How to Open the Door of a Car Without a Key

Updated April 17, 2017

Being locked out of your car is frustrating. So what do you do? Locksmiths are an expensive option but insurance policies often have coverage for such eventualities as being locked out of the car. Though disappearing rapidly, there are also still a few hometown police departments that have the tools to let you in. Be certain that your choice to try to gain access to the car yourself is worth the potential risks of damage you might cause by making the attempt on your own.

Evaluate. You have several options. Call a professional, call the police, or do it yourself. Decide which is the most economical.

Preparation: Unless you have a professional tool, you will need to find a substitute. Doing so can be the difficult. The tool must be stiff enough to sustain the pulling action required to raise the locking mechanism which permits the door to open. The best option is an old-fashion wire coat hanger. The newer, cheaper thin-wire hangers are not strong enough to withstand the pull.

Door Entry: Within the door is a metal trigger that, when raised or in some cases lowered, will move the lock to open position. Locate the trigger with your tool and raise or lower it to gain entry.

Method. Untwist the wrapped metal at the top of the hanger, below the hook, and straighten the wire. Create a hook on the end of the wire. Place a slight bend in the wire to create an angle. This will allow sufficient mobility of the wire to locate the trigger. Standing beside one of the front car doors, pry the rubber away from the bottom of the window. Slide the tool into the cavity of the door. The trigger mechanism is located in the centre of the door about a third of the way from the door opening. This will vary with depending on the model of the vehicle. Slide the tool in deeply, rotating the tool hook toward the inside of the car. When you think you have located the mechanism jerk the tool upwards with some force and pull. Watch for lock movement. Triggering the device is largely trial and error. Keep trying.

Alternatives: With some cars, it is easier to hook the inside looking mechanism with your tool and pull it until the door unlocks. To do this, the tool must enter the car from the top of the door, sliding the tool down the side of the window to a reachable distance. Electric locks can often be triggered even when the car is off by hitting the button. A boot lever or button, if triggered, allows access to some cars through the back seat by popping the seat attachments loose; they are usually small plastic grips.


A spare key in a magnetic box or at home may be a lifesaver. Having someone bring you a key will avoid possible paint scratching, and headaches. Another option is to carry a second car key in a different trousers pocket or another section of your purse.


The process is tedious and can cause more damage than it is worth. Prevention is still the best policy.

Things You'll Need

  • Stiff, old-fashion metal coat hanger
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About the Author

Michael L. Harris, an Indiana-based freelance actor/writer/filmmaker, has been published in "Keeping the Faith—Best Indiana Sermons" and in "Bluegrass Unlimited." His most recent film, "Samuel—A Journey of Discovery," released to festivals in 2010. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brigham Young University, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ball State and is certified as a paralegal.