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Frozen Car

I own a 2000 Toyota Carolla, in reasonably good shape (95,000 miles) with no rust on the body (it was a Texas car until last year). This problem happened in Texas, on the unusual times that it froze, and in Michigan, obviously very often. The car freezes: the doors edges, locks, latches, wipers, wiper fluid, windows, and trunk freeze solid. I’ve tried using the lock de-icers, hand sanitizer, WD-40, hairdryers, special fluid for the wipers etc. all to no avail. I live in an apartment complex so I do not have a heated garage at my disposal. This is a very annoying problem, which often means I cannot use my car, even though the rest of it works perfectly. I’ve searched the Internet for more answers, but find none. Clearly, there is moisture inside the car that freezes up in cold weather… but I can’t imagine how or why. I’ve never spilled anything in there, and it’s had a long, hot summer of drying out if there had been something there. But on the first freeze of the year, viola: no frigging way can I get into my beloved little auto. HELP PLEASE!

Your door and trunk gaskets are freezing to the metal body of the car. Use a silicone spray either directly on the trunk and door gaskets or spray it on a rag and wipe the gaskets. For your door locks, use a water displacing lubricant to spray the lock mechanism inside the door. You will have to figure out how to do it on your car. Make sure the window is rolled up. On some of my cars I could spray through where the latch handle goes through the body, some down along the inside of the window and one that froze up so often that I punched a hole through the back edge of the door right above the latch and inside of the door gaskets. I put rustproofing plugs in the holes.
Yow can fortify your wiper fluid with some isoprophyl alcohol. Don’t put in more than 25% of what is in there.
Free your wipers with a plastic ice scraper, turning them on when they are trapped can lead to some very expensive damage to gears, motors and linkages.
Also, take your hvac controls off recirculate.

Does it have a sunroof? Are any areas of the carpet damp or wet after a drive? Do the windows fog up easily?

Would it help to run the AC more often before you shut the car down ? Agree with @texases questions too. A thought. I had a Prism with similar problem ( Corolla near that year) , and had a trunk leak with water collecting in the spare wheel well. Until warm weather and you can fix a leak like that, check it now and then and after rain or snow and pull the drain plug drain plug in the bottom if moisture collects there. You may not see the water till you remove the spare.

I have heard the Pam cooking spray sprayed on the rubber weatherstripping does wonders.

Get a can of silicone spray and a pair of rubber (or vinyl) gloves. Don the gloves and wet a folded paper towel with silicone. Wipe the goor, trunk, and window gaskets with the wet paper towel. Replace the paper towel as needed. You can just toss the towels in the trash when you are done. Let us know how it works.

It’s important to use a version of windshield wiper fluid that is protected against freezing. I’m assuming are using what you used in Texas and it is now freezing in the bottle during the night. If it freezes hard in the washer fluid bottle, that can damage the washer fluid pump which is an expense best avoided. Gas stations there will sell the kind of washer fluid you should be using.

Also double check that your engine coolant is protected to the temps needed there. Damaging the WW pump is one thing, but freezing the engine coolant is a whole different thing. A potentially very expensive thing.

When I lived in Colorado, this happened once in a while, usually in the spring when the snow would be wetter, and in the AM I couldn’t open the doors. My solution was to either wait for it to warm up, or bring the hair dryer out to the car with a long extension cord. Nothing else I tried helped, b/c the water would freeze between the door surface and the car surface, not the seals. Usually the key lock would freeze too, which was the bigger problem. Usually once I warmed up the key lock with the hair dryer, I could get the door opened with a little forceful persuasion.

Super cold temps like you have there present unique problems for car owners. I know there are engine warmers for these conditions. I wonder if there are car warmers for the passenger compartment? If so, plugging in and keeping the passenger compartment above freezing may be all you need. Be sure to ask folks there in Michigan what they do about this problem. For this, you are living among the experts.

Most of the pre-diluted washer fluid may be good to about 20 below. When I lived way up north ( now in FL ), I just used to dump in 90% rubbing alcohol into the mix and cycle the pump a few times and never froze.

IF –
If there’s moisture somewhere inside the car…absorb it with a desiccant like those silica gel packs you toss out of shoe boxes , electronics and other purchases ( if you still have any laying around.)
Otherwise, a great moisture absorber is chalk…
good ol’ school style sticks of white chalkboard chalk.

When I was having interior frost on my 06 Escape hybrid I put a dozen sticks of chalk in various locations inside the car ( door pockets, under seats, glove box etc ) and have never had interior frost since ( plus, I’ve never renewed the chalk sticks. Same ol’ ones in there since 07 )

Also, to get a frozen lock to open, heat the key with a cigarette lighter. Preferrably, get a wind-resistsnt or “torch” lighter.

Make sure your recirculate air option is turned off if applicable!

You can close the doors very gently, so they latch once, but are still not tight. They will lock that way, but you should be able to open then because they are not tight. I doubt you can set a car alarm with them loosely closed. If it’s windy and snowy snow will blow in.