If you’ve locked your keys in your car, you’re familiar with that sinking feeling and the knot that forms in your stomach. You’re in for an expensive tow truck visit to unlock your car, and it could take hours until they arrive.
You may not have to wait until a tow truck arrives to unlock your car doors. If your door locks have a pin that comes up through the top of the door panel, or if your doors unlock when the door handle is pulled, you may be slightly more fortunate than you originally thought.
To help yourself, you will need a long string. The string will need to be at least 36 inches in length and durable but not stiff. Some kinds of strings that are good to use are:
- Coat drawstrings
- Sweatpant drawstrings
Your goal here is to “break into” your car. Because you aren’t actually trying to steal it — it belongs to you — it’s really more of a creative solution to a problem than breaking into a car.
Method 1 of 2: Lassoing the door lock button
In this method, you need to make a slipknot in the end of a string, force it into the gap between the door window frame and the roof of the car, and lasso the door lock button. It’s tricky and can take several tries before you’re successful, but it will be rewarding if it works.
- Warning: You will need to use some physical force to try to get into your car. There is potential that you could damage or bend a door, tear a weatherstrip, or scratch the interior of your car.
String that matches the description given above
Tip: This method only works if the door lock button is on the top of the door panel and is flared somewhat at the top of the button like a trumpet.
Step 1: Make a loop in the string with a slipknot. Bring the end of the string over the middle of the string.
Go under the middle of the string. The end of the string will form a small loop.
Pull the end of the string through the loop and pull tight.
Step 2: Force the string into the car. You will need to force the string through the gap in the top of the door past the weatherstrip.
You can use a glove or a sock to wedge the gap open more. Bunch your sock up and jam it in the top of the door, creating a small opening for the string to enter the car more easily.
Step 3: Lower the string to the door lock button. Swing the loop around to get it in position around the door lock button.
Step 4: Snag the loop around the door lock button. To do this, you need to pull the string to the side. Carefully move the string down the back side of the door, or the B pillar, and pull to the side.
The loop should pull snug around the door button.
Step 5: Unlock the door lock button. Move the string up along the door again, keeping firm pressure on the string.
Once you get close to the top of the door frame again, the door lock will slide up into the unlocked position.
Once you open the unlocked door, the string will be free to take off of the lock button.
If at any point in this process the loop comes off the door lock button or the loop comes undone, reset and try again.
Method 2 of 2: Lassoing the inside door lever
The front doors of some vehicles, both domestic and foreign, will unlock if the interior door handle is pulled when it is locked. It is a feature to prevent accidental opening of the door while it is locked and in motion, but you can use it for your benefit in the event you lock yourself out of your car.
- Some kind of string that matches the description given above
The handle will need to be a lever style handle in order for this method to work.
Step 1: Create a slipknot like the one used in Method 1. You’ll need to use substantial force to pull the interior door handle, so make sure the knot around the loop is pulled tight.
Step 2: Force the loop inside the car. From the top edge of the driver’s or passenger’s front door, you will need to force the string into the car.
Use a glove or a sock to wedge the gap open so your job is made easier. The gap near the back edge of the door will be the easiest placed to force the string in.
Step 3: Lower the string to the door handle. Slowly move the string along the top of the door toward the location where the door handle is.
Be careful not to pull the string out of the door or you will have to start again.
Once you are in line with the door handle, attempt to gently swing the loop toward the handle.
The handle may be recessed into the door panel and not visible from the window on the same side of the car. If you have a friend with you or there is a bystander around, have that person look in from the other side of the car to indicate how you should adjust your movements.
Step 4: Catch the door handle with the loop. This is easier said than done, and it will take several attempts to get it right as you adjust your process to find something that works.
Step 5: Move the string toward the rear edge of the door. Once you’ve ‘caught’ the door handle, move the string back towards the rear edge of the door.
Be extremely careful not to pull too hard on the string or to give it too much slack, or it could come off the handle and you will have to start again.
Step 6: Pull the string directly toward the rear of the car. Firm pressure will be required to pull on the door handle hard enough for it to open.
On some vehicles, the door will unlock at this point. On others, the door will actually open.
Open the door and remove the string from the handle.
- Warning: Trying to get into your vehicle using these methods can draw the attention of law enforcement. Don’t attempt to break into your car with a string if you do not have identification on your person.
While catching a door lock or door handle with string may take several tries and a lot of patience before you get it right, the procedure for unlocking your car with a piece of string is actually quite simple. So if you have a car with the appropriate door lock or interior handle, it is worth knowing how to accomplish this trick in the event that you accidentally lock your keys in your car.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Open a Car Door With String and was authored by Jason Unrau.