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How to Open a Frozen Car Door Without Breaking Something

How To Open A Frozen Car Door
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Here are three easy methods for how to open a frozen car door quickly. Hint: None of them involves using a hammer.

You head to your car, ready to start your day, only to realize all your doors are frozen shut from ice or snow. If you live in a cold climate and can’t park in a garage, frozen car doors are inevitable. Luckily, there are a few methods to open a frozen car door.

The techniques we describe here involve dissolving ice. Typically, layers of ice form in the space between the car door and the body of a vehicle. Along with that, the actual handle or lock can freeze. Fortunately, there are tricks to unfreeze all the commonly stuck areas of your car door. The FAQ at the bottom of this article answers common questions as well as outlines some prevention tips.

If you’re an early bird by choice or by necessity, you can’t just wait until the sun decides to shine through the clouds. After extensive research, we’ve concluded that multiple approaches are equally effective.

Whether you’re reading this right now because your door is stuck, or you want to keep these tips in the memory bank, save our tips and tricks where you can find them again later.

3 Ways to Open a Frozen Car Door

frozen cars in street
(Photo/Joseph Pearson, Unsplash)

Before attempting any of these, without being too rough, try and break up the ice by applying pressure to the door. Doing so may cause the ice to fall off or crack enough for the door to open. If you have a car you can start remotely, try starting the car and waiting around 20 minutes if you have the time.

After that, if it still won’t budge, use one of these methods below to open up that frozen car door in no time.

Method 1: Warm Water

What you’ll need:

  • A pitcher, bucket, or cup
  • Warm water
  • Towel

First and foremost, when we say “warm water,” we mean warm water. Do not use boiling water! It could cause significant damage to your vehicle, including shattering your window.

Fill a pitcher with warm water and pour it over the frozen door, door lock, or door frame. Next, pour warm water around the seal of the door and the handle. Tip the water slowly and sparingly, as you may need to repeat the process depending on how much ice is on your door.

Once the ice melts fully, open the door and dry the area with a towel to prevent it from freezing again. After drying, you should be able to open the door.

Method 2: Ice Scraper

using an ice scraper

What you’ll need:

  • Plastic ice scraper
  • Elbow grease (mixed with gentleness)

Chip away the ice using the plastic scraper. Do not use anything metal or you may cause damage to the vehicle. Most ice scrapers come with a double-sided brush. The double-sided feature is a beautiful thing to have when clearing a windshield covered in snow. If you don’t own a plastic ice scraper, you can use another plastic item, like a spatula, an old credit or library card, etc.

Once you’ve chipped away enough ice, you should be able to get in your car.

Method 3: De-Icing Spray or Other Lubricant

Using De-Icing Spray

What you’ll need:

  • De-icing spray, rubbing alcohol, or Vaseline

Simply spray or apply the lubricant on the frozen area. After taking a moment for the ice to melt, you should be able to open your door.

Now You Know How to Open a Frozen Car Door

opening frozen car door

In the winter months, allow extra time to complete these methods. Keep a pitcher, a snow scraper, or de-icing spray handy for times you may need them. Your future self will thank you. Some of these incidents don’t happen at home, so be prepared ahead of time.

Along with knowing how to open a frozen car door, it’s essential to prepare for all car situations that winter months can throw at you. If you often drive in snow, it’s a great idea to have snow tires that will keep you safe during all winter driving conditions.


How Do I Prevent Frozen Car Doors?

The most foolproof way to prevent frozen car doors is keeping the vehicle out of the weather and in a garage. If you don’t have access to a garage, the next best thing is to cover your vehicle with a tarp/car cover. Covering your vehicle will keep ice off all areas of the car that tend to freeze.

In most cases, this will prevent you from even needing to use the above methods to open a frozen car door.

Some other preventative measures:

  • Place a trash bag between the frame and door so they’re unable to freeze together
  • Apply a rubber conditioner over the rubber seals (around the door) as a protectant
  • Put Vaseline on the door frame and door seal before it’s frozen
  • If applicable, replace any damaged gaskets

Does Rubbing Alcohol Unfreeze Car Doors?

Yes, rubbing alcohol is an effective de-icing method. Simply spray or wipe it onto the frozen areas. The alcohol will assist in melting the ice. But remember: Overusing rubbing alcohol can erode your car door’s rubber lining.

Can I Unfreeze My Car With Vinegar?

If you’re in a bind, and it’s for some reason your only option — yes. Vinegar can be used as a de-icer, as described in method 3. With that, vinegar leaves a nasty lingering smell and can potentially leave marks.

How Do You Open a Frozen Car Door Lock?

One method to open a frozen car door lock is by heating the key itself. You can heat the key by dipping it in boiling water or using a cigarette lighter. This method only works if you have an older car because if there are any electrical elements to your key, you don’t want to risk damage.

Hopefully this goes without saying, but be extra careful when dealing with boiling water or an open flame. To prevent your car door lock from freezing in the first place, you can put vaseline on your key and then insert it into the lock.

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