Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Frozen car door lock

If you took your car to a car wash and now have a frozen car door lock, here’s how to thaw it and prevent the lock from freezing again.

Three ways to thaw a frozen car door lock

frozen car lock

Heat the key with a lighter or matches

Heat: Warm the key with a lighter or matches. Don’t get it red hot. Then insert the key into the lock cylinder and leave it for about 1 minute. Repeat several times until the lock cylinder is heated enough to turn. Then jump down to the section on preventing car door locks from freezing.





frozen car door lock

Squirt rubbing alcohol into the frozen car lock to melt the ice

Alcohol: Rubbing Alcohol is isopropyl alcohol. It has a very low freezing point of -20°F, so it stays liquid at colder temps than water and transfers its heat to the internal workings of the lock cylinder to melt ice. So, if you squirt rubbing alcohol into the lock cylinder, it will melt the ice. It’s cheap and easy and you probably have some in your house. Once you get the lock to turn, follow the instructions later in this story to prevent future freeze ups.







thaw frozen car lockDe-icer spray: All auto parts stores sell lock de-icer solutions. They’re basically isopropyl alcohol and graphite. The bottle has a small spout to fit into the lock cylinder. The alcohol melts the ice and the graphite acts as a lubricant.


Lubricant sprays: If you do an internet search you’ll see lots of recommendations to use WD-40. The reason so many people recommend it is because WD-40 is billed as a water displacing product. That part is true, except for one thing; you don’t have water in your frozen lock cylinder, you have ICE. WD-40 is a general lubricant containing light oils. But let’s look at the contents listed on the WD-40 material safety data sheet:

Aliphatic Hydrocarbon, Petroleum Base Oil, LVP Aliphatic Hydrocarbon, Surfactant Proprietary, Non-Hazardous Ingredients Mixture

See any alcohol? Nope. So how is WD-40 going to melt the ice? It won’t. End of story.

Worse yet, the oil will attract and hold all the dust and dirt that’s attached to your key (from your pocket or purse) and eventually gum up the lock. So, over the long haul, “oiling” a lock cylinder is the worst thing you can do.

Prevent car lock from freezing

Locksmiths recommend a dry lubricant to keep lock cylinder parts moving. In the past, they recommended graphite. It works great unless you apply too much, then it can actually jam up the works. Dry Teflon spray also works.

prevent car door lock freezing

You can buy it at any home center or auto parts store. Push the straw into the spray nozzle and shove it into the car lock cylinder. Shoot a 1-second shot into the car lock. Then insert your key in and out a few times to work the Teflon into the tumblers. Rotate the key to lock and unlock. Then let the solvent evaporate. Your lock will then resist freezing.

©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat



Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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