How to Open a Car Door That’s Frozen Shut

Nicole Arata
January 16, 2018

Cold weather can bring with it a host of car-care issues. Maybe you need to wake up early every morning to de-ice your windshield, or you might need to shell out for tire chains.

In the coldest areas, you might even walk outside to find your car doors are frozen shut.

This typically occurs when layers of ice build overnight to seal the car’s body and doors shut. You’ll also likely see your car’s latch handle frozen in this case. Luckily, there are several methods to try to safely open your frozen ride.

Method 1: Try a push-and-pull

It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s quick: If you’ve only tried pulling your door open, try pushing on the outside. Don’t apply enough pressure to dent your car, but feel free to lean your entire body weight onto the door. Then, gently try to open the door after (don’t force anything). You can give this a few attempts.

Occasionally, the ice is thin enough to shatter from the pressure and you’ll free your vehicle door.

Method 2: Melt with warm water or a hair dryer

If you can’t crack your door free, try filling a cup or bucket with lukewarm water. Make sure the water isn’t hot, since too harsh of a temperature contrast can shatter your window. Pour the water around the seal of the door repeatedly until the ice melts away.

You can also melt the ice with a battery-operated hair dryer. Wave the hair dryer over the frozen handle or space between the door and body of the vehicle. Do this no closer than 6 inches away. This can take longer than pouring water, but you won’t need to go back and forth refilling.

Method 3: Use de-icer products

De-icer sprays are concentrated chemical mixtures meant for situations like these. They’re typically made for windshields, but they’ll also remove ice from your door handle and frame.

You’ll typically need to spray it on to the ice and wait five to 10 minutes for the mixture to do its thing.

Method 4: Remotely start the car

If you have a car you can start remotely, try doing so and letting it heat up for about five minutes. It might be able to melt itself free.  

Make sure everything’s warmed up before driving

Once you’ve freed your door, start your car as soon as possible and turn on the defrosters. Allow your car some time to heat up and melt away any remaining ice before driving, and make sure the car door that was previously frozen can shut and seal completely.

Nicole Arata

About the Author

Nicole has written about car ownership for multiple media outlets, and her work has been featured in USA Today, Yahoo Finance and the Los Angeles Times.

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