There is nothing worse than being locked out during a cold, winter day.
It’s even worse when your own locks have betrayed you and they’re not letting you in! Partnered with ice, these locks can be downright frustrating to work with. Before we fix this problem, you’ll first have to understand why we can’t just take a flamethrower to it.
When moisture gathers in and around a lock when it’s 0°C/32 °F or lower, it will form into ice. If you use fire or something hot, the change in temperature will be too sudden. Not only may you damage whatever your lock is protecting, but you may shock the lock’s components into breaking even further.
Now that we know that, we’re going to be trying to introduce non-flamethrower ways to melt the ice in the most peaceful way possible.
Let’s get to de-icing!
How to Fix Frozen Locks
De-icing your locks can be easier than you might think, but before we start, here are a few words of caution.
Please exercise patience and try not to use force when trying to de-ice your locks. It should be a slow, steady, and consistent process or else you may damage your lock or hurt yourself. If these tips can’t de-ice your locks, it may be time to call a professional.
But let’s get into the tips first and see what we can do!
- Spray some de-icer. You can buy a de-icing spray from most local commercial hardware stores. This is the quickest and most effective way to fix your problem. Make sure to always keep a bottle outside your car, so you can use it when you’re locked out.
- Spray some compressed air. This isn’t a long-term solution, but it can help you out in the moment. Put the nozzle into the lock and spray inside. It should blast away the moisture and get you back in business.
- Sanitize your key. Alcohol (the medical kind, not the fun kind) can’t freeze like water does, so when you apply it to ice, it can thaw the ice out. Place a small amount of hand sanitizer on your key on both sides and turn it in the lock. After a few turns, the lock should give way.
- Lube your key. If you have petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, or WD-40, it’ll give you an easier time when you turn the lock. Put a bit of jelly or spray a bit of WD-40 onto both sides of your key. Then gently persuade your key into the hole. Turn it in both directions, but remember, go slow and steady.
- Heat up your key. Try to heat up your key and slowly melt the ice inside by guiding it in through the lock. You can use anything from hot water, a lighter, a hairdryer, a heat gun, or even a blowtorch. With the more heavy-duty options, it is advised that you do your due diligence and take necessary safety precautions. You may have to reheat your key a number of times, depending on the severity of the ice.
- Heat up the lock. If any of the above tips don’t help, only use this tip as the last resort. You see, heating up the lock doesn’t do anything to remove the moisture that caused the problem in the first place. That water will probably freeze again and bring you back to your original problem. In addition, melting the ice and having the water find its way into your sensors or wiring may prove to be an even bigger problem.
But if you desperately need to get into your car, give this tip a try.
Carefully apply heat to the lock by using a hairdryer on the lowest possible setting. Anything stronger and you might end up damaging your lock. Move the hairdryer back and forth and check frequently if the ice has melted. If not…
- Call a locksmith. If all else fails, please call a locksmith! Forcing your way into your lock will more than likely damage the mechanism. If that happens, you may be required to replace the entire thing. As hard as it may be, you will have to admit that the harsh environment has bested you and call a professional.
Why do Locks Freeze?
As beautiful as snow may be, the sub-zero temperatures that tend to accompany it cause a number of problems. One of them being with locks.
Water and, more specifically, moisture will seep into every crack and crevice it can find. If you don’t cover your locks, it will inevitably find its way into them. As it gets nice and cozy, the moisture will start to freeze. With the new ice in the way, it can interfere with the locking mechanisms moving or working correctly.
Can I Melt the Ice with Hot Water?
Well, if ice is the problem, why can’t you just pour boiling water onto it?
Now although that may seem the most intuitive answer, hear me out. If you simply melt the ice inside the locking cylinder without somehow expelling that water, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. The moisture is sure to freeze over again and you might have hot water spilling into areas that you don’t want it to go. By using chemical agents, they will either evaporate the moisture or apply a protective coating.
And speaking of protection, let’s go over some ways to ensure that you never have to deal with this annoying problem again.
How to Prevent Locks from Freezing
If you’ve made it all the way down here, I would like to congratulate you.
You have either successfully de-iced your lock, came here in hindsight, or you are one of the rare individuals who have predicted such a problem from occurring and are here to prevent it (i.e. not me).
Luckily, prevention is simpler and exponentially more headache-free than fixing.
- Lubricate your locks before the winter months. Though usually done by a professional, there are available lock lubricants to either spray or pour into your locks. Some of the more generic products that you may find success with are WD-40 to spray and graphite powder to pour. They will coat the inner workings of your locks and prevent moisture buildup. Make sure that you apply to both the inside and outside of all locks that have at least one face exposed to the cold weather.
- Face your lock towards the sun. Look, a free solution! Hooray! Keep in mind which direction the sun will rise and have your lock face it. The heat should warm up your lock by the time you get to it.
- If your lock is in a car, dry your car after a wash. This one might be obvious, but a wet car will lead to an icy car. Thoroughly dry your car and pay extra attention to your locks. If you can and want to be extra careful, let the car sit and drive it the next day.
- Replace any worn out or old locks. Asides from the decreased level of security, you don’t want a lock that has more openings for moisture to sneak into. But what should you switch to? Look no further than the next tip.
- Switch to weatherproof locks. Check out your local hardware store to find these specifically-designed locks. When you picking them out, try to choose one that has a plastic case around it. They can prevent moisture from getting in and they’re much better at resisting the cold.
- Cover less used locks. Are you parking your car and planning on not driving it until spring? Did you locked away all your garden tools into the shed and have no plans of opening up that rusty padlock until the summer? If you said yes, it’s good practice to cover the locks because if you do, moisture can’t get in. Cover up your lesser-used locks with some putty, a strip of duct tape, or even some magnets that have been cut to size. Covering your locks is generally recommended as the expanding of moisture caused by freezing may have long-term negative effects.
Although your frozen locks and being left out in the cold may be a cause of frustration, it shouldn’t put a dent in your wallet.
Before calling up that locksmith, try out the simple tips mentioned above. Slowly and steadily introduce a melting agent into the locking cylinder and you should be granted access. However, if these tips don’t work, don’t apply more pressure or force into your lock. It may be more expensive to replace it than calling a professional!
But if you’ve managed to get that lock back to normal, give yourself a pat on the back. Then make sure you take the necessary precautions to prevent such an occurrence from happening again in the future.
Thank you for reading! May your locks stay dry and your feet stay warm. If you like what you’ve read, check out our other articles or sign up for our email list. When winter comes knocking on your door, we just might be able to help.