Skip to main content

Car Sense

I Locked My Keys in the Car... Now What?

You walk into work and realize you left your coffee in the car. But when you go back to grab it, the door is locked — and your keys are sitting on the driver’s seat.

If you’ve been driving for very long, chances are something similar has happened to you. You can’t go anywhere until you and your keys are reunited. So how do you get back behind the wheel and on with your day?

Here are some tips to help ensure you’re prepared in the event of a lockout.

What to do if you lock your keys in the car

A lockout can happen to anybody.And while there’s no shame in calling for help, it doesn’t make paying a tow truck or locksmith any easier. After all, the last thing you want is an unexpected bill because of an honest mistake.

But with a little preparation, you can have a backup plan ready to solve the problem yourself. So don’t let one forgetful moment ruin your entire day. Try these methods to MacGyver your way back into your vehicle:

  • Keep a spare key. The quickest, easiest backup plan is to have access to a spare key. Stash a spare in your wallet or purse. Leave a copy with a friend or loved one who can come and save the day. Or consider concealing a door key somewhere on or under your vehicle using a magnetic “hide-a-key” box. If hiding a key, make a copy — don’t use an original. A copied key will allow you to unlock the door, but won’t start the ignition on most modern vehicles equipped with an anti-theft security system.
  • Unlock the car remotely. If you can’t get in on your own, many automakers now offer remote assistance services. Each manufacturer markets its own brand of service (such as OnStar, Sync, Blue Link or mbrace). But they’re all capable of unlocking your vehicle via satellite. If your vehicle has a connected car system, just call the number provided by your automaker to remotely unlock the door. Since some services are subscription-based, it’s always worth checking to see if this option is available and enabled before you really need it.
  • Remember your code. If you’re driving a car with a keypad entry, you may be in luck. Just enter your code and you’ll be inside with the push of a button. This technology can be found on most Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles manufactured over the past 20 years — but it’s not widely used by other makes and models.
  • Make your phone a key. Many new cars with remote assistance services also include smartphone capabilities. It may be an expensive feature, but it can turn your phone into a spare key with nothing but an app. Ask your dealer for details or check out your automaker’s website to see if and how you can utilize this high-tech option.

Who should you call for help?

If you can’t get into the car on your own, you’ll need to call for help. There’s no need to worry. It just might take a little longer to unlock the door, since you’ll have to wait for assistance. If you’re not sure who to call, here are some services to add to your contacts:

  • Roadside assistance: If you’re an Erie Insurance customer, our Emergency Roadside Service Coverage can save the day. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and only costs about $5 per vehicle per year.1 Just call 800-FOR-ERIE to get connected directly with Agero, our nationwide service partner.
  • Towing companies: If you don’t have roadside assistance, you can call a towing company directly. Call the company of your choice or dial 411 to find services near you. Most tow companies can help unlock your vehicle. But if not, they can always tow your car to someone who can.
  • Locksmiths or dealerships: Locksmiths can always help in the event of a lockout. But they’re especially useful if you’ve lost your key and need a replacement. Since most modern vehicles use keys with a security transponder chip, it takes specialized equipment from a locksmith or auto dealer to make a replacement key. Just have your vehicle identification number and proof of ownership ready. A professional locksmith service can get pricey. But if you’re an ERIE customer, there’s good news: our comprehensive coverage can help reimburse your locksmith services up to $75, and if you purchased Emergency Roadside Service Coverage, ERIE will reimburse you for reasonable locksmith expenses.

Can I call the police to unlock my car?

One way to get back into your car is to call your local law enforcement authorities. However, keep in mind that locking your keys in your car doesn’t typically qualify as an emergency. Police officers are concerned with public safety, so generally, life or property has to be at risk for them to respond.

If a child is locked in the car or you’re in danger, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, you can try to call a local non-emergency number for help. But if the coast is clear, expect them to respond to more urgent calls or recommend a tow truck.

How to prevent a lockout

Although anti-theft features have become more sophisticated, locksmiths have no shortage of calls every year to help people break into their own vehicles. Of course, the best way to make sure you and your keys don’t end up on opposite sides of the door is to keep them on your person.

But that may be easier said than done. So here are a few tips that can help make all the difference:

  • Always lock doors from the outside. Some vehicles won’t lock if your fob is still inside. But manually locking the door while you’re in the car could override that feature. Always lock the doors from the outside to reduce the risk of trapping your keys inside.
  • Take the key with you. If your engine is running, some security systems may automatically lock the doors assuming you’re getting ready to drive. Before you step out, turn the engine off and immediately put the key in your pocket.
  • Use a lanyard or keychain. A lone key is easy to lose, but lanyards and keychains make them much easier to keep track of. Attach a lanyard or chain to your keys to make them more noticeable.
  • Buy a carabiner. Attach a carabiner to your belt loop or bag and keep your keys within reach. You’ll have a place for them on your person no matter where you are, while building a habit of keeping your keys in a safe place.

Get back on the road

Locking your keys in your car can ruin your day – or lighten your wallet – if you’re not prepared. When you’re stranded, it helps to have someone you can count on to help ease the stress.

At Erie Insurance, our promise is simple: to be there when you need us. With our Emergency Roadside Service, we can help with lockouts, flat tires, mechanical breakdowns, dead batteries or even a tank of gas. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and doesn’t cost a lot. You can also purchase the coverage with ERIE’s Roadside & Rentals bundle, which includes rental car expense coverage.2

Contact an ERIE agent and find out how we can help you get into your car and back on the road.

1   Vehicles eligible for coverage include cars, light trucks and motorcycles. The service also covers horse, livestock and other trailers that are pulled by vehicles that ERIE insures. See individual policies for specific coverage details. Certain terms and limitations may apply. Refer to our disclaimer for additional information. In North Carolina, coverage is purchased by limits ($25, $50 and $100).
In all states except Virginia and North Carolina, Transportation Expenses are included with Comprehensive Coverage but must be purchased separately for a Collision loss. Rental vehicle coverage is based on the type of vehicle rented, rather than a specific dollar amount and is subject to a per-day limit if you select a vehicle in a higher class than you have purchased. In Virginia and North Carolina, Transportation Expense Coverage is included with Comprehensive Coverage and Collision Coverage and is subject to a per day limit. The six classes of rental car options are not available in Virginia or North Carolina. Transportation expenses are included in Virginia with comprehensive coverage and is optional with collision. In North Carolina, transportation expenses are only covered with vehicle theft claims. The limit is $15 per day and up to $450 per loss.

A lockout can happen to anybody, but don’t let one forgetful moment ruin your entire day. /blog/locked-keys-in-car Erie Insurance https://www.erieinsurance.com/-/media/images/erieinsurance/erieinsurancelogo.png

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.


The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of May 2020 and may be changed at any time. 


Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 


The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia, New York and Wisconsin.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 


Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.


Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.