Lock-out Services

Sometimes a lock-out situation seems to be more of a crisis than other emergency roadside services, especially if there are children or dogs locked in the car or the engine is running. In the past, it was often solved quickly if you could find someone with a “Slim Jim.” Law enforcement officers, some mechanics, and others might have a Slim Jim and be able to help for little or no money.
These days, it is a different story. Most cars have electric door-locks, windows, and mirrors and many newer cars have side-impact airbags. So sliding a piece of metal blindly into the door cavity and hoping to catch the door locking linkage without damaging anything else is a gamble. The type of locking mechanism varies from vehicle to vehicle; and even the same made and model can be different in different years. Professionals have manuals which are usually 2–3” thick and are updated annually. The good tool sets are only legally sold to professionals and cost hundreds of dollars.
Professionals have the tools, the manuals, and the experience to open a vehicle’s door and, in the slim chance that damage is done, the insurance to cover it. Unfortunately, they need to charge for their services. These days, law enforcement officers are reluctant to get involved because they may not have the correct tools, often do not have a manual or any training, and do not want to deal with the liability if something goes wrong.
In other emergencies, people do not expect to obtain services for free. If your plumbing bursts, you do not expect the plumber to fix it for free because it is an emergency. If you get injured and need medical attention, you don’t expect the the doctor or the hospital to provide services for free because it is an emergency. Charges for a lock-out include not only the time on scene, but the time and miles to get to scene and return to base, the skills and experience to do the job, the tools and manuals, the insurance, and the availability of a service on call 24/7.
If you or some other non-professional is trying to do the job, the techniques to try would be to see if there is a gap at the top of any window and to use a coat hanger, perhaps with its end wrapped in duct tape to reach inside the vehicle, not inside the door cavity, and move the locking button. If a technique can be found to gentle wedge the door and create a small gap between the door and the vehicle’s body, this is even better access to the inside of the car. If there is someone like a child in the car who can not move the lock button, it may work to have him/her pull the door handle as far as it will go, twice. This is one of the techniques which works if you have a tool inside the vehicle.
To plan for the future, you might want to see if you buy a key that just opens the door. (Key fobs and ignition keys can cost hundreds of dollars, but a simple key for opening the door is often inexpensive.) Then carry it with you at all times or find a piece of metal on the outside of the vehicle in a protected and secure spot and put the key in a magnetic box to attach to the outside of the vehicle or behind the license plate. Another consideration is that AAA membership or emergency roadside assistance through your insurance company is often an inexpensive way to have the expenses covered when you do need the service.
[Even though I have the tools myself and have paid for emergency roadside assistance, I do carry a spare door key for my car in my purse. I have locked myself out and my dog has locked the doors a few times.]