If you live in a northern state, there’s no question that you’re already accustomed to the cold temperatures, snow and ice that the winter season brings along with it. But winter brings other inconveniences – like poor driving conditions, ice dams, slush and, perhaps most inconvenient of all, frozen locks.
Yes, out of all things winter, there’s arguably nothing more frustrating than going to start your car in the morning only to realize that your door locks are frozen shut, or arriving home in the evening to find your front door iced over and inaccessible.
How to De-Ice a Frozen Home Door Lock
So just how do you open a frozen door lock on your home? Simply put, it’s all about bringing on the heat. Here’s what to do:
Do your best to remove ice from around the opening of the lock cylinder.
This essentially will clear a space for you to better insert the key, although the lock interior is still likely frozen. You can chip away ice from the lock cylinder opening by either using the key or a similar object – just be careful not to damage the lock itself during this step.
Heat the key
We realize that this is much easier said than done, especially if you’re attempting to re-enter the home after coming home from a day away and the likes of de-icer, a hair dryer or even a blowtorch aren’t readily available. However, one way to do it is with matches or a lighter. If those aren’t accessible, you may need to further channel your inner MacGyver and get creative.
For instance, start your car, pop the hood and then place the key on the radiator to warm up. In either of the above key heating situations, be sure to retrieve the now hot key with your winter gloves on. Then just insert it into the lock and the excess ice should melt away immediately.
How to Prevent Your House Locks from Freezing in the First Place
Although the above steps are one way to de-freeze a lock, there are also several preventative measures that you can take before the first freeze to ensure that locks are better equipped to handle freezing temperatures. For instance, moisture has a tendency to work its way into locks while it is still warm outside. Obviously, when cold weather sets in, this moisture can freeze within the lock, complicating matters.
So just how do you prevent frozen locks? For starters, you can oil them before the first frost of the year. Oiling the locks will help a thin, protective layer form over the lock’s inner workings, thereby ensuring that all internal parts are still operating adequately in the cold.
How to De-Ice Your Car Door Lock
Car door locks aren’t usually as difficult to resolve than home door locks, simply because you likely have access to a bevy of products in your home that can help adequately melt the ice in and around the lock. We should note that this is a whole different story, however, if you were to stumble upon a frozen door lock after a day at the office, after seeing a movie, etc.
Hypothetically, we’ll cover a car’s frozen lock from the perspective that you’re leaving the house and ready to head off to work in the morning. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to solve the situation so you can be on your way:
If you live in a northern state, chances are that you stock up on a few cans of de-icer during the winter months for situations like this. Spraying de-icer directly into the lock will quickly melt any ice around it.
Heat the key
Just as in a situation where your front door’s lock is iced over, heating the key when your car’s door is iced over can also pave the way to its access. You can do this with either matches or a lighter or you can boil a pot of water with the key in it to get it nice and hot. Just be sure you’re staying safe so as not to burn your hand. Use oven mitts, tongs and winter gloves when appropriate throughout the process
If the first two means aren’t an option, a last ditch resort is a hair dryer. However, this can be a bit of a chose, as you’ll also need to secure an extension cord long enough to extend from your home or an external electrical outlet to get all the way to your car’s door lock. Once you get the hair dryer operational, always be sure to block the wind with your body to ensure that the iced over door lock is receiving the maximum amount of heat possible for fast melting action.
Keep in Mind the Risks of DIY De-Icing Methods
Regardless of whether it’s your home or your car door lock that’s been iced over, there are DIY options to resolve the situation – and with little inconvenience. However, it’s worth noting that all of these DIY options also come with a risk.
For instance, heating your key to melt any ice could be dangerous if you’re not protecting yourself properly. And attempting to chip away any ice covering the lock could damage the lock in the process, leaving you with one more problem to solve after you’ve gained entry. More extreme measures like using a blowtorch could damage the lock, a car or home’s paint job and, in a worst case scenario, ignite a fire.
The bottom line is to always keep safety in mind and use extra caution when attempting to open a frozen door lock yourself. And in the event that you don’t know what to do, or don’t want to risk damaging the lock, the professionals at Great Valley Lockshop are just one phone call away and able to come out in a pinch to get your day back on track. You can reach us at (610) 644-5334 or send an email to [email protected].
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.