How to Escape a Car if the Electronic Door Release Fails

Do you own a vehicle with electronic door releases? Modern cars, like those manufactured by Tesla, use electrically operated doors for safety reasons. However, when the car’s electricity fails, so will the doors. Recently, a Tesla Model Y caught fire and filled with smoke, and the owner couldn’t escape due to the failing electronic door release. Here’s how to escape a car if the electronic door release fails, according to Consumer Reports.

What if your electronic door release fails?

2022 Tesla Model Y - Consumer Reports: how to escape a car if the electronic door release fails.
2022 Tesla Model Y | Tesla

According to Consumer Reports, a Tesla Model Y owner was stuck inside it while it burned. The owner told a local TV station in Vancouver that the vehicle suddenly lost power and filled with smoke. As a result, its electronically operated doors wouldn’t open, trapping the owner inside. He couldn’t figure out how to open the emergency door release in a panic.

Doors like this one are common in modern vehicles. In short, they require a lot of extra effort to open if the car loses power. Grabbing a manual lever to open the door won’t always work, as some require passengers to “depress an electronic button, or electric door handle or release.” Next, the release triggers the electric motor to unlatch the door, allowing those trapped inside to exit.

CR spoke with automakers who use the technology in their vehicles. Their purpose, automakers say, is to save weight and add features like automatically unlocking during a crash. However, in the rare case of a power loss, the electronic door releases will fail and require trapped passengers to locate and use the manual emergency release.

How to escape modern vehicles with an electronic door release

The Audi e-tron S line black edition all-electric luxury SUV - here's how to escape a car if the electronic door release fails.
Audi e-tron S | AUDI AG

Consumer Reports figured out how to escape some modern vehicles if the electronic door release fails. The answer will be different depending on the make and model of every car. Furthermore, be sure to find the lever, switch, button, or another way out of the vehicle at the time of purchase.

  • The Audi E-Tron owners manual says owners can open the doors by pulling the handle “forcefully” and “beyond its noticeable resistance” twice.
  • Two General Motors vehicles, the Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac XLR, have door releases between the doors and sills of the car. Pulling up on the lever will open the door.
  • The Ford Mustang Mach-E has a manual door release inside the door armrest. Moreover, the door will open when a person pulls the handle.
  • Inside a 2022 Lexus NX, you’ll find a door lever that simply needs to be pulled twice instead of once. Lexus told CR all four doors inside the vehicle use the same override.
  • Lastly, the Lincoln Continental has an emergency door release lever at the front of the storage pocket on the bottom of the door.

Can rear passengers escape?

Modern cars have child safety door locks that prevent rear passengers from opening their doors. Of course, the primary purpose is to prevent children from opening the doors while the vehicle is in motion. However, it can be problematic in case of a crash. CR cited the safety advocacy group Kids and Cars, which said rear passengers should use the front doors to exit the vehicle in an emergency. If that isn’t possible, they should honk the horn, flash the lights, or do anything else to draw attention and get help.

“Escape tools” could be useless against modern glass

If the electronic door release fails when trying to escape a car, a hammer or other “escape tools” might be useless. Auto supply stores often sell tools specifically for breaking the glass to escape a vehicle in an emergency. Unfortunately, modern technology might make those tools completely useless. Moreover, breaking a window for an extra escape route is perfectly fine, but glass is stronger than ever. Laminated, extra-strength glass in modern vehicles helps to prevent ejection during a crash. However, it’s much more difficult to break than traditional glass.

According to AAA, in 2019, it tested six different escape tools on vehicles with laminated glass. None of the tools could break through. Check the corners of the glass on your car’s windows, sunroof, and windshield to determine what type of glass they’re made from. Tempered glass is the easiest to break if you’ve got any in your car.

How to escape a car if the electronic door release fails

In conclusion, it can be tricky to escape a car if the electronic door release fails. Electric vehicles often use these releases, leaving passengers trapped inside if a power outage occurs. However, escaping each model can be a bit different. Be sure to locate the emergency latch, switch, or button inside your car before you ever need to use it. The last thing you want is to be trapped inside your Tesla Model Y like the man in Vancouver was recently while the vehicle was on fire.

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