Keys Locked in the Trunk? Here's What to Do
It's not a small problem. It's not a slight inconvenience. It's something you don't want to happen. Ever.
I say this because it recently happened to me, and I thought it would be a really easy problem to solve. Hours later, after calls to a lot of locksmiths and some major cab fares, I realized this is something most people don't even consider being prepared for. And then, one day, you're stuck in a parking lot, scratching your head and wondering how you're going to get out of it.
So, here's what you need to do if you happen to close the trunk with your keys still nestled safely inside it.
1. Call Specialized Auto Locksmiths
The first thing you'll need to do is call a series of locksmiths who deal with this specific situation. A regular locksmith may be able to get into your car, but the trunk is a whole different animal. It is designed to be a safe; impossible for thieves to get into, and therefore, you as you try to break into your own car. Here's what you need to know.
- Use your smartphone (hopefully you have one) to search for auto locksmiths in the area. You need to call more than one to get estimates on times and prices. Do this first, and quickly. You can always call back and cancel if you figure something else out, but get the ball rolling.
- Most of these locksmiths will advertise a very low price, between $15 and $20 for the service. This is usually the cost for unlocking a car with a child trapped inside it. You will be paying much more than this. Typically, it's a $20 call-out charge and $35 or more for the actual unlocking.
- Ask for a realistic time. They may say 15 minutes, but in my case it took over two hours. If it's rush hour, you'll wait even longer.
- You must tell the dispatcher to notify the technician that your keys are in the trunk. Break into any modern car, and the alarm will go off; often shutting down the electrics responsible for the trunk release. The technician will need a series of tools to break into the trunk, including a snake camera.
- When the technician arrives, remind him or her again of the situation. When mine arrived I assumed he knew what was going on. After breaking into the car and the alarm going bezerk, he asked me where the keys were. When I told him they were in the trunk, he just went quiet and said, "Ooh. That's a big problem."
- Be prepared for the technician to be unable to solve your problem. It's very possible that they won't be able to get inside the trunk. Modern carmakers have gone to great lengths to secure it. The release levers for the back seats are now inside the trunk; the trunk release is protected by the battery. You may very well need to move on to stage two at this point.
2. Get the Spare Keys
Consider that it could take one to two hours for a technician to reach you. They may be unable to help once they arrive. In the time that has taken, and the money spent, you could have gotten the spare keys. Some things you need to consider:
- Does someone you know have access to the spare keys, and can they come to you with them? For instance, if the spare set is at home with your partner, and they are less than an hour away, it may well be a better plan to call them after you have called locksmiths. If they can do it, ask them to bring them, and cancel the locksmith at this point. If not, can you call a friend who can take you to your home, and back?
- If no one has access to the spare keys, you're on your own.
- Can you get a cab to and from your current location without breaking the bank? In my case, it cost me $60 round trip in an Uber cab, and took 55 minutes (this was after spending almost three hours in the parking lot). You could leave the car there overnight, and perhaps ask a friend to take you back the next day. Or, just take the cab back the next day.
3. No Spare? Order a New Key
This will not be a quick process, and you will need to have the VIN of your vehicle and proof of ownership. If you bought your car from a licensed dealership, they should be able to help you. They may well be able to do it in a matter of days, but this can also take a week or two. In the meantime, you'll need to have the car towed to your location, and this will also cost money. You could try leaving it where it is, but it could get towed anyway, or broken into. (Although probably not the trunk.)
4. Override the Trunk Release
This is not easy for a novice, and every car is different. However, if you have some skill, and a battery source (you can always figure out a way to use the car battery), you can find ways online to access the fuse box and create a short that will pop the trunk. There are several videos online, but they are definitely not something you want to follow if you have little or no automotive experience.
5. The Last Resort: Break Into the Trunk
The locksmith who tried to help me told me of an incident similar to mine several months ago. The driver couldn't get into the trunk, he had no spare, and he was in a desperate hurry to get home. So, he told the locksmith to use his tools to break into the trunk through the back seats. After an hour or so, and a lot of damage, they got into the trunk and the customer said he would simply order a new back seat when he got home. That's an expensive solve, but if it's one you deem necessary, you could consider it.
Make Sure This Never Happens to You
One of the simplest ways to avoid this ever happening to you is to make sure your keys are always in your pocket or another safe place before ever opening the trunk. In my case, I had placed a bag inside and had to do a little reorganization. I had my keys in my hand, and put them down to move things about. Then, I closed the trunk. Bad move.
Of course, accidents happen, so consider a back-up plan. You may want to have a spare key placed inside the car, hidden from view. This will be easily accessible once a locksmith has got you into the car, and you can turn off the alarm and open the trunk again.
Another option is to have a spare key hidden inside a magnetic strongbox somewhere under the car. This has a few downsides. First, a thief could find it, but the chances are they won't even bother searching for it as very few people do this. Second, it could fall off; especially if you go over bumpy terrain.
Just remember, locking your keys in the trunk is nothing like locking your keys in the main body of the car. Be prepared for a lot of time and trouble to be spent fixing your silly mistake.
Have you ever locked your car keys in the trunk? What'd you do?
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