I went to another country by train and I left my car in a parking space at the train station. Yesterday I came back at night and my car was frozen.

My car has a manual key system where you have to turn it left or right to open it (not auto opening system).

After spending 4 hours in the cold, I was able to go inside.

How to open a door in such a situation where I do not have access to warm water, power supply, or any accessories? Traveling does not permit carrying any kit or accessories, as I did not expect the surprise.


5 Answers 5


I hope this is obvious - but you don't mention it in your question: Try all the doors and the boot first. I've usually found that one of the doors will open in this situation. If you have to enter the car via the boot then it's got to be easier to sit in the (relative) warm with the engine running while the car warms up.

If you have to open a frozen lock, clearly, you will need to provide external heat in some form. If you have a lighter or a box of matches, that's excellent, otherwise the only source of heat is from your own body. You need to warm the key as much as you can before inserting into the lock, maybe put it in your mouth.

Once inserted into the lock, you will likely have to provide further heat to defrost the lock and allow it to turn. Remove the glove from one hand and grasp the key tightly to transfer heat to the key. Keep trying to turn the key. Regularly swap hands as your hand gets too cold, putting the cold one in your pocket. Use your body to shield your hand and the lock from the wind. This should work within about 10 minutes or it won't work at all and you will definitely need an external source of heat.

Once the lock is open it's likely that the door seal itself will also be frozen so you still can't pull the door open. I've always found that it's best to pull fairly gently on the door - but to keep the pressure applied for about 20 seconds. This seems to cause "micro-fractures" in the ice, which eventually means that it fails and the door opens. This is less effort than trying to force the door open - and means less chance of damage to the rubber seal.


In the olden days before I got a car with a remote unlocking I had similar problems. I used to carry a cigarette lighter with me and I'd use it to heat the metal part of the key then insert it into the lock. It would sometimes take a while to get it into the lock if the tumblers had frozen and wouldn't let the key slide in, but once the key was in the lock things proceeded much faster

You might need to repeatedly heat the key to transfer sufficient warmth to the lock in order to get it to turn

If you have more patience, or no cigarette lighter, look for other heat sources, including your own hands/other body parts. You can additionally try placing your hand on the lock itself and waiting longer, for your body heat to warm the lock internals and melt any ice trapped in there

If you're more well equipped you might be able to find some dedicated lock de-icer. In colder countries de-icer is commonplace in shops, supermarkets and auto accessory stores. It's an aerosol or spray bottle of ethylene glycol solution that will melt ice by lowering its freezing point to below the ambient temperature, causing the ice to thaw. Even if you can't find an aerosol that has a straw nozzle that you insert into the lock you should be able to get similar success using the key to hold open any flap on the lock that tries to keep out water etc; insert the key just enough then spray the de-icer down the side of the key

Of course, if it's so cold the lock is frozen there is also a chance that the door seal rubber will have frozen to the door making it difficult to open; take care not to wrench the handle off. I normally find the best technique for a frozen shut door is to alternately pull and push the door. If you have a source of warm water, pouring it down the gap will help, resist the urge to use boiling water for a fast result though!


You can find keychain lock deicers on Amazon and other sites, a small canister of deicer can fit in your coat pocket.

If you are ever caught without these, go to a drug store and get rubbing alcohol, or a liquor store and get something that is at least 100 proof, nothing sugary, or you'll have other problems. partially insert your key, and pour the alcohol into the lock.


I just moved to a cold area. A weather announcer on TV said that if your car windows have ice on them, spray them with rubbing alcohol. That melts the ice because rubbing alcohol freezes at a very very low temperature, much lower than water.

You may be able to use this trick on your door lock. Find a pharmacy nearby that sells rubbing alcohol, or even a liquor store where you can buy a small cheap bottle of high proof regular alcohol. Pour the alcohol around the lock. It may be able to melt the ice.

NOTE: I am not an expert in this. If other users have tried this and gotten bad results, I will delete this answer.

  • Look for the purer alcohol (say 90%) rather than the watered down rubbing alcohol. Put some on the key, insert it, try to turn it, and repeat until it opens. WD-40 sprayed into the lock might work even better. Feb 19, 2023 at 3:51

If I suspect freezing weather ahead, I strip the glove compartment and car of anything valuable and leave a rear door unlocked.

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