Avoiding Damages While Retrieving Keys From A Locked Car.

If you’ve ever had a customer lock their keys inside their car and attempt to get them out on their own, you know how impatient they can be. When their keys are within sight on the car seat, many motorists decide to take matters into their own hands. Rather than calling a professional, they try their hand at unlocking their car doors via various methods found on YouTube or other DIY sites. Of course, after just a few attempts, most of them are more likely to cause damage to the paint and upholstery than actually gain access to their vehicle.

And once their attempts fail, and they give up and finally decide to call for a tow truck, rather than admitting that they caused damage to their vehicle, some less-than-scrupulous motorists will choose to blame the tow truck operator for the damage. They’ll try to get the tow truck company’s insurance to pay for the damages.

To avoid playing the victim in these situations, here are the various ways in which motorists may attempt to gain entry to a locked car door and the corresponding damages that may occur.

Using a Slim Jim
If the motorist is near some sort of auto shop or even a department store, then they may find a Slim Jim for sale. A Slim Jim is a long, thin piece of metal that slides between the window glass and the door frame. The intent of this tool is to unlock the door by manipulating the inner workings of the door lock. When used properly, a Slim Jim can be maneuvered down far enough to reach the unlock mechanisms of a car door and unlock it.
Damages: Locking mechanism, scratches to glass, damage to weather stripping, Slim Jim stuck in door.

Using A Coat Hanger
Many times, a motorist who locks their keys inside their car will not be close to a store and, therefore, cannot purchase a Slim Jim. That is why some people resort to using a coat hanger. They’ll bend a coat hanger and make a small hook on the end to resemble a Slim Jim and either attempt to use it as a Slim Jim between the doorframe and the window, or they’ll slide it between the door and the doorframe in an attempt to unlock the door from the inside. Of course, both of these methods may result in damaged weather stripping.
Damages: Locking mechanism, weather stripping, upholstery, exterior paint.

Using a Wedge and Rod
Similar to using a coat hanger, another method used to get their car door open is by using a wedge and a rod. With a thin but sturdy wedge like a credit card or piece of plastic, motorists may make a small gap between their doorframe and their window. They then use a rod or something long to try to unlock the door from the inside. If you have a customer try this, they may end up pulling their window out too far, which can cause damage.
Damages: Hinges, weather stripping, upholstery, exterior paint.

Using Duct Tape
This method is listed as the riskiest a motorist may use to get their window open. They will place long strips of tape vertically on the window, leaving four or five inches at the bottom unstuck just enough that they’re able to grip it. Then, they’ll place three horizontal pieces of tape over the top of the vertical pieces at the top to add stability and keep them in place. Then, with the tape left at the bottom, the vehicle owner will pull down so that the window slides down the window track. When done correctly, this opens up a space to place their arm inside and unlock the car.
Damages: Window track does not operate properly.

Use The Spare Key
Another option is to use a spare key. In the age of fobs and remote locking mechanisms, many motorists forget or don’t realize that an actual key will still unlock most vehicles. Inside most fobs is a spare key that will open the driver’s side door. Also, motorists may mistakenly believe that the only way to unlock a car is with the remote when a spare key will do the trick. One last option is to check if a spare key is stowed away someplace on the vehicle, say in a hide-a-key or behind the license plate. Some motorists keep a spare key hidden away for emergencies like this.
Damages: None.

Call A Professional
Many motorists will not feel comfortable with any of the above options, as they don’t want to risk damaging their windows or any other part of their vehicle. Of course, you can always call a towing company for assistance. Most tow truck operators are well-equipped with the proper set of tools and can get your car door open in no time without causing damage. It is important that you call a reputable towing company as opposed to a locksmith because the fees that locksmiths may be three or four times what a towing company would charge.
Damages: None.

Suggestions For Avoiding Damages While Retrieving Keys

As a tow truck operator, it is important to know and understand how motorists might apply these do-it-yourself methods. If attempts to gain access were made prior to your arrival, rather than admitting that damages occurred, some less-than-scrupulous motorists will choose to blame you for the damage. So, to avoid increased insurance premiums and negative online reviews, take the steps below to protect yourself.
Here are helpful hints to avoid loss:

  • Take photos before you begin any work.
  • Are there scratches to the paint?
  • Is the upholstery scratched or torn?
  • Notice any hangers or other tools possibly used to gain entry.
  • Are there fingerprints and smudges on the doorframe?
  • Is the doorframe pulled away from the door?
  • Is there a stool or bucket nearby (possibly used for standing on to get a better view)?
  • Is the window partially down?
  • Take notice of excessive footprints on both sides of the car.
  • Mention existing damages prior to commencing work and get verbal acknowledgment of said damages from the customer.

In conclusion, many people will try to retrieve their car keys themselves if it means avoiding a bill. Always reassure them that your towing company has the expertise and the correct tools to safely open vehicles without causing damage. And remember to look out for pre-existing damages on the vehicle to avoid being blamed.