Yanks, educate us Southern folk on all things winter.

Three ice storms in two weeks is more than this Dallas Texan can take.

We’ll leave this thread open to Q&A.

What I want to know is: How the hell do you open your car door when it’s frozen shut?

[Others, feel free to ask your own questions or offer your own bits of advive.]

That doesn’t happen very often - and if it does, it’s because you’ve done something stupid. However, in the event of something like an ice storm where there’s not much you can do (if you don’t own a garage) - you just deice the outside and pull (the smart way being hold open the door latch, and pull from the top of the door - there’s more leverage and there aren’t moving parts that can break). Very (extremely) rarely does the ice permeate to the inside of the door seal, almost never with cars made in the last 10-15 years.

What you should be doing during those ice storms is going out several times and starting your car for 30-60 minutes to prevent your door from freezing in the first place.

Are all the doors frozen? If not, start car, warm it up, crank heater until door thaws. Judicious use of a hair dryer can help if all the doors are frozen shut.

Four-wheel drive can help in deep, loose snow. On slick, packed snow or ice, FWD just makes you crash faster.

Is this question just about cars and ice? I’ve never had a door frozen shut in 30 years, nor have I known anyone who had that particular problem. I do park it in the garage, which isn’t heated, but better than nothing. I want very badly to take it to the car wash. Every car on the road now is gray, covered in mud and road salt. I’ve had a really hard time spotting my old heap, walking through parking lots, since it’s nearly invisible now. But I don’t dare wash it till it gets warmer because I’m afraid of the doors freezing shut.

Spray de-icer.

This post brought to you by the State of Minnesota.

What do you ‘northern’ folks do about your pool with such severe and prolonged temps? Where I live we might have 4 or 5 days of temps in the 20s in a row. As soon as it gets below freezing the pump(s) will come on circulating the water through the systems and everything stays okay. I don’t imagine that would be viable for months on end.

How about your lawn sprinkler system? Do you blow out the lines after shutting off the supply? Any other precautions?

Freezing rain actually affects the transition zones and the south more often, so they are more likely to get doors frozen shut in areas where winter is short and occasional.

Freezing rain = rains onto surfaces, then freezes. Not to be confused with sleet, which bounces when it hits surfaces in an already frozen state.

If freezing rain is expected:

>Don’t lock car doors, unless you have a remote.

>Lift the wiper blades up from the window (before the storm), because freeing them up from ice could result in tearing the rubber.

>Have some de-icer, as mentioned, that you can spray onto a door to free it.

Ice on painted surfaces means a tough job ahead. How do you break the ice, and not damage the vehicle? Sometimes striking it can break it off in sheets, sometimes it won’t. Sometimes, people who are ill prepared won’t have de-icer, and will resort to hair dryers. I’ve sprayed WD-40 into door seams, but on my older 4WD truck, so I didn’t freak out if it got on my paint, and I don’t think it ever hurt it anyway. (I’ve done it to prevent freezing and to free doors up after freezing).

With your hand, strike all around the door seem to free it up. Most frames are solid enough to accept a good whack. Just go around the seam as you would if you were trying to loosen the tightest pickle jar lid you ever experienced, and you resorted to loosening it up with a butter knife.


I’m interpreting the OP as meaning that the whole car is iced over. It’s harder than you’d think to get enough ice chipped away that the door will open, in that situation. For one thing, this is why we northerners (hee hee) covet sheltered parking spaces, so freezing rain doesn’t coat our cars. If it happens, all I know to do is use the tool of your choice to chip the ice away from the edges of the door, until you can get it open. Then you turn the car on with the heater on full blast, and eventually the windows will melt clean.

Pools are winterized, but not completely drained.

Some people blow out their sprinkler systems (my neighbors, for example). I simply let gravity drain mine, and haven’t had a problem. We people in the north tend to have basements more than you folks in the south.

I’ve never had a door frozen shut but I’ve had one frozen open. I was in the passenger seat, and once I got in, the door wouldn’t shut. I had to hold it closed. As luck would have it we drove past a hardware store where and employee was trying to open the lock – with a blow torch. I asked him for help, and one little burst of flame made the door work right again.

