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What Can You Do When You Lock Your Keys in Your Vehicle?

Sometimes you don’t realize it until you’ve patted yourself all over and checked your pockets after parking your car and taking your leave –you’ve locked the keys in the car. Getting locked out of your car is a normal part of vehicle ownership, as it’s happened to every driver at least once. It’s not outlandish for it to happen. You may be in a rush or left your keys in while you went to grab something from the car’s trunk. Whatever the case, you can see your keys still in the ignition or on the center console inside your locked car.

Don’t worry; there are several methods to unlocking your car to retrieve those keys –some you may be able to do yourself and others that require assistance. The first step to getting your keys out of your car is thinking about and weighing your options. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Can You Do When You Lock Your Keys in Your Vehicle?

After keeping a clear head, locking your keys in your car can still be rage-inducing since it seems so simple; it’s time to weigh your options. How you’re able to open your locked car without the use of the keys depends on personal factors –like your credit card, car insurance, or even where you purchased your car.

Here is what you may be able to do in order to unlock your car without keys:

  • Dealer spare key - The average driver doesn’t carry around a spare car key while driving. If you don’t have one, you may ask the dealer where you bought your car for a spare. They may be able to run one over to your location if it’s not far. If you have a spare key at home, it may be ideal to call someone to deliver it to you.
  • Credit card - Your credit card provider may provide some roadside assistance with tows, tire changes, and jumpstarts should your car break down. Keys in locked cars is something they aren’t normally prepared for, but they can tow you to an auto shop that can help you unlock it.
  • Car insurance - You may also have roadside assistance included in your auto policy with your insurance company. Many car insurers offer roadside assistance as a policy add-on. While it may be limited in its coverage when it comes to keys in a locked vehicle, they may offer assistance.
  • Warranty service - Roadside assistance may also be included in your car’s warranty when you bought it. Some are known to cover the cost of unlocking your car to get the key inside. Check with the dealership to see if your vehicle warranty includes such coverage. Open your car yourself - Sometimes, there’s no other option than to break into your car in order to get the keys. This is if all else fails. There’s a multitude of tools and methods you can use. The main risk would be the damage done to your vehicle due to improper unlocking.

What Does Roadside Assistance Include?

Roadside assistance can be provided through a credit card plan or car insurance policy. Having roadside assistance coverage helps cover the cost of tows, jumpstarts for dead batteries, running out of gas, and tire changes. There are numbers to call when stranded out on somewhere vulnerable like an expressway. Calling will connect you with a service agent, and they will send the help you need to your location. Roadside assistance costs under $10 monthly to be added to an auto insurance policy. However, it may be limited in the coverage it provides.

For example, it may only cover towing for a certain number of miles. Roadside assistance is a service typically used for car breakdowns, but they are able to help with keys locked in a car. More so, you’ll be able to add it to your auto policy in one day simply by calling your insurance company. A roadside worker may be able to tow your car to the nearest auto shop or provide the tools necessary to open the door themselves.

Where Can You Get A Spare Car Key When Locked Out?

A spare key is the very first thing you should check for when locked out of your car. You might not carry two sets of the same keys at once, so your spares may be at home. If you’re able to call someone to bring them to you, then you’ll be able to solve this problem immediately.

If you still have the contact information of the dealer you bought your car from, they might be able to give you a spare key. It helps to not be too far away from them, but where you end up is circumstantial. Of course, a spare key may not do for the newer keyless models of cars. You’d need a spare fob. Some drivers purchase a container that magnetizes to the bottom of their car and put a spare key inside should they ever need it. Remember, rule out the possibility of a spare key before making any more decisions.

Can You Use Your Roadside Coverage?

If a spare key isn’t an option to open your locked car, then consider whether or not you have roadside assistance coverage. By now, you’re familiar with what roadside assistance includes and where you can receive it. If you don’t have roadside coverage through your credit card provider or insurance company, then you may have to contact independent roadside services like AAA or National General. Monthly or annual fees may be more than you’d pay through insurance but will be more comprehensive in their coverage.

National General is cheaper than AAA, and there are longer tow distances, and some offer memberships for use at a reduced rate. AARP is another form of roadside assistance but is reserved for drivers older than 50. This service is a nonprofit founded by former teachers for older drivers. Again, a roadside assistant may not necessarily have the tools to unlock your car, but they can tow your car to a dealership or auto shop where they can get it open.

