How to Keep a Frozen Car Door Shut

How to Keep a Frozen Car Door Shut thumbnail
Frozen car doors are more common when a car isn't used regularly.

During the winter months, the doors on your car may become frozen. You might have trouble opening the car door or closing the door once you do manage to get it open. When the temperature plunges, the latch inside your car door can freeze, preventing it from moving back and forth from the latched to the unlatched position. If this happens, you will need to thaw out the latch before the car door will open or stay closed on its own.

Things You'll Need

  • De-icer
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    • 1

      Lock and unlock your car door a few times while opening and closing the door handle, if you are able to do so. In some cases, applying pressure and attempting to open or close the door will break the frozen latch free and allow it to start working on its own. If this doesn't resolve the problem, go on to the next step.

    • 2

      Inspect the latch on your car door and determine whether it is frozen in the locked or unlocked position. Look on the side of the car door and locate the latch. Examine the hooking mechanism on the end of the latch to determine whether it is in the open or closed position.

    • 3

      Spray a de-icer product over the entire door latch. Allow the de-icer to work for several minutes. If you don't have de-icer handy, you can use WD-40. Some car owners may be tempted to use hot water; however, this is not recommended because hot water will refreeze at a faster rate and could potentially make the problem worse.

    • 4

      Manually move the latch hook to the open position, if it isn't already. You can usually do this by grabbing it with your fingers and pushing it open. If this doesn't work, try using a screwdriver to pry the latch to the open position.

    • 5

      Close your car door and see if it will shut. If it doesn't stay closed, try locking it manually to see if the latch starts working again. If the door still doesn't stay shut, repeat the above step, spraying the latch with de-icer. Make sure the latch is in the open position. Try closing the door again. If the door still won't stay shut, go on to the next step.

    • 6

      Park your car in a heated garage and allow it to thaw out. Leave the car sit overnight, if possible. If your garage isn't heated, use a space heater to warm the area enough to thaw your car. If you don't have a garage, you can start the car and let it run with the heater blowing on high and the frozen door shut as much as possible. This method could take as little as 15 minutes or up to an hour or more.

    • 7

      Take your car to a mechanic if you are still unable to shut the door after thawing it out. Something more serious may be wrong with the locking mechanism. You can use a rope or a bungee cord to keep the car door closed long enough to get your car to the repair shop.

Tips & Warnings

  • To prevent your locks, hinges and latches from freezing in the first place, rub a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the moving parts before winter sets in.

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  • Photo Credit in snow to a captivity ii. image by Petr Gnuskin from


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