We’ve all had one of those days where nothing seems to be going as it should. To make things worse, the keys to the car get locked inside. Now, what are you supposed to do? Thousands of people reach for the fire department.
In most cases, the fire department will not unlock your car. They will refer you to a local company that can do the job for you. However, if there’s a person or an animal trapped inside, they’ll unlock it for you free of charge.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn more about what the fire department can do for your locked car, who you can call, and how you can unlock it by yourself. There are also several preventative tips, so let’s jump into it below!
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
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Locked Out of Your Vehicle
Nothing’s worse than locking your keys in the car when you’re late for work or an important meeting. Without another way to get inside, you might feel hopeless. Since the police and local firefighters are often the go-to services for problems that we deal with, it seems logical to reach out for help.
However, in most cases, police officers and firefighters won’t help with a locked car.
They’ll usually refer you to AAA or another insurance company that deals with the situation. Even if you’re not a part of their programs, you can still pay them to do the job. Most tow companies are equipped to open locked cars.
It should be noted that there are a few circumstances in which firefighters will help you with a locked vehicle. Below, you’ll find such situations.
- If there’s a person locked inside, then they’ll come out right away. Children often lock themselves inside of a vehicle on accident. If they’re under the age of 5, they might panic or have trouble finding the keys. In these situations, professionals will always help rescue and open your car. This is surprisingly common and can be quite stressful for the parents, but firefighters can help.
- If there’s an animal locked inside a vehicle, firefighters will help as well. Unfortunately, many pet owners leave their animals locked inside of vehicles on hot days. There are several state laws throughout the US that prevent such harmful acts. If you call 911, they’ll free the animal(s).
- Finally, if the vehicle is left with the engine running in a confined space, the fire department will come to unlock it for you. The buildup of carbon monoxide inside the area can be toxic. Garages, storage containers, and other small spaces are all subject to the treatment mentioned above.
Other than those circumstances, it’s unlikely that you’ll get direct help from a fire department. That being said, every city has unique laws and expectations, so it doesn’t hurt to call your local fire department’s non-emergency phone number to ask for assistance. Worst case scenario, you’ll be redirected to a locksmith or tow company.
What Do You Do If You Lock Your Keys in Your Car?
Let’s say you’re out of cell reception and you’re stuck with your keys locked inside of your vehicle. Most people would start to panic and feel like they’ll have to wait for a driver to find them. Fortunately, you can carry a few tools with you to prevent yourself from ever dealing with those problems.
Wedges are the main way that most companies access locked vehicles. They’re relatively inexpensive and readily available at almost any automotive shop.
The Big Easy is the tool we use at my fire department. It is simple to use.
Your goal is to access the door lock from the top, so you should start as high as possible. Create a small gap but wiggling the wedge in to crack between the door and the frame. Once you have a small gap, insert the wedge. The wedge can be wiggled until it creates a bigger gap. This large space is big enough for you to use the probe.
When you have the probe down to the door lock, use the hook on the end to pull the lock up, thus unlocking the vehicle. Or you can use the probe to push down on the electronic door unlock button.
Here is the tool that my department uses to get into locked cars, it’s called the Big Easy:
Note: Many modern cars will start an alarm right when the lock switches over. Grab your keys and turn it off to prevent people from calling the police on you.
Makeshift Wedge and Coathanger
If you don’t have a wedge and probe, you can carry a metal coathanger with you. Use the wedge just as you did in the previous tip. As long as the surface is tapered and dense enough to withstand the pressure, you shouldn’t have any problems. Bend the metal coathanger to fit the shape of the lock, pull it up, and you’ll have access to your vehicle.
Call for Help
If you’re within the reception range, it’s almost always better to have professional unlock your vehicle. It’s hard to do, especially if you haven’t tried it before. You could scratch the paint or damage the interior of your car. Let the pros handle it and you won’t have to pay for unwanted damages.
Of course, the best way to unlock a locked vehicle is to never have it happen in the first place. You might not be able to do it right now if you’re in this situation, but try to follow the preventative advice below to never deal with it again.
- Keep a spare key in your wallet, purse, or pocket. Many of us have one of the three that we can use to hold another key. Replicating a car key is useful, as you’ll save tons of money from having to call locksmiths and other companies to come out to you. Not only that, but you’ll also save plenty of time.
- Make a habit of putting your keys in your pocket before you leave the vehicle. It might sound simple, but forming habits can be done in as little as 21 days. Once you have it down, you’ll never have to worry about locking your keys in the car again.
- Take advantage of keyless entry remotes. Most modern vehicles can start with the push of an ignition button rather than turning on the ignition with a key. If your car works this way, always leave your keys in your purse or pocket.
- Leave a key somewhere on the exterior of your car. Some people leave it in the wheel well attached with glue or a key sleeve, while others hide a spare on the outside of the gas cap. Here is a great magnetic, secret key holder to hide a spare key safely where no one will find it.
- Lock your doors when you get inside your car. Most vehicles won’t unlock until you take the keys out of the ignition, while others unlock right as you do it anyway. It’ll be a good reminder to grab your keys before you get out of your vehicle, preventing you from calling for help.
Locking your keys inside of your car is never fun. However, there are plenty of services and tools that you can use to open your vehicle and get your keys. The best way to deal with the situation is to remain calm and follow everything that you’ve read throughout this post. Remember that prevention will allow you to never deal with the consequences.
If you’re still concerned about local laws, call the city’s non-emergency phone number for information. Don’t call the emergency number (911 in the US), just the city number. You can also call your city’s office if they have their phone line listed to the public.