01Stay Calm and Try to Think About Your Options
Are All the Doors Locked?
Panicking in a tough situation is common. The last thing you want to do is call for help just to find out you had an unlocked door the whole time. Double-check each door and the trunk before making that call.
Know Where the Spare Key Is Located
Do you know where a spare key is? Think hard—there's probably someone who could bring it to you. Often, recovering a spare is not an option, but it can save you both time and money if it's a possible solution. Investing pocket change into replacement keys always pays itself back over time, and you'll be thankful you did it.
02Try to Unlock the Door Yourself
Don't feel like shelling out serious cash to get your car unlocked? How does the tow service guy unlock your vehicle anyway and is it possible to do it yourself? It might be.
Tow companies are professionals, which means they have the proper tools to do the job. For a DIY door unlock, you're going to need a few things.
Most tow service companies use an inflatable device to wedge the door open. A handy hack would be to use a blood pressure cuff. It's strong enough to withstand the pressure without ripping. It's also possible you have one at home or could ask a friend or family member to pick one up if nearby.
How to Unlock a Locked Car Door
- Slide a deflated blood pressure cuff into the top corner of the driver's side door.
- Blow the cuff up until there is a small gap creating an opening in the vehicle.
- Don't overexpand the cuff because it could damage the door.
- Use a wire coat hanger or other long, skinny object that will fit in the gap created.
- Squeeze the coat hanger into the opening and hit the unlock button.
It will probably take some maneuvering to get the cuff into the door. Be careful about bending the door by overinflating the cuff. A damaged door can cost a whole lot more to repair than hiring a tow service, entirely defeating the purpose of doing it yourself.
If you're like most people, you won't have a blood pressure cuff lying around. It's even less likely that you'll have access to it at the moment you're locked out of the car. The best and simplest way to get your vehicle unlocked is to call roadside assistance.
03Figure Out If You Have Roadside Assistance
Car insurance. The fastest way to find out if you have a policy is to call your insurance agent and ask. Most car insurance policies don't automatically include roadside assistance. Most don't even allow you to carry the coverage unless you have comprehensive coverage listed on your policy.
It's a good idea to save your roadside assistance information in your phone. Take a picture of the card and email it to yourself, so you always have it. These companies usually have arrangements with local tow companies and locksmiths, and are usually able to negotiate a lower rate.
Coverage limits vary, but if you have roadside assistance it will probably cover a lockout of a vehicle. A lockout is usually one of the cheapest roadside assistance features. The cost of getting your vehicle unlocked by a tow service can vary, typically falling between $25 and $50, but can be higher in remote areas when travel time is taken into account.
Nothing is more frustrating than paying for something twice. It's important to know what coverage you have and where. Make sure to double-check all of these possibilities you might have before tossing your tow receipt in the trash.
Warranty service. New cars come with warranties, and many of those warranties provide roadside assistance. If you're lucky, it will cover the costs of a lockout. Know exactly what your warranty covers so that you don't lose out on some important benefits.
It's a wise decision to use your warranty-covered roadside assistance without purchasing redundant coverage.
Some pre-owned vehicles also come with a warranty. To find out more about your warranty call the dealership where you bought the vehicle. Give the folks at the dealership the VIN, and the seller should be able to determine if there was pre-existing coverage.
Cell phone company. Cell phones don't automatically give you a roadside assistance plan. In fact, it's becoming rarer as cell companies continue to grow. If it's available, it's something you can add to your plan for an additional monthly fee. If you're just looking to get a specific lockout incident covered, it's not the cheapest option.
Credit card. Your credit card might come with roadside assistance. The chances of having coverage increases if you pay an annual fee—these cards usually carry more powerful perks. Most cards no longer offer compulsory roadside assistance, but it's often still available to purchase. Call your credit card company to find out what your card offers.
04Call a Tow Truck Service
Usually, the fastest and most convenient way (and usually the most expensive) to get your vehicle unlocked is to call a tow truck service. Calling the one that is closest to your location can help speed up the process.
No Out-of-Pocket Cost
In order to get your unlock covered by your car insurance carrier, it's important to report the claim directly to your insurance company or your roadside assistance plan. You need to be able to:
- Provide the vehicle's location.
- Leave a good contact phone number.
- Know your policy number.
After that, your insurance carrier would most likely call one of their preferred tow truck service providers. The tow service would then contact you to verify details and would be dispatched to come to unlock your vehicle. The bill would then go directly to your car insurance carrier and you would pay zero out of pocket.
Sometimes it might be easier to pay for the lockout service on your own rather than try to call in a claim. Tow claims are pretty much the easiest type of claim to file. Most roadside assistance plans allow you to turn in a receipt and get reimbursed, as long as you had coverage at the time of the service.
- Make payment once your vehicle is unlocked.
- Save your receipt.
- Deliver the receipt to your car insurance agency by hand or send it in a fax or email.
05How to Break a Car Window
What If It's an Emergency?
Emergencies should be handled differently than a standard lockout. It is at your discretion what is considered an emergency, but any conflict involving a life-or-death situation should be handled as such.
Breaking a car window is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it's extremely difficult. The windshield will be nearly impossible to break. Side window glass is tempered, which means it's strong but not nearly as strong as the windshield. If you need to break a car window, the side window is the best option.
Tips for Breaking The Side Window
- You need something sharp. A hammer would surely be convenient. If you have one, it's best to use the claw end. A screwdriver with the proper force applied would also be handy. In a pinch, a golf club or window scraper would do, but these would most likely be locked in the car. If you must, a large rock can break the glass.
- The center of a car glass window is its strongest point. Try breaking the glass closer to the edge, where it's weaker.
- Tinted glass is the best for breaking because it won't shatter. The tint will hold it together yet still allow the glass to be broken and removed. Always choose the window furthest from a child who might be in the car to protect her from a spray of shattered glass.
- It can be frustrating trying to break the glass when you don't have something sharp. Keep calm and ask someone nearby for help. Beating relentlessly on a glass window without the proper tool will only cause more stress.
If you're still unable to break the glass, call the police for assistance.
Locked Out of Your Car? Here's What to Do
Locked out of your car? It can happen to anyone. Some methods are more embarrassing than others, but regardless of how you got locked out, you need to keep your cool and follow these tips if you want to get back in.