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How to Open/Unlock a Car You Locked Yourself Out Of

Listen, we all make mistakes. And all we can do is accept that and do what we can to remedy the situation. I am, of course, talking about locking yourself out of your car. Instead of calling a locksmith or tow company to save you, there are some home solutions you can try.

Let me start by saying that this is for unlocking YOUR OWN VEHICLE. Do not use this knowledge for trying to break into someone else’s car. Aside from being illegal, these methods WILL set off a car alarm, which you will need your keys (which are, in this context, inside the car) to turn off.

So let’s say that you locked yourself out of your car, leaving the keys inside. This is unfortunate, but it does happen. Some folks will recommend calling a locksmith or towing agency. They often offer services to gain access to your vehicle, at a price. Others will recommend you contact the local police, who don’t charge a fee for unlocking the car. This is true, but not all local law enforcements are exactly trustworthy, especially if you’re a certain skin color or of a certain wealth class. So here are three options for trying to unlock your car yourself.

Option 1: Unlock a Car With a Hanger

This is the most common option and likely what you think of first. The idea is to use a wire coat hanger that has been unwound and bent straight. By bending a hook on the end and running the wire down into the car, you can unlock it by catching the internal lock mechanism. The process is as follows:

  1. Bend a coat hanger straight, adding a small hook on the end
  2. Insert the hooked end into the car door, between the window and the rubber seal along the bottom of the window.
  3. Wiggle around inside the car door. Approximately near where the locking mechanism is, feeling for something to catch.
  4. Pull up on the caught thing.

If it worked, the door will unlock. This isn’t the most reliable method, however. The actual locking mechanism’s location will vary by car, and some models have measures in place that prevent this method from working. Plus you can’t really see what you’re doing in there. Of the three, we don’t recommend this one.

Option 2: Unlock a Car with a Wedge and Rod

The wedge and rod method is a more direct, visible alternative. The process is simple: wedge the door open just slightly and stick a long rod or stick in, aiming for the unlock button. Here’s the process:

  1. Find a wedge or stopper of some kind. This can be a rock, a wooden block, even a pen if you have to. It just needs to be able to hold the door slightly ajar.
  2. Pulling on the top, back corner of the door, wedge the item into that corner, holding it slightly open. Most car doors are designed to allow for it to be pried open from this position. You likely will only be able to fit a finger through at absolute best, so make sure to find a suitable rod.
  3. Find a suitable rod. It has to be thin enough to fit through the gap you made, while being strong and long enough to maneuver into the car.
  4. Press the unlock button on the door. Using the rod, that is. 

And that’s it! Relatively easy. THe only catch is the door’s design. Not all vehicles have a lock/unlock button in a location viable for this method. Maybe it’s on the side of the door, or simply in a position that makes it difficult to press with a rod. 

One alternative method is to combine this method with the wire one. Instead of using a rod to press a button, run a coat hanger wire with a hook on the end down the car and toward the physical locking stick that sticks out. If you can get a good angle, you can catch the physical bar that sticks up and pull it into the unlock position.

Option 3: Unlock a Car with String

The most unorthodox, but this method may be your only viable option. In short, this method uses a string with a tiny noose on the middle to catch the physical unlocking stick, tightening on it, and using that to pull the mechanism up. Here’s how it works:

  1. Wedge the door open in the top back corner, like in option 2.
  2. Find a small rope or string, such as a shoelace, that is at least the width of the door, plus a foot or two.
  3. Tie a small slipknot in the middle of the rope.
  4. Insert the rope into the gap of the car, keeping each end available on two sides of the door. 
  5. Jimmy the rope down the door, one side at a time, being careful not to accidentally tighten the knot. 
  6. Carefully position the knot onto the physical lock stick. Once caught on it, pull both sides of the rope until tight.
  7. Pull up on the rope, keeping it tight.

The catch here is both in car design and personal performance. This only works on cars where the lock mechanism can be looped onto with a rope. It also relies on the user being able to shift the rope without tightening the knot too early. If you mess up, you have to do it all again, which is annoying. Yet again, locking yourself out of your car is also annoying.

Remember folks, don’t do this illegally. Try not to forget your keys, either. That’s the best way to avoid having this happen at all.

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