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Winter Woes: How to Open a Frozen Car Door Quickly

Frost and snow on the windows and doors of a car

Winter weather produces peaceful, snowy vistas — and frigid temperatures that freeze your car’s doors. If you wake up to find your car door has been frozen shut by winter’s chill, don’t panic; there are steps you can take to open a frozen car door without damaging it in 15 minutes or less. Here’s what to do when your car’s doors are frozen shut and how to prevent it from happening again.

Your Frozen Car Door Toolkit

  • Large pot (5 gallons or larger).
  • Warm water.
  • Chemical de-icing agent.
  • Gloves.

Step 1: Apply Light Pressure to the Door

Sometimes all it takes to break thin ice is a little pressure. Lean gently on the door, then try opening it again. If the door remains frozen shut, move on to the next step.

Step 2: Douse the Handle With Warm Water

In some cases, warm water will be enough to thaw the frost and allow you to enter your vehicle. Use a large pot to warm water on the stove. It shouldn’t be hot or boiling; water at high temperatures may damage your car’s paint job. Pour the warm water onto the car’s door handle in a slow and steady stream. Once all the water has been poured, try opening the door again. If it still won’t budge, continue on to the next step.

Step 3: Employ a Chemical De-Icing Agent

If all else has failed, it’s time to bring out the big guns. A chemical de-icing agent should do the trick. These products are typically sold as windshield de-icers, but they’re just as effective at unfreezing car doors. De-icers are corrosive, so wear work gloves when tackling this task. Spray a bit of de-icer on the frozen door handle. Some de-icers can be harmful to the environment, so apply as little as possible. Give the product about 5 or 10 minutes to do its job, then try opening the car door.

Here’s What Not to Do

It may be tempting to use a crowbar to try and force the door open. Steer clear of this method, since a crowbar may scratch your car’s paint or cause structural damage to the vehicle.

An Ounce of Prevention

You can avoid future frozen car doors by regularly spraying the door frame with a lubricant when the mercury drops. You can also use a tarp to keep freezing snow and rain off your vehicle.

Remember to leave a little extra time on those frigid, icy winter mornings to clear off your car safely. You’ll be thankful you did come springtime.

Check out all the chemicals and fluids available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to protect your car in cold weather, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.


Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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