|

What to do if you lock your keys in the car

You have some options to deal with this situation

Published: November 2013

Every driver dreads locking keys in a car, and the reality is, it does happen. What do you do when the keys are safe inside a locked car? Here are some options help avoid that situation and deal with it, should it happen to you.

Dial 911. Safety comes first, and if you don’t feel secure where you’re stranded, you should call 911 to get help on the way fast. In many cases, the police can unlock the car’s door. But if they can’t, they will probably call a tow truck, which will be on your tab, of course. But at least you’ll be safe.

Call for roadside assistance.
Here’s when those annual auto-club fees really pay off. AAA, Allstate, and other organizations that provide roadside service will help you, though it could take a while for them to reach you. If you don’t subscribe to such a service, you might still be in luck. Most new cars come with roadside assistance during the basic warranty period. Your owner’s manual should have the details, but of course that’s locked in the car with the keys. The number to call might be posted on a window decal. If it isn’t, you can get the details by calling a dealership. To be prepared, you should store the number in your phone or write it down on paper and keep it in your wallet or purse. What if you don’t have a new car or you don’t belong to a service such as AAA? Ask about adding roadside assistance to your auto-insurance policy. Also, some major highways are patrolled by trucks offering emergency aid. Keep an eye out for one.

Call a tow truck. If you have no free options, most towing services provide lock-out service. Call 411 for services in your area. Or text the words “tow service” and your location to GOOGL (46645).

Get a temporary key. A dealer might be able to make you an inexpensive key that will open the doors (but not start your car) so that you can retrieve your permanent keys. You’ll probably need your vehicle identification number (visible through the lower edge of the driver’s-side windshield) and to prove that you own the car. Of course, you’ll also need a ride to the dealership.

Keep an extra key handy. Stash a spare key in your purse, your wallet, or a well-hidden spot on the car. You can buy a small magnetic box that can hold a key and be placed on a car’s underside. Or leave a spare with someone who could rescue you.

Buy a car with benefits. Some cars won’t lock with the power-lock button if the key is in the ignition and a door is open. Also, many vehicles from Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury have a door-mounted keypad that lets you tap in a code to unlock the door. If you drive a vehicle with a telematics system such as GM’s OnStar, Hyundai’s Blue Link, or Mercedes-Benz’s Mbrace, you can call a toll-free number to have your car remotely unlocked. Those systems also offer free apps that let smart-phone owners unlock the doors. Check automaker websites for compatible phones and specifics.

Keyless. If you have lost the key, things get more complicated. You’re going to need a locksmith, and while the ones we spoke with said they did do emergency road service, expect to pay about $200 and up for a replacement key. Keys for some higher-end models can cost several hundred dollars and can only be purchased and programmed through a dealer. And that means an expensive trip to the dealer on a flatbed.

   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

ULTIMATE GIFT IDEAS
Make our Ultimate Gift Ideas your No. 1 holiday guideVideo Take a virtual visit of Consumer Reports’ test labs and Auto Test Center.
KIDS' TABLET REVIEWS
Kids and tech: Best tablet for your son or daughterVideo Some models for the younger set are loaded with grown-up features.
HOLIDAY GUIDE
Consumer Reports reveals its 2014 Naughty & Nice List Some company policies earn a Ho! Ho! Ho!, while others are more No! No! No!
HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS
Gadget Gift Finder helps you find perfect high-tech giftsVideo Our new interactive tool covers all the gadget geeks on your gift list.
SUPERMARKET SHOPPING
How to get a great deal on Thanksgiving dinnerVideo Prices on almost everything for the meal have dropped as the holiday nears.
PICKUP TRUCK REVIEWS
Automakers work to boost fuel economy in their pickupsVideo The 2015 Ford F-150's fuel economy tops the competitions' mpg.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more