Jimmying a locked car door after losing keys

I’ve been doing some car lock repairs on my Corolla, and got to wondering while inspecting the workings inside the door, in a curious way, how I could unlock the door if I lost the keys. Then last weekend, I lost the keys! Fortunately found them in the parking lot, but now my curiosity is getting the best of me. Is it even possible to jimmy modern car locks these days?

On older cars it was simple as pie. But on my Corolla anyway it looks nearly impossible. The lock/unlock rod that you’d have to jimmy into the up position is encased in a hard plastic sleeve. If you tried to jimmy-grab-hold of that, all it would do is move the sleeve, not the rod. It appears to be nearly impossible to unlock the door with no keys without doing something major, like punching the lock plumb out, or breaking the window, or finding someone to pick the lock. Or is there a way to still jimmy a car door like that open in a lost-key emergency, like if you locked the keys inside?

I have a spare fob in the trunk and Onstar. I also have a spare key for the trunk mounted under my bumper. At any rate when I’ve had to do it, I’ve used a long stiff wire to squeeze through the edge of the window and flipped the lock button. When I needed to call a guy to open my 86 Riviera, the guy just used a slim jim and took him about two minutes after a 30 mile drive. At work we needed to call a guy and he used a wire too to flip the door lock. Just depends on the type of window. If the glass goes into the window channel, you can’t get a wire in. At work we had a guy that had been in the OSS during the war and he could usually pick locks on file cabinets and desks but was a little rusty. When it happens it’s best just to call a guy and let them deal with it if you don’t have a key.

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I’m the resident burglar at my shop, it seems. I use a long steel rod about a quarter inch around with a 90 degree bend at the end to give me a hook about an inch long. I have a couple of plastic wedges and an air bag that inflates like a blood pressure tester that came from Amazon. I average about ten break ins a month with these tools. I start with a plastic wedge to start separating the door from the body, Then insert the air bag when the gap’s wide enough, then the rest is cake. I like cake.


Doesn’t it make you feel good that it is harder to unlock cars than it used to be?

Back in the late 70’s a friend’s keys fell out of his pocket and he locked them in his Chevy Vega. The Vega had a full frame side window but the seals were wide and soft. Slipped in a coat hanger with a small hook and hooked the OEM mushroom head lock buttons in about 10 seconds. At that point I told him THAT’S why we swap to the straight lock buttons… You could still open that car with a slim-jim just as fast with the fancy lock buttons.

In the later 80’s the same thing happened with a friend’s Chevy Beretta. Pried the window out and hit the un-lock switch with a coat hanger. Harder but still pretty easy.

Definitely. My truck has been broken into a few times over the years. I had to glue a metal shim onto the door panel at one location so the thieves didn’t nick the paint during their night-time robbery attempts … lol … nothing really of any value inside tho, the only thing the evil-doers got for their efforts was a CB radio that didn’t work b/c the power output transistor had melted, and a window snow scraper.

@pete_peters … I understand what you mean about making a little more working room by forcing the bottom of the window towards the interior of the car a little, but still unclear what you do after that, with the 90 elbowed rod. Do you start it under the window over by the hinge side of the door, then angle it back towards the lock side, aligning the tip of the rod to push up right at the bottom of the door lock button gadget? So you’re not trying to grab hold of the up/down rod at all? Just trying to come in at a very shallow angle to where the up/down rod attaches to the lock button?

Yeah, I think you are right. Paying a locksmith to come and pick the lock is probably the best solution when that happens. No damage that way.

When I’ve seen or done it, it’s easiest to move the rod from the driver’s door to the unlock switch on the passenger door. All you have to do is push on the switch if they have power locks.

I like many others have a spare key in my wallet

I don’t move the window. I wedge the top of the door open so i can get my rod inside the car, not the door. Haven’t had any doors bend on me yet. Just have to be careful, I guess. I have ran into some Toyotas that will lock the door and sound the alarm as soon as I unlock it so you kinda have to learn a new dance to outrun the alarm. LOL! Hope that clears it up.

I keep a spare key in my change pocket.

Thanks for the explanation, I see how you do it now. That confirms what I was thinking that the inside the door method is problematic due to the way the unlock mechanism is designed to be burglar resistant these days.

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That’s what I do. It seems to ensure I will never misplace my keys or lock them in the car.

I tried the wallet thing, but it hurt sitting on the key for long periods of time. Ok, you have permission to laugh!! … lol

I tried the ‘hide the key on the car’ method too, but I decided if I could find the key, so could a thief.

I lose my keys from time to time like everybody but always manage to find them somehow. The closest I’ve come to losing my keys forever, I was travelling through Winnemucca Nevada in a rental car, stopped to take a break and get sandwich & soda. I got to talking to one of the locals there about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , the local – he’s a very nice & friendly guy, a classic Nevada cowboy, big cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and well used pickup – he was explaining to me that the Cassidy gang robbed the bank there in the 1800’s. I was putting something in the truck of my car while this interesting chat was going on, and I needed to free up my hands to eat my sandwich and drink my soda while I listened. I somehow decided it would be a good idea to put my keys on the bumper of the fellow’s pickup … lol … He said goodbye and drove away, after which I realized the only set of keys I had were on his bumper. Miracle of miracles, I found the keys laying in the road about 1/2 block down. Thank heavens for that big pot hole. Whew!!!

@GeorgeSanJose Fun to get a laugh at somebody elses expense, hey if ya ever kum up nort here, we got dis crazy old coot rinnin a wild west museum here in WI!, now it was always a surprise to me that the northfield minnesota raid was actually in Minnesota, and Little House on the Prairie was in Minnesota, and I guess MN must a usta been the wild wild west! So if youre a drven in your car or that there AUTO MOBILE as ya call it you might have a fun pit stop to listen to some old time stories and maybe even pick up an old tyme, (time not thyme) candy http://watsonswildwestmuseum.com/
Now if you are looking for a drive and want some real old word fun skip that and spend a day at old world wisconsin, INCREDIBLE, I mean this is Huge, I mean my friends ignore my small hands and go see this place, it is great, I mean really great, fabulous people, I mean great people, the nicest in the world and I mean that in all sincrity.
Now if only schnitzelbaum brought back more memories than the interweb, I do not know why that word popped into my head, but do not see a definition fitting for that word locked into my brain

I saw the movie “the Revenant” the other day. Base on a true story, you know, the plot involves Leo getting chewed on a little by a bear. I believe that story took place in Wisconsin/Michigan area in the 1800’s. It clearly shows that area indeed was one of America’s most wild places and undoubtedly considered part of the hardly-settled western American frontier . If I ever turn up in the area, I’ll definitely poke my noggin’ into that there museum of yours :wink: