How to

13 February 2017

How to Prevent Car Doors & Locks from Freezing Over

As if it isn’t bad enough dragging yourself outside on a freezing winter’s morning, on particularly cold days comes the added frustration of getting to your car only to find that the doors won’t budge; they, along with the locks, have completely frozen over!

It’s a nuisance to say the least, but it can be avoidable with a little forethought and preparation. The best method would of course be to keep your car in a garage or covered parking space, but where such options are not available there are still some simple steps you can take in order to prevent your car from locking you out.

If your car looks like this, it may be a little late to think about prevention...
Cover Your Car -

Yes, I know; we kind-of covered this in the intro, right? Well, while we don’t all have access to a garage in which to keep our cars, covering your vehicle with a simple tarp or car cover will minimise the moisture reaching the car, thereby helping to prevent freezing.

Inspect/Replace Rubber Gaskets & Seals -

When your car door does freeze shut, it’s actually got nothing to do with the metal of the door itself; rather, it’s the rubber seals around the door frame that freeze. Any damage to these seals, such as gaps, cracks and tears, will allow moisture in and promote freezing. As such, it is advised that you inspect the seals and gaskets each winter and replace them where necessary.

Treat Door Seals & Locks with Rubbing Alcohol or Spray Lubricant -

In the case of the locks, applying a rubbing alcohol consisting of at least 60% alcohol to both the lock and key will help to stop it getting stuck on a bitter morning. This works by adhering to the lock and key, thereby preventing ice from forming over it. If this doesn’t work, lock lubricants are available for exactly this purpose that may give you better results.

You can take a similar approach with the rubber seals around your doors, treating them with an oil or lubricant that will help to repel water, which will of course reduce the amount of water that can get into the seal and freeze. Be careful which oil you choose, as there is still some debate as to which is the best option. I’ve always trusted the classic WD40, but as this can dry out the rubber over time, potentially leading to damage to the seal, you may be better off opting to a purpose-made rubber care product. Apply to the seal using a paper towel or disposable cloth.

Keep Door Frames Clean -

Any dirt or debris left around the frames of your doors can actually promote freezing by acting as a nucleation point – a surface onto which water particles can cling and condense as they freeze. Wiping round the edge of your door each evening can substantially reduce the chance of freezing by removing this variable from the equation.

Cover the Lock -

While covering the entire car is better, if you lack a suitable cover you can save yourself a lot of hassle by simply covering the lock with a patch of duct tape, keeping moisture out and ice at bay. You may actually choose to do both, further reducing the likelihood of waking up to a frozen-up motor.

Unfreezing Doors & Locks -

While the aforementioned rubbing alcohol can in fact help at this stage as well, using it to melt existing ice build-up is a slow process, and you’re likely much better of reaching for a de-icer spray which you can aim directly into the lock. To be honest, this is usually the best option to take in such situations and will typically provide the fastest results.

If you don’t have any de-icer to hand, a household hairdryer can be effective at removing ice, albeit less so than the former approach. This will take several minutes with the hairdryer aimed directly at the lock, so be prepared for a bit of a wait.

Where all else fails or when no other options are available, there is another approach you can take, although it must be noted that this is an uncommon practice that won’t even work in many cases - it all depends on your key. Basically, if your key is made entirely of metal and has no computerised components, you can use a match or lighter to heat the key before pushing it into the lock. This may help the key to melt the ice on its way in. It is only recommended to try this when all other options are exhausted.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.