Is there anything that will leave a pit in your stomach like realizing you left your keys in the car just after you shut the door? The mixture of embarrassment and panic as you suddenly realize your entire day has just been entirely rearranged? The self-directed frustration, furious that you could ever be so silly?
Don’t feel so bad, getting locked out can happen to anyone. What matters is how you deal with it. Keep calm and remember these tips to making the best out of a bad situation.
Check all the doors
This might seem obvious, but when you’re panicking it can be easy to overlook the obvious. Go around and make sure every door to be sure none of the others are open. What seems like a hopeless situation can turn into a funny story later if you discover the passenger side was still open and clear.
While you’re at it, check EVERY pocket for your keys. Most of us have one particular pocket we like to keep our keys in, but there are always times they might be put away somewhere else. Were you carrying a bunch of stuff earlier and put them in your other pocket? Did you slip them into your jacket? Did you pass them to your spouse earlier? Be sure to eliminate every possibility before sounding the alarms.
Assess the situation
Okay, bad news, none of the other doors were unlocked and you’ve checked every conceivable pocket, purse, and bag on you and the keys are definitely not on you. It’s time to take a good look at your situation. If it’s a nice day and you’re on your own, this doesn’t have to be that bad of a time. But if it’s cold, raining, or you’re taking care of children, you need to be aware of your surroundings. See if there is a local coffee shop or fast food place you can take shelter in. If it’s late and near closing time, speak with someone in a local store and let them know about the situation and that you need help, this is especially important if you don’t have your phone on you or if it’s out of batteries.
Is there a spare?
Giving a trusted relative or friend a spare set of your vehicle keys can be an absolute lifesaver. This is really a favour you can do for yourself that you’ll be thankful for when you really need it and by far the happiest version of this story. You lock yourself out, give your loved one a call, and 20 minutes later they’re bringing you your key and you’re making plans for coffee.
If you’ve thought ahead and given someone a spare, you’re way ahead of the game. If you haven’t done that, maybe you should think about doing it right now.
Okay, so you don’t have anyone you can call, it’s time to start thinking about "Plan B.”
You might be tempted to try something with a coat hanger, or shoelace, or some other trick you vaguely remember from a movie. By and large, we wouldn’t recommend this. For one, it’s just frustrating: This isn’t something that is easy to do (there is a reason locksmith is a skilled trade) and it’s especially unlikely you’ll be able to pull it off while panicked and upset. Two, you’re likely to damage your vehicle. And three, if you have a vehicle made within the last 15 years, it’s very unlikely any of those old tricks would work even if you were an experienced hand. Most of those familiar tricks relied on accessible post style locks or upward positioned latches on the inside of the door, and the vast majority of modern vehicles no longer use either of these mechanisms.
You’re likely better off calling for roadside assistance. If you have a membership in an organization such as CAA, you likely have lock-out protection as part of your package. Depending on your vehicle, it’s entirely possible they’ll be able to open your doors right there in the parking lot (and without bending anything or scratching up the paint).
Of course, if you do get assistance, make sure you actually find your keys in the car before the tow truck leaves. If you’ve completely misplaced them (maybe they fell out of your pocket, maybe you left them in a restaurant somewhere), you’ll likely need a tow anyway.
If you’re not a member of a roadside assistance program, you might think about calling a proper locksmith. Before you do that though, ask how much it will cost. It may be cheaper to call a cab or ride service, go home, and get a spare set than to call a locksmith to your location (might be faster too depending on the season and how busy the ‘smith is).
What if it is an emergency?
Okay, nightmare scenario time: What if you lock yourself out and your beautiful puppy is locked in? What if you lock yourself out, and suddenly your mother needs her heart pills, or your child needs her epi-pen? No, this is not particularly likely, but when bad luck strikes, it usually strikes hard. This is when you might consider breaking a window.
Unfortunately, breaking a window is not as easy as it looks. If you want to horrify yourself, (VIEWER DISCRETION) watch this clip of a 266 pound wrestler breaking his fist when he accidently tries to punch out a pane of real glass instead of the rigged stunt window. If a giant like that can’t do it without hurting himself, the odds are not good for you or me.
Don’t even attempt to kick out or elbow through the glass, that’s a fast way to dealing with two emergencies. Instead, find something sharp and solid, ideally something ridged with a fine point where the impact can be focused. A screwdriver would be fantastic, if that’s not available, a tire iron, hammer, or anything else you can give a good swing will do. If there is a pet or passenger in the car, be sure to target the window furthest from them and be careful of shattered glass. If there is no possibility of you finding a tool or breaking the window yourself, call the police for assistance. The police have specialized glass breaking tools for exactly this kind of emergency, so don’t be too proud or embarrassed to call.
Again, this is a last-ditch solution to an immediate emergency. Unless the situation is truly dire, you shouldn’t even consider breaking a window.
Locking yourself out of your car is never going to be fun, but by keeping calm and looking at all of the possible solutions, it doesn’t have to be a complete disaster.