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What to do if you accidentally lock your key fob in your vehicle

It’s something we hear less of as the old fashioned physical turn key has been replaced by the automatic key fob, but it can still happen. And when it does, nothing can make the stress levels rise like a locked vehicle with no way to get inside it.

A dog steps on the button as you are unloading or your suitcase accidentally falls on top of the fob button as you start packing to visit the airport. A host of complications can lead to standing on the wrong side of a locked car. Here’s what you can do if you accidentally lock your car key fob inside the vehicle.

Start planning ahead

It’s never a good idea to leave preparations to the last minute, and the same thing goes for locked car keys.

If you are not lucky enough to have a Smart proximity key fob or a new Tesla key card, both which make it impossible for you to lock yourself out of your vehicle because you will still be close enough to activate the ‘open’ function, you should read about the best thing to do in the circumstances. 

Many new brand cars also have apps that allow your phone to act as the key fob. These innovations don’t save you from losing the key fob device on your way back to the car or your battery from going flat, however.

Our advice is for you to get to know your vehicle before this happens. Go onto the website or watch a video about what to do during such situations - it’s a far nicer experience to watch a how-to video in the comfort of your own home with zero stress than it is to wait until the emergency actually arises!

For example, many Fords come with an optional entry door keypad. It works the same as one of those older type vehicles with non-connected, physical keys and the driver hides a spare key under the chassis with a magnet. Just hide the optional door keypad in a similar fashion if you live and park in a safe area. 

Phones acting as keys

Car manufacturers’ apps for phones have become increasingly interactive to include start functions and remote locking for capable vehicles. With some models though, the app is considered to be an add-on and you will need to register for a paid subscription before you can access it. In addition to this, you have to pair the phone to set it up with the car in advance in order to use it in this way.


Key apps on phones differ from car to car. With Tesla, you need to use a key card to authenticate yourself before it grants you access. A nice touch is that you can ‘share’ this information (similar to sending a text) with another person if you need them to access your vehicle to drive it somewhere.

What to do in emergencies if you are locked out of your car

If you happen to be in a dangerous situation, say you are stranded on the side of a road or there is a child or unconscious person in the car, you can call emergency services or roadside assistance. Police will respond the fastest after a 111 call.

Once they are notified of the emergency, the police will be able to open the car door with a steel bar or jack. You can also call a locksmith if you are close to town or smash the car window if it is safe to do so and if your windscreens don’t have special protective coating.

If your phone battery is flat in these cases or you have left your phone at home, remember to choose the smallest window to smash as these will be the cheapest ones to replace. Remember not to use any part of your body to break the glass. Try to find a rock or kick out the glass using your shoe heel. The corner of a suitcase will also be an effective glass breaker.

What to do if you can wait after locking your key fob in the car

Older vehicles are the easiest to break into. Try to keep a spare key at a friend or relatives’ house in case of emergencies. You can also contact roadside assistance, but first ascertain how long their response time will be - some companies can take hours, especially during the rush hours. 

This is generally the best option if you have accidentally locked yourself out of your car in an urban environment where you can go grab a cup of coffee or snack while you wait. If you have your phone with you, check if there is a keyfob lockout service near you. There are even some services that also offer subscriptions for such emergencies as this, the same as those mini-insurance companies that offer drive-in/drive-out scratch and dent emergency services. 

Many car manufacturers offer a remote lockout service too as part of their sales package. If they don’t, ask them if it’s an add-on you can subscribe to.

DIY for when you have locked your car keys inside your car

As we said before, there are many advice articles and online videos about how to break into your own vehicle if you accidentally lock yourself out. 

Doing this takes a lot of time to learn how to do it and even more time mastering the right method for each car you own. The lock kits also cost a fortune. If you want to try one of the more obscure methods of car lock picking, such as shoelaces, screwdrivers, and wire coat hangers, you should know in advance that these techniques can irreversibly damage your car’s locking mechanisms, which will only lead to more key fob trouble in the future.

Our advice is to proceed with caution…or just leave it to the experts.

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