Locked my keys in a Ford Explorer
July 28, 2006 9:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently barrowing a car from my aunt and uncle and I just managed to lock the keys into the car. They are on vacation and I can't find a spare key. I'd really rather not pay a locksmith right now (college budget) and I don't have AAA. Does any one have any tips? Is there anything I should know before contacting a locksmith, any way to keep the prices low? I'm open to any suggestions, if it were my car I'd just go in with a coat hanger, but the doors are sealed up pretty tight and I don't want hurt the car. While it's not in a bad part of town, I'm also a little nervous about leaving it for more than a night with keys laying right there (as well as my PDA and my external hard-drive, which I'd really hate to lose). Thanks in advance!
posted by chrisWhite to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total)
Your blog says you are "a visual effects student going to the Denver campus of CU ..." Are you on campus right now? If so, call the campus police. At least where I went to college, campus police all carried slim-jims to unlock people's cars, for free. They were so nice and helpful that, even when I moved off campus, I actually persuaded them a couple of times (with some begging) to drive to my off-campus apartment and unlock my car for me.
posted by jayder at 9:19 PM on July 28, 2006

Response by poster: I'm afraid not, it's not near any campuses that I can think of.

I assume normal police won't do it?

If I'm remembering correctly, when a professor of mine locked his keys in the car they wouldn't open it for him because it was an electronic lock and they could damage it that way.
posted by chrisWhite at 9:26 PM on July 28, 2006

The police should know what to do. If they can't open it they'll know who will be able to. Usually a towing company should be able to handle it.
posted by delmoi at 9:26 PM on July 28, 2006

If it's a late model Explorer, a slim jim won't defeat the anti-theft door locks. You can easily break a side window, and have it replaced by your uncle's insurance (although the claim might raise their insurance premiums). Windows get broken "by accident" in parking lots all the time. A used right window for a 2003 2 dr Explorer can be had for $89, if you can replace it yourself.
posted by paulsc at 9:37 PM on July 28, 2006

Of course this is all complicated by the fact that it's not the OP's car. That might throw a wrench into things.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:37 PM on July 28, 2006

Best answer: Do you know anyone with AAA? It covers you if you are a passenger in any car, so if you have a friend who wouldn't mind waiting for the tow truck/service tech with you, they can just claim they were a passenger and get AAA to cover it.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:40 PM on July 28, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, that may be a problem, they get back Tuesday and could take care of things then, but again I'd rather not leave it vulnerable. I'm trying to get a hold of my Uncle, if he doesn't have a spare key I'm sure he'll know what to do, he's a big car (as in Jeep, as in jury-rigging) person.

I'll talk to the police tomorrow and see if they have any recommendations.

I'm not sure what year the Explorer is, but my guess is mid-90's.

I did do some searching for a lockout kit, can you actually buy those anywhere in person? Are they even legal? I'd definitely like to lean towards the legit side of things, even if I do have to pay more.

Thanks guys!
posted by chrisWhite at 9:45 PM on July 28, 2006

I fear that what you say about the police refusing to open cars with electronic locks is true. (I'm also not sure if it's even possible anymore.) My local PD used to do it, but I don't believe they will anymore.

Rock Steady beat me to the punch: one's AAA membership is supposed to cover them even if they're a passenger. Your AAA-member-friend was travelling with you when you locked yourself out, right? *wink* However, I don't know what AAA is able to do; they could potentially be in the same boat as the police. Certainly worth giving them a call.

FWIW, I'd be furious if I lent someone my car and found that they smashed a window out because they locked themselves out. (And it'd be insurance fraud to suggest that you had no part in smashing it. And if you did admit it, I can't imagine your insurance would cover it.) If you do have to go that route, at least call the owners first.

I do worry that the fact that you're not the owner could be problematic. (Do you have the same last name?) If I were AAA, I'd be a little suspicious if you couldn't show me that it was your car. (And if I were a cop and saw you smashing out a window to get into a car that wasn't in your name...)
posted by fogster at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2006

Response by poster: Hmm, AAA sounds interesting, I'll see if I know anyone who has is. I'm signing up for it in the future ;-)

I did by the way do some searching on this, the wedge technique sound interesting, but again, with any of the manual stuff I want to be really careful because it isn't my car.
posted by chrisWhite at 9:51 PM on July 28, 2006

Response by poster: Don't worry Fogster, I'll pay the bill for a locksmith before I smashed a window in or did anything like that. They were very generous to let me use their car while they were gone, I want to be responsible with it. I don't have the same last name, but I have plenty of mutual family around if that makes a difference.

Thanks for all your help guys!
posted by chrisWhite at 9:58 PM on July 28, 2006

fogster, side windows in cars are designed to break a lot easier than windshields or back windows. They are the emergency egress method for cars that are driven into water, or that are in accidents which jam the doors. Side window glass crumbles into safe little crumbs, not jagged pieces, and is easy to vacuum out of the vehicle. Most frameless side glass can be replaced with simple tools in about 20 minutes -- its really not a big deal to repair.