I pour isopropyl alcohol (91%) around the edges of the door and window seal.

Bit of advice – Dopers don’t need to be told but for the rest of the world – pay attention to the wheel wells. Don’t let snow and slush build up, or it’ll freeze, and you’ll have trouble getting the wheels to turn. It’s probably not good for tires either. I’ve seen cars with wheel well covers/guards ripped off because of impacted snow. Kick it off or go to a car wash and hose it off.

Also, cops around here will ticket you if snow/slush is covering your license plate and headlights/taillights. Hell, my husband was ticketed once because the license plate holder covered the top inch of the license plate numbers!

I’ve never had a door frozen shut, but one time the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t get the driver side door open. Had to get in on the passenger side.

Pools are not drained. For in-ground pools, the water often keeps the pool from popping up and out of the ground, and for above-ground pools, it keeps the structure in place. They are often drained just below the skimmers lines, but sometimes are not. The lines are blown out via compressed air and/or treated with RV grade anti-freeze then plugged. Boats get the same treatment. On inboard or and I/O [inboard/outboard engine] (not to be confused with an outboard), you drain all the water from engine and exhaust, and/or treat with RV antifreeze (RV antifreeze can be drained onto the ground when spring comes, or blown out all over the darn place, thus the use of RV-grade stuff).

Sprinkler systems are often blown out via compressed air. Most cannot be gravity drained. Appears some can, but since air can’t freeze and crack the pipes, it’s prudent to blow them out by opening each zone, blowing it out dry and moving to the next zone. Most systems I’ve seen cannot be gravity drained, even if one has a basement.


Prior to freezing rain I would turn the windshield wipers on and stop them in the open position and then put newspaper or a tarp behind them to cover the windshield. For the driver door I’d open it and then close it over a tarp that covers the whole door. This creates a gasket around the door and covers the lock. It also covers the window gasket so water doesn’t get inside the door and freeze the door mechanism (it’s not always the lock that freezes).

Repeat as needed for other windows.

Here’s my car with one side completely frozen (4 years ago). I was lucky that one side (the driver’s side) was not covered in ice: if both sides had been like that, I don’t know what I could have done in an airport car park.

Yeah I suspect this doesn’t happen too much in the north - at least the midwestern suburbs - because we’ve all got garages. Attached garage parking is where it’s AT.

I watch home shows from time to time and am amazed at the lack of garages out there. My mom and I just saw one show with a house that looked much like mine, only with no garage and no driveway! In the south somewhere. We couldn’t fathom buying a house for $600k without a garage.

I am surprised the number of people here who seemed baffled by frozen doors. It’s not that hard to imagine how this works.

Water gets in the doors around the seals when it is in its liquid form (either rain, melted snow, or whatever) and then it freezes at night. You can’t get your door open without breaking the dinky plastic door handle.

Believe it or not, but there are millions of people (even in the North!) that do not have covered parking. I have never had covered parking in my life.

First thing to do is unlock the door (duh). You try to pull the door open as much as you want without breaking the handle. If it still doesn’t open, let go of the handle and smack the side of the door as hard as you can using your side hip or butt. This is a time to put your weight into it.
You will usually hear some cracking. That could be the ice around the door seals or it could be your hip bone. Now try to pull it open again, now smack it hard again. If this does not loosen up the ice, try another door.

Which can be hard to do with a older car, where you have to insert a key into a keyhole. How would you have done that with my car?

Also pay attention to your wheels, snow and ice built up inside of the wheel can really through off the balance of the tire/wheel.

I live in an area that gets LOTS of snow. Snow brushes are fine, but I just keep a push broom outside near my car. Much easier and faster.

Don’t lock the door on key entry only vehicles just before an ice storm. You can also stick some duct tape over the key hole. The important part is to never use too much pressure on the door handle or it breaks. After pounding at key spots around the door, you attempt to open the door at the seem edges. As a last resort you go in and get a hairdryer and 100 feet extension cord and put the nozzle up against the door seem. The hair dryer is used for many frozen stuck mechanical devices. I use it on the snow blower to get unmovable parts to move. Never use a hairdryer on glass though as it will break.

Lubricating the seal on a door that keeps freezing shut will often prevent the door from freezing shut in the future.