The colder weather wreaks havoc on the UK, whether that’s in the form of two-inch deep snow shutting down our road network or Victorian-era plumbing bursting wide open. Unfortunately, many of our cars are no different, often suffering some bizarre consequences from being left outside in the cold. Electric cars and their poor batteries tend to make the headlines around this time of year, but let’s talk about something more traditional – what do you do if you try to unlock your car door only to find that it’s frozen shut? Let us explain.
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Why Won’t My Car Door Open When It’s Icy?
Despite the advanced technology that most cars come with built-in these days, the reason why car doors sometimes don’t open in freezing conditions is rather rudimentary. Quite simply, the internal mechanisms of the lock have frozen stiff and won’t move even when you turn the key, most likely because a tiny amount of water has gotten inside and solidified. All it takes is one component from within the lock to fail and the door will be totally stuck!
Why Do Car Doors Freeze Shut?
Freezing temperatures combined with plenty of rain can ruin any driver’s day, though it’s more common that it’ll happen once you’re on the road and trying to keep control of your moving vehicle. However, if that moisture is able to get into all of the delicate nooks and crannies on your car before freezing solid, you might wake up one morning to find your day off to a terrible start before you can even climb into the driver’s seat.
Car doors typically freeze shut as a result of dodgy seals along the edge of the car door that, if cracked or broken in any way, will allow water to enter and interfere with the locking and opening mechanisms. Even a tiny amount of moisture can freeze inside the door compartment and cause havoc, so it’s helpful to get into the habit of checking your seals before winter each year.
The actual locking cylinder could also become stuck if moisture gets inside and freezes solid, preventing the delicate components from operating as they should to unlock the door. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong or broken on your car that you’ll need to replace. It’s just an unfortunate outcome, but it can be avoided or rectified.
How Can I Get My Frozen Car Door To Open?
Of course, the way forward if your doors are frozen shut is to thaw them out. Wait long enough and the weather will change, defrosting your car the natural way. But, who wants to be locked out of their car for days, weeks or even months? Nobody! Here’s how you can speed up the process:
Grab yourself a bottle or can of de-icer and spray it along the edges of your car door, ensuring it enters the seam between the door and the side panel. It might also be worth spraying a small amount directly onto the lock cylinder, where you’d insert the key, especially if you can’t pinpoint which area is frozen. Assuming the liquid de-icer can reach the frozen areas, this should be the fastest way to gain entry to your car. In fact, it’s always a good idea to have some de-icer in your car during the winter; it could help you drive more safely with clearer windows.
Don’t have any de-icer to hand? You could try simply breathing hot air onto the frozen lock in the hope that you can soften up the icy interior just enough to crack the door open. Of course, you’re not going to be able to generate much heat, so perhaps it’s best to avoid this method if you’re battling a Canadian winter or something similar, but in the UK, it might do the trick.
External Heat Source
You could even try using another source of heat, like a lighter or even, if you’re desperate, a hairdryer! In fact, you could even try heating the key itself, then inserting it into the lock. Just remember that if you’re using a naked flame, you’re trying to gently melt the ice inside the locking mechanisms. The last thing you want to do is scorch any internal components or melt any plastic parts.
DON’T Use Boiling Water
Similarly, do not use boiling water unless you want to damage any internal components like electrical chips or plastics. We hope everyone is aware that pouring boiling water on a frozen windscreen is a real rookie mistake, but you may not have realised that the same advice extends to the rest of the car too. Sudden extreme changes in temperature rarely bode well for anything, in fact.
What Could Happen If I Try To Force The Door Open?
Trying to force the door open could have the same negative effects that you’d expect if you were trying to force it open in the heat of summer. The inner workings of a car door, whether you’re talking about the latch mechanism or the lock cylinder, are extremely complex. With intricate machinery that’s designed with millimetre precision, brute force is rarely a suitable solution. If you were to do some damage to this area of the car, you could end up with a door that is stuck closed, permanently.
You might also damage other parts of the car, like the door handles or windows, potentially even shattering the glass in the latter if you unwittingly put too much strain on the thin pane. Consequently, you could then trigger your vehicle’s alarm system, causing all hell to break loose on your street.
How To Stop A Car Door Freezing Shut In Cold Weather
Sometimes, the elements can overpower us and we’re left at their mercy. Luckily, in this day and age, it’s rare unless you live out in the sticks somewhere in total isolation. But, wherever you are, it’s always good to be prepared for an unexpected cold snap that might catch you by surprise. Here’s how you can prevent a car door from freezing shut before it happens:
Self-explanatory really, and we know that not everybody is lucky enough to have a garage to store their vehicle in, protecting it from the elements. However, if you do have somewhere to park it where it won’t be exposed, your car will thank you for it by not freezing you out. Don’t have a garage? Parking somewhere that provides any kind of shelter, particularly from freezing winds, will help.
Keep Door Seals Maintained
As we already mentioned, damaged door seals could be the root of your door-freezing problems. If you’ve spotted any cracks, gashes or rips along any of your door’s rubber seals, you should ideally get them replaced before the cold weather hits.
Clean The Frame
Keep the inside of your doorframe clean to preserve the integrity of the seal. Any dirt or debris could prevent the seal from properly closing off the gap in the door, allowing even the tiniest amount of moisture inside where it will freeze.
Spray Protective Liquid
What can’t WD-40 do? Other products are available of course, and any of them that are designed to repel moisture will do a great job of keeping your car door from freezing shut. Spray it around the edge of the door and even into the lock cylinder to stop moisture from collecting in those areas.
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