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Not everybody has a warm garage to park their car, truck or SUV. In fact, according to AAA, more than 75% of cars, trucks and SUV's in the United States are parked outdoors. A major inconvenience that people who live in cold weather climates deal with occasionally are frozen car door locks. Temperatures below zero combined with rain, ice, and snow can result in your locks becoming frozen over or frozen internally. When this happens, your key may not be able to enter the lock or turn it to unlock the vehicle. For vehicles with remote door locks, this function might also be disabled due to the frozen locks.
So, if this happens to you – what should you do about it? Noted below are a few tips of what to do and more importantly; what NOT to do anytime you experience a frozen door lock.
First - What Not to Do
The normal though process is that if something is cold and frozen, adding heat will instantly resolve the problem. However, with door locks, this could actually backfire. There are two things in particular that you should NOT do to resolve a frozen car lock.
*DO NOT pour hot water over the frozen door lock *DO NOT use a flame to heat the door lock.
Although it is possible that doing this will unfreeze the lock in some cases, it can also damage the lock and the seals that surround the lock. The hot water may also quickly freeze inside the lock, especially in extreme cold.
Another common "quick fix" that car owners will attempt is to try and force the lock open with other objects. You can end up breaking a door handle or other components and be left with an even bigger problem.
Steps to Opening a Frozen Car Lock Correctly
There are a few things you could do before calling the professional mechanic to replace the frozen door lock cylinder. One of the easiest ways to get inside your vehicle is to try another door. Much of the time, only one lock will be frozen and you can access the inside of the vehicle through the passenger or back doors. If you have remote door locks, and the driver door will not open, but others will, then it is likely that only the door cylinder on the driver door is frozen. In most cases, the door that is on the receiving end of the blowing snow or ice is the one that will become frozen.
If all of your doors are frozen, you can spray some de-icer on the lock. This generally works to loosen the ice within a few seconds. If you are at home and don’t have a de-icer, you can use a hair dryer to warm up the lock. Once the ice melts, the lock will turn.
To prevent your locks from becoming frozen, you can cover the vehicle before it rains or snows. Also, avoid washing your car when the temperature is cold enough to freeze the water before it dries.
If you are in a situation where you can't unlock the door, contact a professional mechanic or your insurance company. In many cases, insurance policies include roadside assistance; which should include helping to unlock a frozen door.
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