How to Get In When You’re Locked Out

If you tend to leave the keys in your car fairly often, consider hiding an extra key somewhere in the vehicle. A little magnetic key box that sticks to the metal surface of a steel body or frame is best, but be sure to place it in an obscure and hard-to-reach area where it can’t jiggle loose and fall off.

I leave the location up to you — be imaginative. Struggling a little to reach that extra key is better than having car thieves find it. And don’t hide your house key with it.

Fortunately, many new vehicles come with electronic door openers or “digital keys” that don’t allow you to lock the doors with the keys in the vehicle. The downside is that if you lose the gadget, it can take days and hundreds of dollars to replace it, and you’ll probably need to have the vehicle towed to a dealer who will order a new key.

If your vehicle has an electronic door opener, you may be able to get the door open, but if you’ve lost the opener outside your vehicle, the ignition may fail to start without it. Some vehicles have override switches for this eventuality, so find out whether you’d be able to start your vehicle without your opener, and locate the override switch now if there is one.

If you need professional help, call emergency road assistance and ask if they will be able to open the door. If not, ask them to send a local locksmith. The good news is that each car key is coded by the auto manufacturer, and if you have the key code number and personal identification, a locksmith can make you a new key. Write down the key code number and leave it where someone at home can read it to you in an emergency.

Also record it — without identifying what it is — in your pocket address book or in your wallet before you lose your keys. If you bought the vehicle, new or used, from a dealer, the dealer may still have the number on file or the automaker may have a record of it. Failing that, a good locksmith may be able to analyze a key in fairly new condition and come up with the proper code for it.

Preventive Maintenance: A Monthly Under-the-Hood Check

Everyone knows a few chronic tire kickers. Before they get in and drive off, these people habitually walk around their cars and kick the tires to make sure that they aren’t flat. The same people habitually open and close all the cabinet doors in the kitchen and check the gas jets every time they go past the stove. You may laugh at them, but they’re probably rarely caught with flat tires, open cabinets, or leaking gas.

Last word

Why not learn from these folks and make a habit of checking the little things under the hood of your vehicle — maybe not every time you drive somewhere, but definitely once a month and before starting out on long road trips.

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