Nothing is more frustrating than being locked out of your own car due to losing your keys or accidentally locking them inside. Without access to your vehicle, you can miss important appointments, be stranded without transportation, and face costly fees to have a locksmith come rescue you. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid the nightmare of finding yourself key-less next to your car. This article will provide 10 useful tips to prevent automobile key lockouts and explain your options if you do end up needing to replace lost or damaged keys. Follow these simple guidelines and you should never again hear the heart-sinking “click” of your keys in the ignition as your car doors lock automatically.
Reasons Keys Get Lost or Locked In Car
Before learning how to avoid key mishaps, it helps to understand why they happen in the first place. There are three main reasons you might suddenly find yourself without your car keys:
Forgetting Where You Put Them – In your rush to get out the door in the morning or after a long day, it’s easy to misplace your keys somewhere in your home and not remember where. Kids or pets moving them around can also lead to “now where did I put them?” moments.
Accidentally Locking In Car – Many modern cars will automatically lock the doors as soon as you close them. It’s easy to accidentally lock your keys in the car if you left the engine running during a quick stop or tossed them on the seat while loading items.
Keys Fall Out of Pocket Unnoticed – Hooking keys to a belt loop or tossing them in a purse helps avoid this, but it’s still possible for car keys to slide out of your pocket undetected if they become loose.
Problems Caused by Locked Keys
No matter the reason, finding yourself without access to your vehicle can lead to much bigger headaches including:
- Missed Appointments or Events – Being unable to drive your car can make you late to important work meetings, family obligations, medical visits or any number of time-sensitive events.
- Stranded Without Transportation – Many people rely on their personal vehicles for basic transportation needs and could be left stranded without it. Even going to the store becomes impossible.
- Costly Locksmith Fees – Paying a professional locksmith to come open your locked car can cost $50-$100 or more depending on the time and complexity. Additional fees apply for making new keys.
Preventing Key Lockouts
Now let’s get into specific methods for avoiding these problems by preventing key mishaps altogether. Here are 5 smart tips for keeping hold of your car keys at all times:
Develop Key Location Habits
The best way to avoid misplaced keys is developing set routines for where you keep them:
- Designate Specific Spot at Home – Always place keys on a hook, in a bowl or other dedicated location as soon as walking in the door.
- Attach to Wallet, Purse, Belt Loop – Hook your keys to something you keep with you at all times when out and about. Retractable key chains help avoid bulk.
- Use Lanyards or Fob Pouches – Lanyards go around your neck and pouches clip to clothes to keep keys always on your body.
Following the same habits each time conditions you to put keys in familiar places without even thinking about it.
Use Technology to Track Keys
Modern technology offers clever ways to keep track of your keys using:
- Bluetooth Tracking Tags – Attach a Tile or other tracker to your key ring which lets you locate keys using your smartphone.
- Car Finder Apps – Many cars have apps that can honk your horn and flash lights to help find where you parked. Great for locating locked keys.
- Smart Key Fobs – Some digital key fobs notify your phone if you walk away without them. Aftermarket fob holders add this.
These gadgets integrate seamlessly into your daily routine while providing peace of mind.
Give Spare Key to Trusted Person
Having a backup key available can save you if you lose your main set:
- Family Member or Friend – Let them hold a spare key at their home in case of emergency lockouts.
- Hide on Your Property – Burying a spare key in your yard can work but risks theft by others.
- Leave with Property Manager – If renting, provide a spare to the landlord or building manager.
Just be sure the person is trustworthy and won’t misuse the key.
What to Do If Locked Out
Despite your best efforts, you may still occasionally find yourself locked out without a spare key. Here are smart options for getting back into your car:
Call for Help From Others
- Emergency Roadside Assistance – Many auto insurance plans include lockout service for free or cheap.
- Locksmith Services – Look for 24/7 mobile locksmiths to come to your location and gain entry.
- Friends or Family With a Spare – Have them bring the backup key you gave them earlier.
This is the easiest, lowest risk way to re-enter your vehicle.
Break Into Your Own Car
If unable to call for assistance, you may attempt breaking in yourself:
- Slim Jim Tool – Insert this simple device between car window and door to manipulate the lock.
- Wedge Open Window – Use shoelaces or door stop to create gap and use coat hanger to hit unlock button.
- Jimmy the Door Lock – Carefully apply force along door seam to pop lock, but avoids damage.
But use extreme caution and proper technique to avoid costly damage.
Avoid Damaging Your Vehicle
Before attempting to break-in:
- Only as Last Resort – First exhaust safer options above to avoid harming car.
- Use Proper Tools – Purpose-made slim jims and wedges are less likely to cause damage than improvised tools.
- Consult Tutorials – YouTube has many videos on proper techniques. Follow them closely.
With care, finesse and the right tools, you can successfully unlock your car while keeping it undamaged.
Replacing Lost or Damaged Keys
If your keys are damaged or lost for good, you will need to replace them. Here is how to get new keys made:
Get Same Key Copied
If you still have at least one working key:
- Locksmith File Code Lookup – A locksmith can use your VIN to lookup key code on file and make exact copy.
- Dealership File Code Lookup – The dealer that sold your car also keeps their own records of key codes.
This copies your existing key’s unique cuts.
Make Entirely New Key
With no working key, a new one must be programmed:
- Locksmith Programming – Locksmiths have tools to program blank transponder keys with a new code.
- Dealership Programming – The dealer will also program a fully fresh key fob or keyless entry remote.
You’ll have to erase old lost keys from car computer memory.
Key Fob Replacement
For lost keyless entry remotes:
- Dealership Reprogramming – They can pair new fob to your car and erase old one.
- Locksmith Reprogramming – Many locksmiths also have tools to sync new key fobs now.
Key fobs may be more expensive than just metal keys.
Choosing Locksmith or Dealer
If faced with lost keys or lockout, who is better – a professional locksmith or your car dealership? Consider these factors:
- Locksmith Pros – Available 24/7, arrive quickly, reasonable rates, skilled with common car models.
- Locksmith Cons – Lacks dealer computer access, some lack newer programming tools, varying skill.
- Dealership Pros – Direct access to your key codes and computer, 100% compatible tools.
- Dealership Cons – Only open daytime hours, may take time to get appointment, higher hourly rates.
Weigh convenience, availability, cost and compatibility for your car’s specific situation. Many keys today are straightforward for either to replace. But more complex electronics may require the dealership.
Losing or locking your keys in the car can happen all too easily. But being prepared with preventative habits, backup spares and understanding your options for access can allow you to bounce back quickly. Use the 10 tips outlined to stop key mishaps before they happen. And if your keys do go missing, call for assistance from others first before attempting any risky break-in maneuvers. Replacement of damaged or lost keys is a simple process – just evaluate locksmiths and dealerships to choose what works best based on your vehicle, time and budget. Following this guide will help ensure you always have they keys you need to hit the open road.