Driver's Guide

Steps to Unlock a Car Door with a Knife

How to unlock a car door with a knife

You seem stuck with your key inside the car. Fortunately, you can unlock a car door with a knife if you have one around. This is 100% DIY and can be done without any assistance.

Unlocking a car with a pocket knife will require delicate attention to detail and carefulness. You don’t want to damage the lock mechanism or scratch the paint. Besides, most national chains offer basic paint jobs for around $500. Professional paint restoration can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 while high-quality paint jobs cost $5,000+.

Normally, you should contact a key replacement professional such as a locksmith when you lose your car keys. But when you don’t have access to professionals and need to urgently open your car, a knife comes in handy.

How to unlock a car door with a knife

How safe is it to open a car with knife?

You can safely unlock a car door with your knife, but you have to be extremely careful not to cause damage. You only don’t want to use excessive force when creating the space between the door frame and body.

So, your skill comes to play. The type of car lock and the location also determine if it is safe to use your pocket knife.

For instance, unlike a manual lock, an automatic lock is harder to pick due to numerous sophisticated alarm systems.

If your car features a manual lock, it has fewer restrictions, including wires or other pieces coming in the way of the unlocking process from outside. A manual lock system makes it even easier to reach and pull the lock while wedging the door. Compared to a manual lock, an automatic lock uses more complex security systems, is connected to alarm systems, and is more secure. Thus, unlocking it with a knife is not safe.

How to unlock a car door with a knife

You’d require a high level of dexterity when using the knife. Do the following to unlock your car with a knife:

1. Create a space with the knife

You just have to create a space between the door frame and the body of the car using the knife. Depending on your car model, you may be able to create a wedge without a knife. But use a knife like butter or putty knife when unlocking the door of your car.

2. Slide in the knife

You just have to insert the knife into the created gap. Keep sliding the knife in until it is visible through the window from the outside. Be careful while working in the knife blade to avoid damaging your vehicle paint or weather stripping. Your first few attempts may be unsuccessful, especially if it is your first time.

3. Unlock the car with a tool

The final step is to reach the lock with a wire hanger in the form of a Slim Jim tool or get a Slim Jim. Use the tool to pull or push the lock mechanism to unlock it.

Meanwhile, here’s a recommended MacFowler video guide you can follow for a visual guide on the whole process:

When to use a knife to unlock car door

a. DIY skills

You can be proud you’ve done this one yourself. Tell friends about it and offer to help anyone in dire need of help to unlock their vehicle if they accidentally left the keys inside.

A knife is handy—you can ask anyone around. And if there’s no specialized tool like a Slim Jim, you can make one using a wire hanger. You just have to bend one end of the wire in the form of a hook.

Read also: without experience, you could be auto mechanic

b. Faster solution

Suppose you have an urgent engagement and your car is not in a safe location. You can’t leave the car there—vandals can come after it and have it keyed, breaking the window glass or even the windshield to steal. They can even steal other components like the catalytic converter, which takes a pro less than 1 minute to drop.

In this case, you want to unleash the power of your knife to unlock the car and continue your journey.

c. Time and cost

Regarding time, you would be waiting for a professional to locate you. This can take a few hours, depending on their location. There may not be a locksmith nearby that you can contact to unlock the door of your car.

Regarding cost, you don’t have to pay a tow company to tow your vehicle to a safer place. You may also have to pay for storage. And if you have someone bring the spare key from home, it can take time and money to pay for the cab, depending on the distance.

Why you shouldn’t use a knife

a. Potential lock/latch damage

You risk damaging the lock mechanism if you don’t do this right. Make sure you know the particular location of the lock before inserting the hanger.

b. Makes you suspicious to onlookers

It your car is in a public parking lot, people will think you’re trying to break into another person’s vehicle. You need to have proof that the car belongs to you if an authority approaches you.

c. Potential security system damage

Modern cars with additional security locks make it difficult to open the car with a knife. If you accidentally force the door open, you may damage the security system.

d. Paint scratch and weather stripping damage

You don’t want to damage the paint—it can be expensive if you choose to pay for a paint job. You also need to be extremely careful not to damage the weather stripping.


The unconventional methods above can be a hit or miss when trying to unlock your car with a knife (usually a butter knife). You also want to be careful not to cause damage.

Only apply the methods above if there is no way to contact professionals. Otherwise, contact professionals like locksmiths to save you from unnecessary expenses. A locksmith will also make you car keys for replacement if you lost yours.

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Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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