Winter is upon us here in Devon. With some very cold temperatures and a few days below zero. That’s something we are collectively – as a country – excited about and wincing over.
At Key to My Car North Devon, we see a few cases every winter of frozen car locks. This page explains why this happens and what you can do about it.
How do car locks freeze?
In the UK, the most likely way your lock will freeze is if water gets in and then turns to ice. Other possible causes include freezing rain/fog or snow. This process holds the mechanism in place, preventing it from turning. It usually also means you can’t get the key blade in properly.These days, most people use the central locking via the fob button rather than the mechanical door lock. The mechanisms can still freeze and lock into position.
What problems and damage can be caused by frozen car locks?
In most cases, a frozen car lock itself will be fine. Unless, that is, a serious amount of damage has been done. Severe instances like this are usually caused by a large quantity of ice expanding and breaking the lock.
In these cases, you won’t be able to open the door, and you’ll need an emergency locksmith. It’s best not to risk it.
Don’t forget to investigate how so much water got into the lock. There’s probably a damaged door seal, handle or lock cover. This investigation could be carried out by an automotive locksmith or a mechanic.
Other than that, the main problem caused by frozen car locks is the inconvenience of being unable to access your car. You know it’ll only happen that morning when you’re in a massive rush, too…
How to prevent frozen car locks
Your car’s locks are most likely to freeze if they aren’t lubricated, and there’s some way for water to get into the locking mechanism.
If you’ve noticed a few early symptoms, you could coat the key blade in Vaseline and insert it into the lock. Turn it a few times to lubricate the system. When you remove it, make sure to wash the grease off the blade and the surrounding paintwork.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent your car locks from freezing is to park under shelter, well away from water, snow, wind (and its chill) and ice. If you park inside, never leave your engine running, as exposure to the exhaust fumes could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
If water’s getting into your lock, have a locksmith or mechanic investigate why it’s happening. Otherwise, it’ll simply happen again.
What to do if your car locks are frozen
In emergencies, you could spray de-icer into the locks. Use one with a long straw nozzle. Getting de-icer on the paintwork could damage it though, so wipe it off immediately and use this as a last resort. Oil-based lubricants could also damage the car’s paint.
Unfortunately, in severe cases, once the damage is done, it’s done. You’ll need a new lock.
This will be no problem for an automotive locksmith. You won’t need to go to them – they’ll come to you. They’ll swap the damaged lock out for a new one and have you on your way in no time.
Other problems with similar symptoms
On a sub-zero morning, there are plenty of similar reasons why your car door won’t open. Here are a few that spring to mind:
- Discharged (‘dead’) car battery – this powers the central locking. A discharged 12-Volt battery means your key fob won’t work. The manual mechanism should open the door in this case.
- Discharged (‘dead’) key battery – without this, your key’s fob buttons won’t open the central locking. Again, the metal blade should work in the door handle.
- Rubber seal stuck to door frame – if the rubber seal gets wet before you close the door, its surface freezes and adheres to the metal car. Give the door a gentle push (without slipping over) to free it from the ice’s grasp.
- Broken door handle – the handle itself can also break. Try getting in from another door.
Car and key batteries usually need to be replaced every two to three years. They’re standard service parts and, like all batteries, perform much worse in the cold. Don’t be too surprised if they struggle – you’ll usually notice symptoms in the preceding weeks, too.
Oh, and one last point – all cars have at least one mechanical door lock. Even new electric vehicles come with these. You usually need to pry a guard off at the handle and retrieve the key blade from somewhere hidden inside your key fob.
Trust Key to My Car to get you back on the road
If your car’s locks are failing (or you’re experiencing other problems with them or the key), feel free to get in touch with us. We’re always happy to have an obligation-free chat and explain what we can do.
Based in North Devon, we’ve been serving the local area for over a decade. If there’s anything we can do to help you with your car locks, don’t hesitate to ask.