As a Roadside Assistance operator, I've had more than my fair share of calls from folks who have locked their keys in their car. We always have a good laugh at work about how ditzy some of our clients are, but truthfully, it's really easy to misplace a set of keys when renting a car.
When these clients--who have rental cars and are already shelling out major bucks--end up on my line, I try to be as patient and understanding as I possibly can. That's hard to do when some lady in Nova Scotia who doesn't speak English and lives 50 miles away from the nearest locksmith calls to request service, spends half an hour on your phone, and then finds the keys in her purse. But for the most part, the call goes smoothly.
So here they are, from me to you, tips on what to do if you have locked the keys in your vehicle:
•First of all, OnStar is amazing. If you shop for a new vehicle, I suggest you see about getting it installed. By pushing the button located inside of your vehicle or on your keyring--or by calling the hotline--you can get service immediately. They can unlock your car by satellite, give instant directions or send service automatically in case of accident. A-maz-ing. And about $200 a year.
•If your vehicle is still under warranty, CALL THE ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE LINE. It might take them 30 minutes to get out there, but they'll open the car for free.
•If your vehicle is no longer under warranty, sign up for a roadside program like AAA. You get 4 free calls, so for something like $50 a year it can come in handy.
•Okay so you're cheap. Or you think maybe you'll never need such services. What do you do now, besides wearing car keys around your neck? Make a spare set. Keep a key in your wallet, at a relative's house--wherever. Calling your brother Ben at 3 AM is a hell of a lot easier than waiting an hour downtown by yourself for Lugnut Luke's Lockout Service.
•You've not taken any precautions, and now you're in a fix. The key's locked in the trunk. Dear god, dear god, what do I do? First, is the rest of the vehicle unlocked? If so, try the trunk release. If there isn't one, play around with the backseat. A lot of cars with benchseats have a way to remove the backseat so that you can get into the trunk. This is easy to do with two people; just relax and try to work the problem. Shove your hands between the cushions on either side and try to feel a release lever or knob. Rock the seat back and forth and you should be able to remove it.
•The key's locked in the car. On the seat. You can see them, mocking you. Lockout service is usually only $15-$30 in such a case; fixing a broken window can cost $100. Don't be an idiot. Calm down and call--you'd be surprised how many people will bust up vehicles just to get inside, when they could have gotten out cheaper and easier by just waiting for a damn locksmith.
•If you're lucky, the window's cracked and you've got an older vehicle. Coat hangers can be slipped in the window and used to raise a manual lock. Most of us, though, are not so lucky...
•Often when people lock themselves out of the car, the keys are in the ignition, the vehicle is running and *gasp*, there's a baby stuck in the car or the vehicle's in a garage or some other dangerous situation. First of all, calm down--you're not doing anyone any good when you're passed out on the floor. If it's a true emergency, call the police. Often they have slim jims and, if they don't, they can expedite service from a local locksmith service.
The biggest mistake we make is flipping out when we have a relatively simple problem, like a lockout. Know your options and, above all, Don't panic.