Car door frozen shut: how to open lock or doors of cars frosted over without causing damage

The quickest and safest ways to defrost an iced-up car door, handle or lock

Cold weather brings a number of challenges for drivers, from slippery road surfaces to iced-over windows and flat batteries.

Less common but no less annoying is when snow and ice freeze your car door shut or jam up a lock, leaving you standing in the cold struggling to even get into your car.

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The exact cause can vary - it could be a rubber door seal stuck to the metal by frozen moisture, an iced-up handle that can’t be loosened or even ice freezing the door to an adjacent piece of bodywork.

The best way to unstick a frozen door will vary depending on the exact problem. However, the golden rule, whatever the issue is, is don’t try to force things. Repeatedly pulling on the handle hoping to work something free might work if the frost is thin but it might damage the handle or its internal mechanism. Even if you succeed in opening the door, it could damage the rubber seal around the door.

Similarly, trying to force a frozen lock could damage the key, the lock mechanism or both.

So here are our top tips on dealing with a frozen car door or lock.

Try another door

The quickest option is to try another door. Depending on where your car is parked, one side might be more sheltered or more exposed to sunlight, making it less likely to be frozen. If you can get in another way do so then start the engine and switch on the heating. Warming the interior of the car will help thaw the frozen door.

Push, don’t pull

If your door is held shut by a thin layer of ice a firm shove might be enough to crack the ice. Put your hand flat against the door and lean with your body - you want a firm, sharp push but not a sudden slam.

Remove any surface ice

If your problem is caused by a stuck handle, try to chip off as much ice as you can using a windscreen scraper or other tool. Don’t use anything sharp as this could damage the paintwork underneath. If the problem is ice all around the edge of the door then work slowly around the door and remove as much of it as you can then try the push-pull technique.

Use a little warm water

If the ice is particularly thick or tough, try pouring some lukewarm - never boiling - water on the affected area to soften or melt it. Make sure the water isn’t too hot and once you’ve got the door open be sure to dry any wet surfaces to avoid more ice forming.

Use a de-icer spray

Chemical de-icer is usually sold as a way to clear windscreens but it can also help with a stuck door or lock. The chemicals will help break down the ice stopping the door from opening whether that’s on the handle, the lock, the bodywork or the rubber seal.

De-icer spray can help free stuck locks as well as clearing windscreens

Stuck lock

If your car needs a physical key to open and the lock is iced over there are a couple of techniques to try.

The first is a quick spray of de-icer over the surface and into the lock. You can buy special cans with a straw for this purpose but any de-icer spray will do.

You can try heating the metal part of the key with a match or lighter. It’s not an ideal solution but if you must then make sure not to overheat it - warm to the touch is fine - and make sure you keep the flame away from any plastic or electronic parts.

If you don’t have either to hand then you can try blowing warm air over the lock - just be prepared for it to take a while and do try not to get your lips stuck to the cold metal.

How to stop it your car door freezing shut

You can’t stop the cold but you can reduce the chance of your doors sticking.

The easiest way is to park your car somewhere sheltered like a garage or carport. If that’s not an option, a car cover can provide enough protection to stop your car icing up.

Alternatively, to stop a rubber seal freezing and sticking you can apply a lubricant such as a silicon lubricant or petroleum jelly (Vaseline, for example) to it. Obviously, don’t use water as a lubricant and avoid oil-based options as these can be bad for the rubber.

Similarly, put a little petroleum jelly or rubbing alcohol (a decent high-alcohol hand sanitiser will do) on the key and put it in the lock while it is defrosted. This will leave a coating inside the lock which can be enough to prevent it freezing in future.

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