trying to open car door with hanger
Tips & Tricks

Stuck Outside of the Car? Here’s How to Open a Car Door with a Hanger

It’s easy to get locked outside of your car, but getting back in, not so much. If you’re wondering how to open car door with hanger, keep in mind there are two ways to do this:

  1. Using the hanger to unlock the door locks.
  2. Using the hanger to push the slide locks.

How to Open Car Door with Hanger

Being stuck outside of your car with the keys inside is a very common problem. Fortunately, you can use a simple wire coat hanger to either open up the automatic locks inside the car or use the sliding locks on the car door. 

Opening the car if you have a manual door lock is much easier – you can usually create a makeshift lock pick and wedge it to try and open the door. With an automatic door lock switch, things can get a little more complicated. This is where the wire hanger trick can be extremely helpful. There are two main ways to open a car door using a coat hanger.

Opening the Automatic Door Locks

One mechanism you can use to open up your car is to target the door lock switches on the side of the door. To do this you need to be able to get inside the car. Here’s how you can use a coat hanger to accomplish this goal. 

Step 1: Straighten the Hanger

You need to take your metal coat hanger and straighten the hanger into position. This will make it much easier for you to reach the lock mechanisms. When you straighten out the bends of the coat hanger, make sure to keep the hooked portion In shape. This curved hook is what you can use to access the locking systems.

Step 2: Open Up the Window

If you already have an open window, you can skip this step. But, if the window is closed, you need to create a gap between window frames in order to get into the lock. You can use a wooden wedge or a simple piece of wood to do this. Another option is an inflatable wedge that can keep the gap open. Slide the piece of wood into the gap that is there between the window and the door. 

Do not apply a lot of pressure, or the wooden wedge can damage the vehicle’s body or the window. Instead, use gentle force to create a small gap. Once you get the window gap, you can keep it open using a piece of cloth or some rubber molding. 

Step 3: Place the Metal Coat Hanger Inside the Gap

With the gap in place, slide the metal coat hanger inside. Use the hanger to get to the lock post, and try to open it up. Use very little pressure as the windows are still prone to breakage and can easily fall apart. The last thing you want is to crack a window. 

Once you catch the lock post in the hook, pull it up towards you. This should open up the door lock. If this doesn’t work, you can also tie a rubber band around your wire hook, and use it to try to press down on the lock buttons in the car.

Pushing or Pulling the Lock Slider

The next mechanism helps you access the door by either pushing or pulling the lock slider, depending on your car mechanism. You can use this coat hanger trick to get inside your car in no time. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Straighten Out the Hanger Shape

Take your metal coat hanger and straighten it out. This way the bends of the coat hanger will not get in the way as you try to reach the locking mechanism. The strength of this hanger technique lies in how well the coat hanger contraption is shaped. You need to make sure it’s straight enough, but don’t overbend it as it can break completely.

Step 2: Create a Strong Hook or Ledge

With the basic shape of the hanger down, you need to move on to creating a hook. You can use pliers or some other tool to create the distinct shape needed to get to these types of locks. Make sure that it’s clean and small enough to move inside the tiny gap. 

Step 3: Slide the Hanger into the Door Frame 

There is a narrow gap that exists between the door of your car, and the frame it rests in. This is often separated with a layer of weatherproofing. Instead of trying to do a weatherstripping prying method, simply push the hanger into the weatherproofing. If you damage this layer, you might have to replace the door later. 

Step 4: Push the Lock Slider

You can ask someone else to guide you from the other side of the door. Push the hanger in and try to push or pull the slider to open up the car door. This can take a number of tries, and you might even have to change your approach to the coat hanger method. Try different ways and you might eventually reach it. 

Other Ways to Open Up Your Car

Aside from using a clothes hanger, you can also try other methods of opening up your car if you get locked outside. Here are some of the methods you can try: 

  1. Call the police: If you are in an emergency situation, for example, if there are children or pets stuck inside the car or if you can smell gas, you can call the police. It is best not to call the police if it’s a non-emergency situation. 
  2. Reach out to AAA: If you call emergency road assistance, they can help you open up your car no matter where you are. AAA doesn’t just help out with oil changes and engine issues. You can also call them at any time of the day as the service is available no matter what the time is. 
  3. Locksmiths: You can call a professional auto locksmith to help open up your car without causing much damage. 
  4. Car dealerships: In some cases, if there are no locksmiths near you, you can reach out to a car dealership. They often have the tools needed to unlock your car, however, this may be a pricier option compared to the other resources. 
locksmith trying to open the car

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I call an auto locksmith?

When you are stuck outside of your car without your keys, you should call a professional and reliable auto locksmith. An auto locksmith can help you open up the car without you having to worry about damages and issues with the car.

Can you unlock a car with a knife?

If you have a push-button lock, you can in some cases use a knife to open up the door. This process requires a lot of dexterity. If you can create a wedge between the car door, you can then push the knife in and open the car.

How much does it cost to get my car unlocked?

If you call an auto locksmith, opening up your car can cost between $50 to $250, depending on where you are. Other options, such as a dealership, are more expensive.

If you call the police and they break your window open, you will have to cover the damages yourself and replace the window. It’s always a more cost-effective solution to find a skilled auto locksmith to open up the car for you. 

How can I unlock my car for free?

There aren’t any unlocking services that are free by default. But, you can keep an eye out for offers from your local dealerships or even through your bank. 

Is it illegal to open to unlock my car with a wire hanger?

Most modern cars come with anti-theft alarms, so if you are prying open the lock with a hanger, authorities might be concerned. If you own the car, you can easily explain the situation, and maybe even get the right help that you need. 


No one ever plans on getting stuck in their car with the keys stuck inside. While this unfortunate situation isn’t one where we expect to find ourselves, it’s an entirely possible scenario. After all, we are all human, and it is natural to forget your car keys at some point.

If you want to know how to open car door with hanger mechanisms, this article explained it all. However, keep in mind that using this mechanism is only okay and legal if the car in question is yours. never try this method on someone else’s car, even if you know them, as that can land you in some serious trouble.

You can also try calling emergency services or roadside help if you are stranded without your car keys. There are plenty of professionals out there who can help you out of this sticky situation.