If you don’t have roadside coverage, then you may call towing companies and lockout services directly. If a tow company can’t help you, they’ll direct you to other services like car locksmiths or a repair shop. Without insurance or a credit card covering you, you’d be looking at a fee of anywhere between $40 to $120 for a lockout. Payment is accepted upfront at the time of the service. This would be the most pricey solution to keys in a locked car.

What Are Some DIY Ways to Unlock a Locked Car?

Now it’s come to this. You’ve exhausted all other options and have no choice but to “break into” your own car, for lack of better words. Towing companies use what’s called a pump wedge to open a locked door. The idea is to unlock the door’s mechanism with air pressure. We’ll get into the other DIY methods later because the pump wedge is the most common way to resolve it. An at-home substitute will be a blood pressure cuff if you have one. It would work the same as a pump wedge would.

Here’s detailed step by step instructions on how this would work:

  • Insert the device - Place the pump wedge or blood pressure cuff into the top left-hand corner of the driver’s door. The device is deflated at this point, so it can easily slide through the window as much as it can.
  • Pump or blow the device up - Do this until a small gap is created. The door may open very slightly. It’s important not to overexert the device as to damage the door’s inner workings or locking mechanism.
  • Use a skinny object - A coat hanger is by far the most common improv tool people locked out of their cars use. Any object just as skinny as one will work as long as it will fit inside the gap.
  • Try to hit the unlock button - Somewhere within the crack is where the door locking mechanism is located. You want to work the skinny tool so it will hit said mechanism or button. It’s all done by feeling around for the correct spot.
  • Be careful - Since this isn’t the formal way to unlock a car, be mindful when using an improv tool of any kind on your car. A damaged door can cost far more than $200 to fix, and at that point, all the work to save money would have been for nothing.

What Do You Do After “Breaking Into” Your Locked Car?

Whether you decide to forego the above instructions and just break your window or not, you should always drive over to the nearest or best auto repair shop to have the damages fixed or have your car evaluated after a successful lockpick. If the window wasn’t broken, there might be some mechanical issues with the lock.

Lockouts are usually not covered by a comprehensive policy, so you’ll be expected to handle all the window repair costs yourself. That would be a great time to have a roadside assistance policy that covers locksmithing services. The only catch would be that it’s an approved locksmith by the insurance company. Window repairs or replacements are far pricier than the coverage, so it would seem like a no-brainer.

What Are Ways to Prevent a Vehicle Lockout?

Like running a red light or stop sign, getting locked out of your car with the keys inside is 100% avoidable when you focus your awareness on it. For a lot of people, car keys have become extensions to pockets. In the same regard, our phones have become part of our hands. But that doesn’t mean that forgetting or misplacing them is impossible.

Here are some ways drivers are making sure they’re never without their car keys:

  • Keep an extra key - Spare car keys are often left at home since the average driver doesn’t carry around two. As opposed to having a housemate run it over to your location, you can keep it someplace strategic, like in a magnetized box under the vehicle.
  • Avoid putting keys in the trunk - Many lock-ins occur when the car key is misplaced after stepping out of the vehicle. As you’re getting your wallet, phone, and other what have yous, you may be juggling your key. Whatever you do, don’t place them in the trunk. You will not be able to get them back.
  • Keypad installation - For an extra cost, you can have a keyless keypad installed on your vehicle. It’s usually placed on the driver’s door. The $300 is well worth it if you are habitually locked out of your vehicle.

How Does a Lockout Affect Car Insurance?

Getting locked out of your car isn’t a traffic violation or auto accident. An insurance company or provider will not raise premiums for a driver who forgets their keys in their car more often than not. Many brokers offer the aforementioned roadside assistance, which includes tow claims. A nice practice that roadside insurance allows is that you can pay for an independent lockout or locksmith service on your own and then submit the service receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement. If you were to file a roadside claim, then it’s a near hassle-free process as it’s one of the easiest claims to file. You would need to give your vehicle’s location, contact information, and policy number. Seeking reimbursement for a service receipt may also require your policy number.

Locking your keys in your vehicle is not as bad as it seems. You have no fines or rise in insurance rates to worry about. The costs of locksmith services and roadside insurance are low-cost and budgeted. There are many solutions to a lockout provided by insurance companies, credit cards, and independent services. Always weigh your options before deciding to do something brash like breaking a window, and make sure to keep a level head.