Published on November 20, 2023

No Keys, No Problem: How to Handle a Car Lockout

With today’s automotive technology, where key fobs, touchpads, and remote sensor systems are commonplace, many people still face the issue of getting locked out of their cars, often due to misplacing keys or locking them inside the vehicle. For effective strategies to handle car lockouts, this guide provides practical and non-destructive methods. It includes tips on using spare keys, employing mobile apps, and accessing emergency car locksmith services. The guide aims to equip readers with the knowledge to quickly and safely regain access to locked vehicles, avoiding drastic measures such as breaking a window or using a prybar. 

Look for the Spare Key

A set of spare keys is typically included when you purchase a car from a dealership, usually kept at home. If you are close to your house, then there is no problem getting your spare key. If you don’t have a spare key, contact a nearby professional car key replacement service to get another key cut. The importance of a backup key is usually only discovered when a broken or misplaced key prevents you from entering your vehicle. To avoid potential lockouts, purchasing a spare key or key fob ahead of time is a good idea as a precaution.

Try the Trunk

If your keys are still with you, but the locks are broken or not working properly, try opening the trunk to see if you can get inside the car. Regardless of the model—hatchback or not—you may be able to access the car via the trunk to unlock the stuck doors. After you’ve gained access to the car, open the doors from the inside. However, you may need to use specialized instruments, such as jiggle keys or test keys, or you might need to hire a professional expert car locksmith who can drill or pick the trunk lock. 

Manufacturer’s Mobile App 

Newer car models can be remotely unlocked via a mobile app provided by the car manufacturer. All you need to do is register and pair your car to your new account before dealing with a dreaded lockout, ideally right after making the purchase. For example, the Toyota App enables drivers to lock and unlock their car doors, search for missing vehicles, access important maintenance information, and get recall alerts. The myChevrolet app is a remote key fob that can lock and unlock the car, get the engine to start or stop, locate the car, and sound the horn. The MySubaru app locks and unlocks the vehicle, starts and stops it remotely, and immobilizes it in case it is stolen.

Consider a Few DIY Solutions 

Provided your vehicle does not feature post locks, you could try several easy DIY car lockout solutions: 

The Coat Hanger Method 

Untwist and mold a coat hanger into a hook-shaped tool and try to maneuver and hook it around a horizontal lock. Pull it in an attempt to unlock the door. 

The Screwdriver Method

Place a screwdriver underneath the top corner of the door and try to tap it to create some space between the door and the body. Use a metal rod to push into the lock and try to open the door. This method can cause serious damage to the vehicle, so only use it if you are ready to take the risk. 

The Plastic Strip Method  

Fold a plastic strip into a U-shape. Put the bottom closed portion between the door jamb and try to lift it to unlock the vehicle. 

The Airbag Pump Wedge Method   

 Use this gadget to force air between the doors to make a door opening large enough for tools to fit in the space.  You should use this method with caution as it could cause damage to your car if you do not use it properly. It may be wise to wait for a professional locksmith.

The Shoestring Method  

For a car with manual locks, try using the traditional shoestring technique. All you need to do is take a few feet of shoestring and a fishing line, loop the string in the middle, and work it nicely into the opening. Hitch the loop onto the lock to unlock the car and gently pull it up.


 Remember, while DIY methods can be handy, professional help ensures a safer and more efficient resolution, especially when you’re far from home, and immediate access to your vehicle is critical. Call the police, the AAA, or an emergency locksmith nearby that offers emergency lockout services. They should instantly give you access to your car without the use of potentially damaging solutions like using slim jims or breaking a window.

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