Having your keys locked in your vehicle isn't as unlikely as you might think.
According to AAA, approximately four million Americans lock their keys in their car annually, and the resulting frustration and even potential risk of harm is just cause for angst.
What to Do When You Locked Your Keys In the Car
Know the steps needed beforehand to eliminate any anxiety triggered by locking your keys in your car, truck, or SUV. Then, take action steps to prevent locking your keys in your vehicle in the future.
Start with these moves:
Get familiar with your surroundings
When you lock your keys in your vehicle, take an immediate inventory of your surrounding area. Is there a gas station nearby? Gas stations often have the tools necessary to open locked vehicles. Are you in a sketchy area, or out on a dark, rural road? Then a call to 911 for police support is more than appropriate, especially if you believe you're in a vulnerable situation. Where you are and what time of day it is will set the stage for the next moves you make, and in what order, to unlock your vehicle.
Call AAA if you are safe
If you decide that you're in no immediate risk of danger in a locked car scenario, call AAA or other roadside service option you have and ask for help. Yes, you might have to wait for a half-hour or more for help to arrive, and you'll likely pay for the service (expect to pay in the area of $25 to $50 to unlock a car.) But you'll get your vehicle unlocked and be on your way with minimal frustration. If you have joined a roadside vehicle service program from your auto insurer, now is the time to put that program to good use.
Take advantage of technology like OnStar
In this, the digital age, there are a burgeoning number of remote keypad devices on your smartphone that can automatically unlock your vehicle. Or, with a call to a service like OnStar, a customer service representative can unlock your vehicle remotely, on a 24-hour basis (expect to pay around $200 for a remote device vehicle service company like OnStar.)
Stay prepared with a spare key
Having a spare key on hand, or at least in the hand of a friend or family member who can get it to you easily, is another good way to open a locked car. An automotive shop can also rig a small, unobtrusive metal box with a key in it to your vehicle in the event you lock your key in your car.
Check your warranty for additional options
Other, less conventional ways to unlock your vehicle include having a roadside assistance option on your vehicle in the form of a warranty. More and more, new vehicle purchases come with warranties that include servicing locked cars. Check your vehicle's warranty to be sure, or call your auto dealer. Also, having your locked car service covered by a warranty can save you from paying a tow truck operator. Additionally, high-end credit cards often come with roadside assistance. Check with your card provider and see if you're covered, or if you're eligible, for locked-vehicle servicing.
Steps to Get Help When You Lock Your Keys In Your Car
When you call a tow truck operator, your auto insurance provider, or the police, stay calm and clear and cover the following key points:
1. Let them know where you're located
Your phone GPS can provide your exact location, or you can check cross streets or familiar landmarks, like a mall or a nearby restaurant.
2. Let them know the make and model of your vehicle
Your car's manufacturer and model will not only make it easier for professional help to find you, it also gives them a heads-up on what vehicle they'll be working on, and may provide unique clues on how to best unlock the vehicle.
3. Let them know any relevant policy numbers
If you have a warranty, insurance policy or OnStar-like service, let them know your policy number or Social Security number (if needed) so they can process your call more quickly, and make sure the paperwork and any fees or charges are in order.
How to Unlock Your Car in the Event of an Emergency
If you lock your keys in your vehicle and there is a small child or pet locked inside, you'll want to act fast, especially on a hot day.
In this instance, you can't wait 30-to-60 minutes for AAA or a police officer (although it's a good idea to still call law enforcement officials - they may be minutes away.) But if you're on your own, your best option is to break the side window of your vehicle and rescue your child or pet from a potentially high-risk situation.
Why the side window? Structurally, a vehicle's side window isn't as sturdy as a laminated windshield, which is specifically designed to withstand being broken. Thus, the side window is your best bet in a dangerous situation.
Use whatever tools you have on hand to do the job. A sharp, jagged rock from the roadside or a hammer (use the claw end) from a helpful passer-by can break a car window fairly easily. Aim for the edge of the window (it's the glass' most vulnerable point) and make sure to target the window furthest away from your child or pet to minimize the danger of flying glass.