And there is a fair chance that someone trying to jimmy the door or force coat hangers or other tools through it will accidently bust the window anyway. Anybody with a $3 hardware store center punch that wants that car, or the items in it, and can see the keys, is gone with it.

All things being equal, if he can't find another sure way in pretty shortly, busting the passenger window is a good move.
posted by paulsc at 9:59 PM on July 28, 2006

I can attest that unless you can prove that the car is yours while trying to break into it, you're going to get into some trouble.

Long ago, I had a car that was to be totaled out due to being in an accident a few weeks prior, and I locked my keys into my car. After an hour of discussion among my friends, we decided we would break the back window to open the back door and thusly retrieve the keys.

Long Story short, a Police Officer telling you that there's nothing illegal about breaking into your own car and that you should just keep the volume down, is hilarious.
posted by gregschoen at 10:48 PM on July 28, 2006

Best answer: If you dohave to bust a window, choose the rear passenger one. Or if you have to jimmy a lock, choose the (rear, if it exists) passenger one. If permanent damage somehow happens (my lock was never the same after AAA used a slim jim on it), you want it to be in the least critical, and least expensive location possible.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:49 PM on July 28, 2006

Guys, it's literally a 3 second effort to bust out a side window, nearly noiselessly. You walk up with one of these (spring loaded center punch, available in any hardware store) in the palm of your hand, put it on a lower corner of the window about 3 inches in from the edge and 3 inches above the door body in the side pillar corner, put your sleeved or slightly padded arm across the window in the upper 1/3 of the window (pressing very lightly on the window), and then just push the center punch hard enough to make the spring loaded center actually punch.

Pow! About 90% of the glass will pop into the vehicle immediately, with a few crumbs left on the bottom of the window, or maybe at other spots around the edge, depending on the style of molding and weatherstripping. The slight pressure of your arm on the glass, and your body in front of the window dampens most of the sound. No one that isn't directly watching the vehicle at the time you do it will even know it was you.

I keep a center punch in the glove box of every vehicle I drive, just in case I have to get out of it through the window in a bad spot. It's a commonly taught extratction technique to every fire fighter and EMT in America.
posted by paulsc at 11:08 PM on July 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

Surely the windshield is covered by insurance at no charge or a small cash fee? I'd break it.
posted by A189Nut at 2:34 AM on July 29, 2006

Dear God, AAA is only about $40 and you can call them and pay for it when they show up. Don't break a window, that's not being resourceful, just call them.
posted by dness2 at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2006

Best answer: A lot of times cabbies will have a slim jim and all the other stuff to unlock a car. Call your local cab co. and ask.

Also just try information and ask for an auto locksmith. We have a place called "Pop-a-lock" that charges $25 during the day and $35 at night. Pretty cheap compared to what they could get away with.
posted by JakeLL at 7:18 AM on July 29, 2006

dness is right. Join AAA now and have them do it. It is cheaper than getting a locksmith.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:29 AM on July 29, 2006

Does this model of Explorer have the key pad on the driver's door? If so, call your uncle and get the numbers and you're in.
posted by KneeDeep at 7:50 AM on July 29, 2006

I once locked the keys in a borrowed car, and the local fire department came and unlocked it for free. Unfortunately it was so long ago I don't remember how I thought of/was hepped to contacting the FD. Good luck!
posted by trip and a half at 7:51 AM on July 29, 2006

If AAA has issues with unlocking the car for a non-owner, try telling them that you can identify the contents of the PDA they'll find on the seat. Maybe even offer to let them hold onto the keys until your uncle gets back, and he can pick them up at the garage of whoever answers the call?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:21 AM on July 29, 2006

You can call any tow truck company and they will get the keys out for you. I did this once for $35.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:22 AM on July 29, 2006

Response by poster: You guys are awesome, I can't thank you enough for all your help!

I just drove the car home, I took a crowbar and a chisel and was able to pry one of the rear passenger doors open enough to get a coat hanger in. I had tried the hanger down the window trick to unlatch it but it had power windows and they got in the way to much. I never could get down from above the doors, but the side of the doors weren't sealed as tightly. I then used the hanger with a hook on the end to pull the lock up. This was still pretty difficult, but the rear doors have a lock that doesn't go down as far and has a lip that I was able to catch it on. If you do it this way I think all you have to worry about is patching the weather stripping if you manage to puncture it. Though I assume you could break the door if you pry it open too far.

About AAA, I had considered getting it, but I was told that they have a 6 or 7 day period after you pay that you have to wait before they help. This was only the second or third time I've done this—great timing—but I think I'll sign myself right up to AAA Monday.

Oh, another tip, a couple of friends lived near by and they drove two trashy cars over and parked on either side of me so there was a lot less chance of someone noticing the keys. Not a bad idea if you have to leave it overnight and you know anybody who has a car they don't mind leaving in a parking lot for the night.

Thanks again guys!
posted by chrisWhite at 12:30 PM on July 29, 2006

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