Be Your Own Locksmith

Drive long enough, and it’ll happen: Your car door will swing shut right as you realize that you left the keys inside.

It’s a frustrating problem, to say the least, and it’s often expensive. Locksmith rates can range from $35 to $150, depending on location, day of the week, and time of day. The good news is that with the right tools and a little patience, you can usually open your car door on your own.

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iStock

Before choosing a lock-picking method, identify the style and placement of the locks in your car. Vertical and horizontal locks require different opening techniques and tools. Once you’ve determined your lock position, here are a few ways to get back in.

A Piece of String

Yes, you might be able to open the door with a piece of string. You’ll want to use string that’s sturdy enough to work through the car’s door jamb. Cut off about six feet of string, then tie a slipknot in the middle of the piece.

Start working the piece of string into the top corner of the car window. Work the slipknot loop in first, then gently move the string back and forth down towards the lock.

Carefully position the loop over the lock, then pull the ends of the string tight. The loop should tighten around the lock, allowing you to unlock the door by pulling the string up. Be aware that this technique only works on vertical locks.

The Hanger

If your car has horizontal locks, you’ll have to use a sturdier tool. A wire hanger can work well, although it might damage your vehicle’s trim if you’re not careful. Still, a damaged window seal is much less expensive than a broken window, so this method is worth a shot.

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The Mellin Patch

To begin, cut the hanger and flatten it out into one long, straight piece. Next, bend one end into a medium-sized hook. After shaping the hangar, slip it into the car. To give yourself enough space to get the hanger inside the vehicle, use some kind of wedge in the door jamb.

Once you’ve worked the hanger inside, slowly move it down towards the door handle or the lock. Use the hooked end to latch onto your target and pull.

Another Hanger Method

Depending on your vehicle make and model, you might be able to use a hanger to work under the window. This requires the same set-up as the other technique: a straightened hanger with a hook at one end.

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iStock

Instead of going in through the door jamb, however, you’ll slide the hanger in between the window and its weather stripping. Once the hanger is past the stripping, move it towards the bottom of the car door. You’ll have a higher chance of success if you stay close to the lock, so don’t start fishing around the middle of the door.

Turn the hook so that it faces the inside of the car, then slowly move up. Again, your goal is to hook the hanger on the locking mechanism.

Once you get inside, why not clean your car? Here are a few tips to get you started.