Living in the Seattle area, how often do you rush out the door for work in the morning, only to find your car door is frozen? Do you want a simple solution for opening a car door when it is frozen? We did some research and found some interesting solutions. Keep reading to find out how to open that frozen door! Though these issues appear to occur randomly, in actuality there is a reason for the freezing of car doors and their mechanisms that are overlooked by car owners. Some of these factors come naturally; others are the result of past practice.
Forces of Nature
Rising in the morning, exiting a warm bed, to confront the world ought to be enough. But, no, there are forces of nature with which to contend that regularly disturb the day. Getting a hot cup of coffee and some moving the kids toward a school day begins the morning scenario. The rush through breakfast, the packing of lunches, and the bundling of the children against the cold brought on during the ice storm the night before keeps parents busy and alert. The kids leave the house, get on the bus that is cleaned of ice, and the workday beckons.
The rush to dress for work, then out the door, the mind already organizing into the workplace mental format, reaching for the car door that is encrusted with ice as has happened during every ice storm before, and… The door refuses to open. Repeated presses on the “unlock” button on the fob bring no results. The handle will not move no matter how many times or how hard the pull.
The other doors experience the frantic pull of an aggressive hand, but they are just as stubborn. Curses ring up and down the street and suddenly the opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III enter the thoughts: “This is the winter of our discontent,” and a new understanding brings a nod. “That is what he meant.”
Even Shakespeare could not combat the forces of nature. Ice storms create havoc every bit as frustrating as Richard’s fuming exposition on the nature of being frozen out of power. When ice comes and freezes car doors, then an inevitable confrontation with a force of nature causes consternation and a feeling of helplessness.
Not all ice storms are the same. The freezing rain and wind combine to create a blanket of ice on one side of an exposed vehicle and can climb over to the opposing side. These blankets of ice may appear stationary in the morning, but during the night, when the wind blew hard, the water hit the vehicle and crept into crevices to freeze the doors shut.
Car doors seal against the elements when new. The gaskets that create that seal are flexible and cushioning. However, the gaskets are subject to undetectable microdamage. These gaskets are also prone to collect dirt and grime as time passes. The repeated opening and closing of car doors, whether during the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, elicits damage to the integrity of the gasket. Throughout winter, small amounts of ice, encrusted on a gasket, rip at the gasket fabric every time the door opens. Eventually, these tiny rips create a small dent in the seal which allows water to enter. During an ice storm, the entrance of water into a car door gasket spells a frozen car door.
Moving backward from the scenario above, there are several preventative measures any car owner whose vehicle is exposed to the environment can take to guard against frozen car doors. The first, and most obvious, is to garage the car—get it inside and away from the storm to limit the damage. If garaging is impossible, then a tarp cover will keep the water from gaining access to the car door seals or the lock.
For those without a garage space or a tarp to cover their vehicle, there are other precautions they can take to avoid frozen car doors. The first and most critical item to complete is to change the engine oil immediately before the winter season. Though this precaution may appear to be removed from a frozen car door issue, there are reasons to consider later for this precautionary move beyond possible engine damage.
The second precaution is to inspect the door gaskets for any damage that may have occurred in the past. A worn gasket is just as bad as a torn gasket for allowing water to enter between the door and the frame and freeze, making it impossible to open a frozen door on your vehicle. These small crevices in gaskets invite water in and freeze causing more damage to the gasket if you are successful in opening the door during an ice storm.
A third precaution is to clean your door gaskets during the inspection process thoroughly. Small bits of grime tend to bulge the gasket wherever the bits of foreign material collected. Water seeks any opening into which to flow and, when exposed to freezing temperatures, freeze the door to the frame.
The final precaution available to a car owner expecting an ice storm is to use a hefty amount of silicon spray on the door gaskets. Use of a silicon spray will not dry out the rubber gasket through repeated use. Apply the silicone spray once per week during the storm. In a pinch, using a pan spray can substitute for the silicone spray, but the effect of the spray does not last as long, and you should apply it at least every two days.
To avoid a frozen lock on a car door, the night before an ice storm, apply some petroleum jelly to the door key, insert the key into the door lock and twist back and forth several times. The action of the key inside the mechanism of the lock covers the inside of the lock with a temporary sheen of lubrication that keeps water from adhering to the lock pieces. However, this type of preventative action does not ensure that every part of the mechanism is protected. Purchasing an oil-based deicer and spraying directly into the lock covers every piece.
Another method, and one you may consider regardless of whether you apply some sort of lubricant or not is to cover the keyhole with a gauze band-aid to seal the locking system from water exposure.
What To Do If Your Precautions Do Not Work
When you find your car wholly frozen regardless of every precaution you have taken, try some small remedies for opening a door that is frozen. First, push in on the door as hard as you can to try to squash the grip of the ice. If you hear a crackle, then the ice may have released. Break the ice around the handle with a blunt plastic object. Using a metal object will damage your paint and cause additional problems later. Once you can access the handle, pull gently to see if the door will open. The main thing is to get inside the vehicle and start the motor. If the door does not yield to a gentle pull, do not try to tug it open. Go to another door and work the same action there, including the hatch if you have one.
If gentle manipulation does not get you in, try pouring warm water over the top of the door—do not use hot water as the temperature difference may break your glass. Another possibility is to use a deicer spray along the top and side of the car door. If you use the chemical deicer, use it sparingly as the deicer will affect gaskets as well as ice.
If the locks on your car will not release due to ice, spray a deicer into the lock, this will free the ice and allow you access to your vehicle.
Once inside the vehicle, you will be tempted to open doors by pushing from the inside where you have more leverage. DO NOT use this method to open the remaining doors. Your action will tear your gaskets which will require replacement—not a cheap way to go.
A sure way to open your car doors is to start your vehicle. If the car comes with a “remote start” feature, then start the engine that way and allow the heater to melt the ice from the inside. Hopefully, you will have changed your engine oil before the winter season so that the oil holds a minimum of contaminants, making engine startup an easy task.
Those who enjoy “keyless entry and push start/stop” features have an added advantage. These vehicles are reachable through a direct program that the driver utilizes through a remote tablet or another smart device. The car is programmed to start at a given time with or without a heating option, such as defrost or any other heating/cooling set position. A driver who knows that a storm is coming need only program the vehicle to start on its own at a given time to ensure that all systems are thawed and able to perform.
If everything else fails, there are agents you can call to the rescue. AAA and other organizations have road-assistance programs. Those living in a cold environment should become members of such organizations if possible. Opening frozen doors or locks is only one of the perks these organizations offer.
In the end, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the driver to be aware of the possibilities that come with freezing weather, and especially with ice storms. If you are bound for work in the morning, take note of the weather forecast. Storms are big items on the weather horizon. Take the precautions necessary to ensure your car will be available when you need it. Plan to access your vehicle early to make sure it is open and running. Otherwise, you will be caught in the cold, experiencing the winter of your discontent.