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Locked Out: 7 Ways to Retrieve Your Car Keys

Chances are most of us have locked our keys in the car at one time or another and if we haven’t well, there’s a good chance we will at least once in our lifetime.  Nobody does it on purpose, it’s just one of those things that happen; and while it can be frustrating, embarrassing or downright maddening, there are some things that we can do to remedy the situation.

I’ve heard almost everything, from carrying a tennis ball with a hole drilled in it (reportedly you place the tennis ball against the outside lock where you would normally insert your key and push as hard as you can; the air pressure will supposedly pop the inside lock open) to watching clips online which show using anything from a coat hanger to a small wooden wedge and a metal pole. My question has always been the same: Unless you’re parked in front of your home or at the home of a friend or family member who just happens to have these items on hand, exactly who has a tennis ball with a pre-drilled hole or pieces of wood and a metal pole at the ready? 

I’ve also read online about the cell phone magic that will supposedly unlock your car if your car has a key-less entry system.  Supposedly, if you lock your keys in the car and your spare key is at home, you call someone at the house from your cell phone to their cell phone. You then hold your cell phone a few inches from the car door while the person on the other end of the phone presses the unlock button on the key-less entry fob and like magic, the lock will spring open.  Reportedly, distance is no object and it’s been claimed that this works anywhere, no matter how far away you are from the person who has your extra remote entry key fob.   I don’t know anyone who has actually had success with this, so I checked Snopes.com, where I found it may be possible for this to work on vehicles that have something other than RKE (which transmits encrypted data to a receiver inside the vehicle via a radio frequency system), but it doesn’t work on most models.

So what can you do when you lock the keys in the car?  Here are some solutions that really work:

Get a spare key made:  Go to the nearest hardware store and have them make you a spare or two.  For less than $10.00, you’ve got real peace of mind. 

Keep your spare key in a secure location:  Give one spare key to a trusted family member or friend and place the other one in a magnetic key case, which can be hidden along a metal surface of your vehicle.  These are available in different sizes and can be purchased for under $10.00.  You can also keep a spare key at your house and if close, call for a ride to retrieve your key, or if you’ve left it with someone you can trust, call to have them bring it to you. 

Sign Up for an AAA Membership:  If you’re a member of AAA, you automatically receive Roadside Assistance, which includes lock-out service up to $50.00.  A Membership costs less than $70.00/year and is well worth it.  Even if you never lock your keys in your car, you may need to take advantage of their other services, such as tire service, battery service, towing service and more.

Talk to your insurance company:  Some insurance companies offer this type of coverage in your insurance policy.  All it takes is a phone call to determine if lock-out service is covered and if so, you’re already ahead of the game!

Sign up for OnStar:  By calling the helpline, OnStar remotely sends a signal to your vehicle and unlocks your doors.

Call the police:  You can call the police and ask them to unlock your car.   They usually have tools (like a Slim Jim) and will eventually come to your assistance.  Even though it may take a while for them to arrive at your location (unless you have a child in the car), the best thing about this option is that it’s free.

Call a tow truck:  As a last resort, this is your best option.  Although somewhat expensive (some charge as much as $100.00 for lock-out services) at least you’ll know help is on the way.

Have you locked your keys in your car?  If so, what did you do?


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23 Responses to “Locked Out: 7 Ways to Retrieve Your Car Keys”

  1. That tennis ball idea is pretty interesting. Will have to google more information on that.

    Otherwise some really great tips here…seems like people should read and at least plan for 2-3 of the options as part of their plan.

  2. I’ve called the cops, called a tow truck, unlocked with a coat hanger (older car).

    Some police departments won’t open your car anymore because of liability reasons. The P.D. where I used to lived stopped for that reason.

  3. When I first started driving, I was notorious for locking my keys in the car. So when I got a new (to me) car, one of the first things I did was go to the store to get a spare key made. And I promptly locked my keys in the car before going into the store.

    Luckily, the store had a Slim Jim and easily unlocked my car for me. So if you’re in a store parking lot, check with their customer service, they might be able to help.

