How to Open a Frozen Shut Car Door

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During the winter or on a particularly cold night, it is not uncommon to see your doors frozen shut. For the most part, the heat from the sun takes care of any thin layers of ice that form overnight. However, in extreme cold weather or lack of sunlight, these thin layers of ice can form in the space between the car’s body and the door. The handle and latch mechanisms will sometimes freeze, which can also render the door useless.

When this occurs, it is important to open the doors without damaging any of the parts inside of the door or any of the weather stripping that keeps water from getting inside of the vehicle. There are a number of remedies for this problem, with some more effective than others. This article will go over a few methods that really work.

Method 1 of 5: Push on the door before opening it

Step 1: Double check that the doors are unlocked. Cold weather may make a keyless entry remote less consistent, so press “unlock” a few times.

If the locks are not frozen, turn the key in the lock counterclockwise to unlock the doors to make sure that the door is unlocked before determining that it’s frozen.

person pushing on car door

Step 2: Push on the door. It may seem like a small amount of movement occurs, but ice is very brittle, and doesn’t need very much movement to shatter.

Push on the outside of the door, making sure not to cause a dent, and lean your bodyweight into the door.

Try to open the door after, but do not try to force it open. This quick little technique may completely solve the problem.

Method 2 of 5: Pour warm water on frozen areas

Materials Needed

  • Bucket
  • Warm water

If the “push and pull” method fails, that means that the door is really and truly frozen shut. To deal with this, there are a number of techniques that can be used. They are all effective, but the right method should be decided by what you have at your disposal and how frozen the door is. Here are some techniques for removing ice from a frozen door:

Step 1: Get a bucket of hot water. Common sense indicates that warm water is good at melting ice. Luckily, warm water is usually pretty decent at melting ice.

Grab a container and fill it with a warm or hot water source. You can retrieve some hot water from a faucet or bathtub, or even warm some water on a stove.

person pouring water over door

Step 2: Pour warm water onto the ice in the door. Pour warm water in a steady stream onto the ice that is jamming the door shut.

If the lock is frozen, then insert a key soon after melting off the ice, as the cold metal and air can freeze the formerly-warm water right back over the small opening for the lock.

Step 3: Push and pull on the door until it opens. Once the ice has been decreased a noticeable amount, try to work the door loose by pushing and pulling on the door until it opens.

  • Tip: This method is not advised when the temperature is extremely low (below zero degrees fahrenheit), as the water may freeze faster than it melts the existing ice.

  • Warning: Make sure the water is not boiling, the hottest water that the tap can produce will be sufficient. Boiling water can easily shatter cold glass, so avoid this at all costs.

Method 3 of 5: Melt the frozen area with a hair dryer

Materials Needed

  • Electric power source
  • Hair dryer or heat gun

A hairdryer or heat gun can be used to melt ice, but this method can have some huge drawbacks. For one, using electricity around water can be dangerous and extra care needs to be taken to ensure cords stay out of snow and water. Plastic trim and door handles can also be melted by a heat gun, and even a particularly hot hair dryer.

person using hairdryer on car door

Step 1: Use a heat gun or hairdryer. Melt the ice off of the door handle, lock, and the space between the door and body of the vehicle.

Avoid having the heat source closer than 6 inches to the ice if using a heat gun, and 3-4 inches if using a hair dryer.

Step 2: Gently try to open the door. Pull gently on the door until it can be pulled (but not forced) open. If this does not work, try out another method from this article.

Method 4 of 5: Remove the ice with an ice scraper

Most drivers who are accustomed to winter conditions have an ice scraper handy. This can be used on any ice that is present on the outside of a vehicle. Any ice that is frozen between the door and body, inside of the lock, or on the inside of the handles cannot be removed with an ice scraper. Handle ice scrapers with care because they can also damage paint and trim pieces.

Material Needed

  • Ice scraper

ice scrapers on door edge

Step 1: Use an ice scraper to scrape off exterior ice. Remove any external ice from the door, especially ice that is visible around the door edges.

Step 2: Push and pull on the door to open it. Similar to Method 1 and 2, push on the door and then try to pull it open.

If this does not work, try to scrape off any emerging ice or switch to another method if the door is still frozen.

Method 5 of 5: Apply a chemical de-icer

The last method that is known to be effective is the use of purpose-made deicing chemicals. These are often sold as windshield deicers, but automotive deicers all work on the same principle, so it can be used to remove ice from locks, handles, and the space between the door and body.

Materials Needed

spraying de-icer on car

Step 1: Apply de-icer to remove the ice that prevents you opening the door. Spray it onto the ice and wait for the amount of time stated in the directions (usually 5-10 minutes).

Step 2: Gently try to open the door. Once the ice has visibly melted away, gently try to open the door.

  • Tip: Once the door is open, immediately start the engine and run the heater/defrosters so that the unmelted ice can be broken up before the vehicle is in motion. Also, make sure that the door that was previously frozen shut can still close and latch completely.

Any method or combination of the methods above should help you resolve your frozen door issue. Cold weather conditions can cause a variety of pesky problems. If the car has a dead battery, jammed door, or other issues unrelated to ice, then no amount of defrosting will help the situation.

If you are still having trouble with the door or anything else, a mechanic from YourMechanic can come to your location to inspect your door and make the necessary repairs to have you back on the road.

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