How to Unlock a Car Door Without Your Keys

The next time you lock your keys in the car, you’ll want to try these genius tricks.

Realizing you’ve locked keys in your car is never fun—especially when you’re running late. Luckily, newer cars make it much more difficult for you to do this, but, if you find yourself standing outside your locked car with your keys sitting in the cupholder, these tricks will come in handy. Before you send out the “locked keys in car” SOS text, learn how to unlock a car door without your keys with these three methods. Plus, check out some simple methods so that you never lose your keys (or anything else) again.

Use string

Here’s a tip for the next time you have to send the dreaded text “locked keys in car”: Keep a roll of string around, and you’ll never have to cash out for a locksmith again. The life-changing video below shows you how to unlock a car door without your keys. Just tie a knot in the string per the video’s instructions, creating a loop the size of your index finger at the end. Then, wiggle the string around the right side of the driver’s window. Now, holding the string with both hands, move it in a back-and-forth motion (like you’re flossing a giant tooth). Doing so will shift the string further down the window and toward the inside lock.

This is where things can get a bit tricky. Carefully maneuver the loop over the lock, pulling the ends of the string to tighten the loop at the same time. When you think you have a solid grip around the lock, gently pull up on it to unlock the car door. Voilà! You’re back in action—and back on the road. Before shifting into drive, be sure to never do these crazy things when you drive.

Try a coat hanger

The coat hanger trick is a classic; you’ve probably seen it used in a few movies. All you will need is a coat hanger and pliers. “Use the pliers to unravel the coat hanger so you have one side hooked and one that’s straight,” says Laura Gonzales, Marketing Manager at Audi Bellevue. “You’re going to slide the coat hanger between the window and the weather stripping. Once the hook is below the window, you can start fishing around for the control arm. Once you find it, pull onto it and your door will open.”

Use a wedge

This method can be a little tricky, warns Bill Evans, manager of J&E Auto Body in Clark, NJ. Find a thin but strong tool you can use as a wedge. Then, pull the top of the door frame out with a pry tool and push the wedge in to hold the door frame out, says Evans. Then, using a long, skinny rod (it could even be a coat hanger), push the unlock button. “Triple A drivers and tow truck drivers usually do it this way, and that is how we do it also,” says Evans. “However, even the experienced people will scratch the paint or tear the weather stripping during this process, and you may need to see a body shop to realign the top of the door frame since sometimes they remain bent out away from the body after the wedge is used.” So make sure the repair costs are really worth it before using a wedge to get yourself out of your “locked keys in car” debacle. If you’re nervous about damaging your car, you can always leave it to the professionals and call someone to help. Now that you know how to unlock a car door without your keys, read about the secrets locksmiths won’t tell you to learn more tricks of the trade.

Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.