the key. After key is warm enough to melt ice, insert key into the lock and wiggle it around. You may want to heat, insert, and wiggle the key a couple of times before attempting to open the door, depending on how cold it is.

The other method involving heat is a hair dryer. For this you will need an extension chord, a power source, and a hair dryer, unless you have a battery or solar operated hair dryer. Direct the hot air coming from the dryer directly onto the locking mechanism. After it is sufficiently heated, try inserting and opening with your key.

These little tricks can mean the difference of enjoying winter or dreading it. Knowledge is power!