You get to your car with an armful of groceries, toddler by your side, and then your heart drops. You don’t have your key. Are they in the grocery store? Then you see them – dangling from the ignition. What do you do now?

While there is never a good time to lock yourself out of your vehicle, it always seems to happen at the worst possible time. It’s easy to panic at a time like this, but it’s important to stay calm and not make the situation worse.

Do Not Break into Your Vehicle

If you are in a rush, you may be tempted to break into your own vehicle. Don’t fall into the temptation. Performing this maneuver on your vehicle can cause expensive damage and chip the paint.

Steps to Take Instead

1. Check all the doors

Before panicking, check to see if all the doors are in fact locked, including the rear door or hatch on SUVs or hatchback vehicles. You may be able to save yourself some trouble if you find a way into the vehicle.

2. Call someone for help

You may have different options for who to call during this situation. If you have a spouse or roommate at home to bring you a spare key, try that first. But if you’re far from home or no one is available to bring you a key, you may need to enlist professional help.

The best option in this situation is to call a tow truck directly. Tow truck companies will always have someone available to respond right away, which also makes it the fastest option for receiving help. Once the tow truck driver arrives, they will use professional tools to open the vehicle without damaging it.

Calling the police or 911 is also an option, but only if you feel you are in immediate danger. When police officers respond to these types of calls, it is usually just to provide safety while a tow truck arrives.

3. Wait for help in a safe place

You may be tempted to wait next to your car, but a busy parking lot can be dangerous, especially if you’re with children. The safest place to wait for help is in a well-lit area away from traffic. Try to find a well-established business nearby where you can be among people.

When the tow truck arrives to help, it should be a quick process of opening your vehicle. The driver will have tools available to unlock your door immediately, sending you quickly on your way. This method of unlocking a vehicle is fairly inexpensive, but make sure you receive a receipt from your driver. Some auto insurance companies will reimburse you the cost of the visit.

Prevention is key

The best way to deal with having your keys locked in your vehicle is to have a few different backup plans in place. Keeping spare keys on hand or buying a new car with assistance systems can save you a lot of trouble.

Keep a spare key

Having more than one spare key is a practical and inexpensive method of handling this situation. Most owners keep a standard spare key at home, but if your keys are locked in your vehicle away from home, this is not helpful. Have another spare key made, and keep it in your wallet or purse at all times.

Never leave your keys in the vehicle

Leaving your keys in the vehicle is a bad habit that will almost always lead to a driver inadvertently locking their keys in the car at some point. Some car owners will leave their keys in the vehicle at home, or while they quickly run into a store. If you get into the habit of removing your keys from the vehicle each time you exit, you’ll have less of a chance of locking yourself out.

Buy a new car with built-in assistance systems

Certain vehicle models incorporate different options for preventing this situation. Keyless entry is a popular option that involves a fob remote that doesn’t require an actual key. The vehicle is started by a push ignition, not the traditional key turning. Fobs are especially handy because they can remain in your purse or pocket, which eliminates the chance of locking your keys inside the vehicle.

Another option found on some vehicle models are services such as OnStar. These satellite systems are built into the vehicle and require a subscription. With an active subscription, you can contact the company for roadside assistance or remote vehicle unlocking.

Some vehicles also have keypads, which will let you unlock your door using a code rather than a key.

Join an auto club

Many auto clubs offer cost-effective memberships, which are sometimes further discounted by insurance companies or employers. Auto clubs offer roadside assistance, which typically includes vehicle lock-outs, in the price of their annual membership.

If you find yourself locked out, Henry’s Towing is never more than a few minutes away. Call us at 417-882-4559.