When Car Locks Go Wrong: How To Get Back Into Your Car When Winter Bites

Australia is well known for its hot summers and deserts; Australians enjoy relaxing on the weekend while sitting beside the pool and working on a tan. What some people don't realize is that in places like Victoria and Tasmania, winters can be brutal enough to bring snow and freezing temperatures. As a new resident to this area, you might find yourself in for a shock the first time you head out to your car when the rough part of winter strikes. Here are the main points you need to know about getting your car unlocked when it's chilly outside.


There are several tricks you can try to prevent your car door lock from freezing in the first place. When the weather forecast is advising the temperatures will drop, have one of these ready to put into action:

  • Purchase a standard round magnet that is slightly bigger than the lock hole, and place it over the area before you go to bed that night. Door locks get frozen when water is able to settle inside the lock, and the temperature drops low enough to solidify it. With the magnet in place, a seal is created between the magnet and the lock. This prevents any water from entering the mechanism, so no freezing can occur.
  • Vaseline (which is an oil-based product) applied to the lock weekly during winter could stop your door lock from freezing when it gets cold. Vaseline can be applied by dipping your key into it, and then inserting it into the lock and turning several times.
  • Alternatively, an oil-based spray lubricant can be purchased from your local automotive store. Choose the can that comes with a smart straw as this will guide the oil into the confined space of the lock. Both the Vaseline and the lubricant leave grease behind in the door lock mechanism, and this means moisture will drip off rather than stick and freeze.

While prevention is better than a cure, you may be discovering the problem too late to prevent it. In which case you need to switch to Plan B, and that is fixing the problem.

Defrosting the Ice

So you're running out the door to work and you discover that your car door lock is now frozen. While the idea of heading back inside and putting your pyjamas back on may be appealing, your boss is unlikely to be sympathetic to the cause. Instead, you can try one of these ideas for defrosting the ice:

  1. Spray some de-icer into the lock. Your automotive store likely stocks a de-icer product that is specially designed to thaw the lock while providing necessary lubrication to the car lock cylinder. This will stop the mechanism from being damaged by the chemical being sprayed into it. If you do not have commercial de-icer on hand, you can make your own by combining one third bottle of warm water, five drops of dishwashing soap, and two-thirds bottle of Isopropyl alcohol within a spray bottle. 
  2. The next option is to heat up the car key using a lighter or a hair dryer. Once the key is hot, try to slide it through the ice, and into the lock. Wiggle the key several times to open the door. NOTE: Be careful when moving the key so that it does not snap in half. If the key gets trapped in the lock, you are going to need an automotive locksmith to get it out. You also cannot use this method if your car key has an electronic transponder attached to it. The heat being applied could fry the internal circuitry, rendering your key useless, and a transponder key can only be replaced by a qualified auto locksmith.
  3. Aiming the hair dryer at the door lock itself is another option. However, be careful that you don't get the dryer so close to the car that it causes the paint around the lock to blister. Blistered paint needs to be removed and replaced so that it does not peel away and leave lower layers exposed to corrosion.

Preventing door locks from icing is better than having to deal with the problem if it arises. However, you are now armed with the information you need to both prevent or repair if you need to. If you suspect your lock or key have been damaged during the unlocking exercise, make sure that a locksmith check them to prevent any surprise locking problems occurring in the future.