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It’s embarrassing, but it happens even to the best of us. You’re in a rush, distracted by a friend, or maybe just not paying attention. You’ve left your car, shut the door behind you. Then, click. It’s at that point you notice that your car is locked and you don’t have the keys. You’re locked out. So, what should you do next if you’ve locked your keys in your car? Besides not panic, obviously.  

Driver trying to open a car door
A driver opening the driver-side door on a car | Neil Godwin/T3 Magazine/Future via Getty Images

You locked your keys in your car, now what?

First things first, do you have a spare key? Do you know where it’s located? If you do, then easy peasy. Simply grab your spare key, unlock your car, and all is well. But if you don’t have a spare key? Then you may want to consider your options.

Do you have roadside assistance coverage? The Balance recommends checking in with your car insurance provider, and even the maker of your car. Plenty of automakers include roadside assistance in their warranty programs. Several automakers also offer smartphone apps to help prevent you from locking the keys in your car. 

And if you’re still locked out? Car and Driver reports that if you have a membership with the American Automobile Association (AAA), you can give them a call if you’ve locked your keys in your car. AAA offers free lockout services to its members and will send a locksmith to you if you need to get your keys out of a locked car.

How to get keys out of a locked car

If you don’t have AAA and don’t want to deal with a locksmith? Well, there are a few, more hands-on tricks you can try to get keys out of a locked car. Car and Driver says that you can try using a string to unlock your car. Unfortunately, Car and Driver says this will only work if your car has a traditional, post-type door lock with a knob at the top. If it does, though, tie a slipknot in the middle of a string and gently pry open a space between the top of your front door’s window frame and the body of your car. Then, lower the slipknot into your vehicle, secure it on the lock of your car, and pull upwards. 

Unfortunately, Popular Mechanics reports that the string method doesn’t always work. Instead, Popular Mechanics suggests giving the bladder and pump method a try if you’ve locked your keys in your car. All you’ll need for this method is a slightly bent metal rod and two wedges. Start by inserting the wedges by the top corner of your front door, on the opposite side of the door’s hinges. Once there’s enough space, insert the rod and hook your keys or hit the unlock button.

This should go without saying, but if it’s an emergency and your keys are stuck in your car, dial 911 immediately. Also, keep in mind that while the internet is full of tips and tricks to get car keys out of a locked car, you might end up causing actual damage to your car by trying them. So, while you may not want to call a locksmith or sign up for AAA, there are plenty of benefits to both.

How to avoid locking your keys in your car

It’s good to have a game plan if you want to avoid locking your keys in your car. First, if you have a spare key, remember where it is at all times. And if you have a newer vehicle, consider looking into whether or not a lockout app is available. 

You should also weigh the benefits of having some sort of roadside assistance coverage, whether that’s through your insurance provider or an organization like AAA. After all, getting locked out of your car can be pretty frustrating. So why not try to avoid the situation altogether?


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