Waking up to find that your car door has frozen shut can be a frustrating experience, and rectifying the situation can be time-consuming without the right tools. However, with common sense, a few tricks up your sleeve and a little perseverance, you can safely thaw the ice that is causing the problem and start your journey.
Before you roll up your sleeves and get to work, check that all the vehicles doors are frozen shut. If you can access your car through another door, do so and turn on the heating. This will thaw out the ice in a quicker and more controlled manner, reducing the chance of damaging any parts or paintwork.
If your car is inaccessible through any doorway, including the trunk, then you need to identify the frozen portion of the door. Common areas for water accumulation, and therefore an immobilizing freeze, are the hinges, seal and lock. Examine the door carefully and see if the ice build up is isolated to one of these areas.
The hinges and seal, if undamaged, should be protected from heavy freezing. However, the seal around a car door is prone to wear and perishing, and once this begins it is easier for water to seep in and freeze, rendering your car door immobile.
If the lock is the culprit, this should be easily identified by a build-up of ice around the keyhole, or an inability to insert or turn the key. However, the lock is one of the trickiest parts to thaw out, as most of the mechanism is inside the door and not easily accessible.
Both of these situations can be resolved, but it is easy to waste a considerable amount of time with inefficient methods. Resist the urge to pour boiling water over your car door. This is likely to damage the paintwork and may cause cracks in the window. Additionally, if your lock appears to be frozen, do not force it. Snapping your car key will only add to your frustration.
To thaw a frozen seal or door hinge, mix a fifty-fifty solution of anti-freeze and warm water. You should be able to dip a finger in and not cause a scald, otherwise the water is too hot to safely defrost your car. If you have no anti-freeze available, use vinegar instead. Both work to alter the freezing point of water and can clear a blockage.
Pour the solution over the icy section and quickly wipe away any excess with a cloth. This should thaw the ice deposit and remove any standing moisture to prevent re-freezing in low temperatures.
If it is your lock that has frozen, then a little ingenuity can go a long way. Vaseline is a quick and readily available substance that can cause ice to melt. Simply dip your key into it, then gently insert it into the lock. Remove the key again and wait five minutes. Repeat if necessary.
Vaseline can be found in many household products, such as lip-balm, but there may be times when you do not have any to hand. In this case, warming the key can transfer the heat gently into the locking mechanism, allowing the ice to melt.
If your key is all-metal, insert it carefully into the lock and heat the protruding section with a lighter or match. The heat will be conducted along the metal and into the lock. If, like many modern keys, your key has a plastic handle, then heat the metal end before inserting it into the lock.
These methods will work given enough time. However, if you live in an area where temperatures are regularly low enough to cause your car door to freeze, then purchasing a special lock-deicing product can be worthwhile. These come with a special thread like nozzle that allows you to spray the solution directly into the lock, therefore quickly and easily releasing the icy grasp on the mechanism.
Getting through the winter months is hard enough without falling victim to the whims of the ice and snow. By being prepared, maintaining your vehicle and sheltering it from the elements, you can reduce the impact of the cold weather on your schedule.