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How to Get In When You're Locked Out

Car

If you tend to leave the keys in your car fairly often, consider hiding an extra key somewhere on the vehicle. A little magnetic key box that sticks to the metal surface of a steel body or frame is best, but be sure to place it in an obscure and hard-to-reach area where it can't jiggle loose and fall off. I leave the location up to you -- be imaginative. Struggling a little to reach that extra key is better than having car thieves find it. And don't hide your house key with it.

Fortunately, many new vehicles come with electronic door openers or “digital keys” that don't allow you to lock the doors with the keys in the vehicle. The downside is that if you lose the gadget, it can take days and hundreds of dollars to replace it, and you'll probably need to have the vehicle towed to a dealer who will order a new key.

If your vehicle has an electronic door opener, you may be able to get the door open, but if you've lost the opener outside your vehicle, the ignition may fail to start without it. Some vehicles have override switches for this eventuality, so find out whether you'd be able to start your vehicle without your opener, and locate the override switch now, if there is one.

Assuming that you've decided not to risk hiding an extra set of keys on your car, here are a few things you can try to get in without a key:

  • If your vehicle has door locks that are recessed inside the interior door handle, get professional help.
  • If you have the old-style door locks with little buttons on the window ledge, straighten a wire coat hanger and bend the end into a little hook. Insert it between the rubber molding and the side window and then carefully hook it around the door button and pull it up.
  • If you have smooth buttons, you can try to hook one using the hanger technique, but most will refuse to budge.
  • If you happen to lock yourself out of the vehicle while you have the trunk open, you may be able to move the rear seat out of the way and gain access to the rear of the car (or you can hide an extra ignition key in the trunk).

Tip: If you need professional help, call emergency road assistance and ask if they will be able to open the door. If not, ask them to send a local locksmith. The good news is that each car key is coded by the auto manufacturer, and if you have the key code number and personal identification, a locksmith can make you a new key. Write down the key code number and leave it where someone at home can read it to you in an emergency. Also record it -- without identifying what it is -- in your pocket address book or in your wallet before you lose your keys. If you bought the vehicle, new or used, from a dealer, the dealer may still have the number on file or the automaker may have a record of it. Failing that, a good locksmith may be able to analyze a key in fairly new condition and come up with the proper code for it.

From Auto Repair for Dummies, copyright © 2009 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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