A spare key is one of those things that never seems like a huge deal until you need it. If you’ve ever lost your keys, had them stolen, or locked yourself out of your house or car, you know how difficult and embarrassing it can be trying to get your door open.
So, how would you open your car door without a key? And what about if you’re locked out of your house? Here are a few workarounds to help you get back in when you’re locked out.
Unlocking a Car Door Without a Key
The locking mechanisms on different types of cars vary pretty widely. All newer models have power locks with remote controls to open them, but older cars open only manually. Also, some vehicles have the locking knob on the inside top of the door by the window, and others have it by the handle, which can change which way you go about it.
Car Door Method #1: Use Your Shoestring
The first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It sounds too good to be true, but the car-opening tool you’re most likely to have on you at any given time is a shoestring. Unfortunately, this method only works on locking mechanisms that unlock by pulling up.
You’ll need to tie a small loop in the middle of the shoelace that can be tightened, then work the string into the door, pull the loop tight around the lock, and pull it up. It may take more than once if you are not a pro like this guy, but it should work nonetheless.
Car Door Method #2: Use a Coat Hanger
This is one method I’m pretty familiar with—I remember watching my dad use a coat hanger to unlock his car a few years back. I will say that it took him a pretty long time, but he eventually got it, saving him a call to the local locksmith and probably a hundred bucks or so.
You’ll need a wire hanger so you can untwist it and make a hook that goes inside the weather stripping in the window. From here, you just have to jiggle it around until you find the locking mechanism. It may take some time, but it’s worth the trouble when you’re desperate.
This method works with horizontal locks as well.
If you prefer plastic clothes hangers over metal, then you might want to try some other options…
Car Door Method #3: Use a Rod & Screwdriver
All you need is a Phillips head screwdriver, a steel rod, and 30 seconds. Any long and sturdy pole-type instrument will do, so depending on how much junk you have lying around, you may be able to find a good substitute.
WARNING: Using any metal object to pry the door open can cause damage to your exterior and interior, so be cautious using this method.
If you don’t have the proper tools, it’s still a lot cheaper to buy them if you’re lucky enough to be stuck near a hardware store, rather than waiting around for a tow truck.
Car Door Method #4: Use a Slim Jim
No, not the beef jerky kind of Slim Jim. You’ve probably seen the car version of a slim jim used in hundreds of movies by thieves and for impromptu car break-ins, but it’s not just a Hollywood thing—it actually works.
Again, this particular method requires an older style lock.
Car Door Method #5: Use an Inflatable Wedge
Using an inflatable wedge like Donnie Smith does avoids damaging the paint on your car and uses air to force the door open versus a metal object like the screwdriver shown above. Once the wedge creates enough space for an access tool to be inserted, all you need is patience and an accurate hand.
You can find an inflatable wedge, the access tool, or a complete toolkit with a simple Google search. If you think this is going to be one-time lockout, you may want to try one of the other ways, since these tools can be kind of expensive.
Car Door Method #6: Use a Strip of Plastic
Aside from the inflatable wedge, Donnie also recommends using a plain old piece of plastic to get the job done. It’s pretty much just a long plastic strap which is bent in half and slid through the crack of the door.
This method works for the pull-up type locks.
Car Door Method #7: The Hail Mary (AKA Tennis Ball)
In one of the coolest (and most debated) methods for unlocking a car door, a simple tennis ball could do the trick.
You’ll need to make a hole in the ball, so a heated electric drill or screwdriver would do the trick. Place the tennis ball, with the hole over top of the keyhole, and push. The pressure created in the ball will force your car to unlock…or so they say.
This tennis ball method has more than a million views on YouTube, but does it actually work? The guys over at MythBusters decided to test it out for themselves.
As you can see, there are plenty of arguments on both sides of the debate around this method. If you want to find out whether or not it actually works, the best way to do so is to try it out. Let us know in the comments if you have any luck.
Car Door Method #8: Just Call AAA
If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help. AAA is probably the most well known car assistance provider in the nation. If you have the service already, you can call and have someone come and help you within half an hour. Even if you don’t have the service, if you’ve got the cash you can call in, create a membership, and have someone at your car that same day.
Car Door Method #9: Use Police/Security Assistance
I recently locked my keys in my truck when I was visiting my old university. I called the public safety department and an officer came and opened my door using a car opener tool kit. It was as easy as that. Thankfully, I was dealing with an organization I knew and they weren’t busy at the time.
Calling the police is another possibility, but not one I would try unless you have no other options. While plenty of officers have the tools to help you, it’s never a high priority and you could be wasting valuable time by calling in. However, if you feel like you’re in danger by staying where you are, they may be more willing to help.
Unlocking a House Door Without a Key
For locks on houses and other types of doors, the method depends on the type of lock. Older locks are typically easier to open without a key, while newer ones can be a bit more tricky.
House Door Method #1: Use a Bump Key
Bump keys are specially crafted keys that are used to unlock pin based locking systems, which are used on the vast majority of homes. Most pin systems are spring-loaded and the ridges of the keys press against the corresponding pins, which then unlock the lock.
Bump keys are usually used for common home locks, since most of these use a single-sided key. Since most cars have a double-sided keys, these bump keys are usually not as effective on them. Check out this tutorial to find out how to make and use a bump key.
House Door Method #2: Use a Professional Lock Pick Tool
If you have a lock pick set, you can use it to break into your own house, as long as you know how to use it. You can buy a cheap set online, but if you don’t want to spend any money or don’t have the time to wait, there are a few ways to make your own.
House Door Method #3: Use Paper Clips
If you’ve got a couple of paper clips, you can turn them into a lock pick using a basic multitool.
House Door Method #4: Use a Butter Knife
A butter knife can also be turned into a makeshift lock pick. Check out the video below to see how.
This is only the first part of the tutorial, but you can find the rest here.
House Door Method #5: Use Bobby Pins
And of course, you can’t talk about lock-picking without bringing up the humble bobby pin. It’s one of the most common household items that can be used to pick many different types of locks.
However, if you don’t have a female in the house, you might not actually have any bobby pins lying around, so you might want to try out the butter knife or paper clips method.
House Door Method #6: Use a Credit Card
If you’re trying to get through a door with a standard spring lock—not a deadbolt—you can use a credit card or other flexible plastic card to open it. Just wedge the card into the gap between the door and the frame and bend it away from the knob.
If it’s the right kind of lock, it should come right open.
If Worse Comes to Worst, Just Call a Locksmith.
If none of these methods work, the local locksmith will be fully equipped to help you get back into a locked house or car. Just remember to call around, because locksmith pricing varies pretty widely, and you could wind up paying 60 bucks for something that could’ve been done for 20.
Other Ways to Unlock Locks Without Keys
Not trying to get inside a car or house? You can break into padlocks using a beer can shimmy, bust into suitcases using a pen, decipher combinations on Master combo locks, brute-force your way in to American combo locks, and even break into safes with a little know-how. For more information on this hacks, check out our previous guide on breaking into locks.
Know of any other cool methods for opening a car or house door without a key? Let us know in the comments section.