How to Retrieve Your Keys from a Locked Car

Locking your keys in your car can be one of the most frustrating and stressful experiences, especially if you’re in a hurry or stranded in a remote location. It’s a common mistake that can happen to anyone. Fortunately, several methods and solutions exist for retrieving your keys from a locked car.

This blog will explore some of the most effective and safe ways to retrieve your keys from a locked car, including using a slim jim tool, a coat hanger, a shoestring, a tennis ball, and more.

We’ll also provide tips on how to prevent this from happening in the future. Whether you’re a first-time offender or a seasoned key-loser, this guide will provide the tools and knowledge you need to quickly and safely retrieve your keys and get back on the road.

retrieve your keys from a locked car

1. Try to Assess the Situation

When you realize you’ve locked your keys in your car, it’s critical to maintain your composure and thoroughly evaluate the situation. Rushing or feeling anxious might cause fast judgments to be made, endangering you or your car.

Take a few deep breaths and attempt to recall if you have a spare key or if someone else has one in your automobile as the first step.

The next step is to scan the area for any open windows or doors that you can utilize to get into the vehicle. If you have a keyless entry system, see whether you can use your smartphone or key fob to remotely open the doors.

2. Call For Assistance

If you don’t feel comfortable attempting to retrieve your keys yourself, you can call for assistance. Depending on your situation, you can call a friend or family member who may have a spare key or a towing service to transport your car to a nearby mechanic or dealership.

In addition, some auto insurance plans may provide roadside assistance, including car key repair and retrieval services. Check your policy or contact your insurance provider for more information.

Remember, it’s essential to prioritize your safety and the safety of your car. Avoid using force or damaging your car to retrieve your keys, and consider calling a professional locksmith or towing service for assistance if necessary.

3. Check for Any Open Windows or Doors

Check all doors and windows, including sunroofs and rear windows. If you find an open window or door, use a coat hanger or a long tool with a hook to reach in and grab your keys. Be careful not to damage the window or door or harm yourself while attempting to retrieve the keys.

If you can’t access your car through an open window or keyless entry system, it’s time to consider other methods for retrieving your keys.

4. Contact a Professional Locksmith

Call a professional locksmith for assistance if you can’t get into your car using open windows or keyless entry. Locksmiths are skilled at removing keys from locked automobiles without harming your car.

Have your driver’s license and vehicle registration on hand to show ownership of the automobile before calling a locksmith. Moreover, locksmiths could demand evidence of insurance.

Remember that calling a locksmith may be costly and that costs may change according to where you are located and the time of day. It’s a risk-free and dependable method of getting your keys without harming your automobile.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that some auto insurance plans include locksmith services in their list of roadside assistance benefits. For more information about the services you may access and whether you are covered, check your policy.

5. Use a Slim Jim Tool

One of the most popular and efficient techniques for obtaining keys from a locked automobile is using a Slim Jim tool. But if you’re not familiar with this instrument, it’s advised that you leave it to the specialists, as it takes some expertise and talent to utilize it effectively.

A Slim Jim is a long, flat, and flexible tool inserted between the car window and the weatherstripping. Once inside, the tool is used to manipulate the lock mechanism and unlock the door. It’s important to note that this method only works on older vehicles with manual locks and may not work on newer cars with electronic locks.

Avoid damaging the weatherstripping or scratching the paint of the automobile if you do decide to use a Slim Jim. Also, it’s critical to avoid pushing the tool too deep since this might harm the lock mechanism and make it harder to unlock the automobile.

It’s important to note that in some jurisdictions, it is against the law to use a Slim Jim to unlock a car without the necessary authorization. So be sure to reserve its use for reasonable situations, like getting your keys out of a locked car that belongs to you.

6. Use a Coat Hanger or Shoestring

A coat hanger or shoestring can also be used to unlock a locked automobile and get the keys out. These techniques work well for vintage cars with manual locks and a tiny space between the window and the door frame.

Straighten a coat hanger out and make a hook on one end to utilize it. Next, try to catch onto the lock mechanism with the hook placed between the window and the weatherstripping to pull it up and open the door.

If you’re using a shoestring, tie a little knot in the center and slide it between the window and door frame. Then, attempt to get the knot onto the lock and pull it up to unlock the door.

7. Use a Tennis Ball

Using a tennis ball to unlock a car is a popular myth that has been circulating for years. The idea is to create a small hole in the ball and place it over the lock. Squeezing the ball is supposed to create air pressure that will unlock the car.

However, this method has been debunked by numerous experts, including the MythBusters TV show. They found that the air pressure created by squeezing the ball was not sufficient to unlock the car. It’s more likely to damage the lock or the window than to open the door.

Therefore, it’s recommended that you do not attempt to use a tennis ball to unlock your car. Stick to the more reliable and safe methods, such as calling a professional locksmith or using a coat hanger or Slim Jim tool, if you have the expertise and permission to do so.

Preventive Measures to Take To Avoid Such Situation in Future

  • Always carry a spare key for your vehicle.
  • Consider keeping an extra key with a trusted friend or family member who lives nearby.
  • Invest in a keyless entry system for your vehicle or a GPS tracker to locate your keys in case of loss.
  • Be mindful of where you keep your keys and avoid leaving them in easily accessible areas, such as on a countertop or in an open bag.
  • Develop a routine of double-checking that you have your keys before exiting your vehicle.
  • Consider using a carabiner clip or lanyard to attach your keys to your clothing or bag for added security.
  • Keep a locksmith’s contact information handy in case of an emergency.
  • Be cautious when using remote unlocking apps, as they can be vulnerable to hacking.
  • If you tend to misplace or lose items frequently, consider investing in a Bluetooth tracker device for your keys.
  • Consider carrying a spare key in a hidden compartment within your vehicle, such as a magnetic key holder.
  • Make sure to keep your vehicle’s registration and insurance information on hand in case of an emergency.
  • Be cautious of leaving children or pets unattended in the car, as they may accidentally lock the doors with the keys inside.


Locking your keys in your car can be a frustrating experience, but there are several methods to retrieve them. Firstly, assess the situation and try to recall if you have a spare key or if someone else has one in the car. Look for any open windows or doors, and use a coat hanger or a long tool with a hook to retrieve your keys.

You can also call for assistance, such as from a friend or family member with a spare key, a towing service, or a professional locksmith. Using a Slim Jim tool is also an efficient way to retrieve keys, but it’s recommended to leave it to the specialists. Using a tennis ball to unlock the car is a myth and has been debunked by experts.

Remember to prioritize your safety and the safety of your car, and avoid using force or damaging your vehicle to retrieve your keys.

Jasper has been an enthusiast of the automotive and IT industries since the age of 16. He independently writes on the auto industry's recent happenings.