  4. Excellent suggestion, Michelle. Thanks! :)

  5. when my dad locked the keys in the car, he had to call me at work to come give him the spare. i’ve now made all family members a pouch that could be attached to a belt or carried in a purse and has space for at least 8 spare keys (that’s how many the built in key ring can hold). they have turned out to be very usefull. go ahead, make one!

  6. What a “crafty” idea, Jo! :)

  7. i just locked my mom’s keys inside of her car. i was trying to unlock the car and i pressed the lock button by accident. our dog and everything that we just bought is still locked in. :( i feel like such and idiot.

  8. Don’t feel like an idiot, Christine – these things really do happen more often than we think. I hope you were able to get pup and packages out quickly! :)

  9. I recently locked myself out of my car. Luckily there was a tow truck that was taking a break near by. The tech was kind enough to see if he had any tools and help me pop my lock after watching me struggle to do it myself through the slightly open window. He did it for free which was really nice too

  10. most cell phone carriers have a roadside assistance program that you can add to your monthly bill for $3-$5 per month

  11. During vacation, we learned the hard way not to lock the keys in the trunk of a convertible. Regular roadside assistance can’t get into the trunk without the keys because of the security measures on convertibles. It took Alamo 6 hours to find someone to get into the trunk for us.

    So my further tip: if you lock your keys in the trunk of a convertible, bypass roadside assistance and call an actual locksmith. It’ll save you tons of time, and in the case of Alamo roadside assistance, money too (we still had to pay the locksmith out of our pocket).

  12. heres an awesome tip if you have the spare remote to your keyless remote take your phone call someone at your house with the spare remote and tell them to hold the spare remote next to the phone and have them press the unlock key with your phone stand a foot away from your door and your door will unlock no matter the distance or the trunk will open

  13. oh and for extra battery life for your cell phone when the battery is low press *3370# and you get extra battery power that will charge when your phone gets low again Thank you

  14. Snopes says those don’t work: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/household/cellphones.asp

  15. I have used it personally and it does work. Speakerphone is needed, but I can contest it saved me. :)

  16. All the above mentioned tips and tricks are great in theory…………
    The cell phone trick MAY work if you have an old keyless entry system.
    The tennis ball trick is just silly. Don’t waste your time.
    AAA is a good option.-if you have it.
    A tow truck driver might be able to get the door open, but remember-this is a guy (or gal) who is used to handling wrecked vehicles, not your beautiful everyday driver, or weekend coupe.

    The best reccomendations I can make are these:

    1. Get a spare, with a magnetic “hide a key” that requires a combination.

    2. Call a locksmith- Hold them to the price they quote you over the phone (for someone local-during regular business hours it really shouldn’t cost more than $99) . Locksmiths are trained to open vehicles without scratching door panels or breaking glass. Often times they can cut you a spare for next time so you WON’T get locked out agian.

  17. you could get one of those magnetic sticks things and get the keys though the window, if its open.

  18. i recently locked my keys inside my car and called towing service (i had never clld towing service!)…first of all they made me wait for over 40mins!..and were charging me $130!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…i was soooo angry, and only paid him $85, but still, i was soooo upset and felt robbed =’(
    …i think i’ll make a spare key now…. =’(

  19. This is my second time this weekend to lock my keys in my car. I’m making spares asap! Lesson learned

  20. Remarkable issues here. I am very satisfied to see your post. Thanks a lot and I’m looking ahead to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  21. I got locked out last week. My car is a second-hand piece of junk, treated awfully by its previous owners, and the key is a ruddy duplicate as it is without any spares. What a nightmare! Some nice shop assistants helped me stick some sturdy wires down the door and somehow we got it open. Not an easy job. The cops here won’t help unless the situation is serious (i.e. a baby locked inside).

  22. All sounds good but im a pro. Hate to admit it, but I’m so notorious for this it’s scary. Call pop-a-lock. I downloaded an app off their website. Now all I have to do anywhere in the country is press contact and I’m routed to closest pop-a-lock location. They charge less than a tow truck company and are alot more knowledgeable. This is what they do. I’ve paid between 35.00 and 60.00 and they also do it for free if child is inside!!!! Just call 1-800-popalock.

  23. I called 24 Roadside and for 30 bucks they got me in. If I had a plan with my insurance they do it for free, just ask for them by name.

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