The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

November 30, 2006

Tricks for unfreezing car doors

OTTUMWA — Ottumwans awoke to see streets mostly free of ice and snow. For some, though, their pleasure decreased when they tried to get in their car. But there are ways to get those frozen doors open.

For nearly 20 years, Jeff Warfield has been taking care of new and used cars in Iowa; he has unstuck a lot of doors. Now general sales manager at Malone Motors, he got to work early Thursday and began cleaning off more than 30 cars, trucks and SUVs.

And though Warfield has heard of drivers successfully slamming a shoulder against the metal part of the door to “break the seal” of the frozen water, he never does that because he could damage a car he hopes to sell. So he can’t bang on sheet metal; he can’t be ripping doors open because he could tear the rubber seal and he refuses to spray anything that could damage the paint.

“If it’s frozen, I will use hot water, then I open it and wipe the door jams good [and] dry, let it run, then take it down to the shop, which is heated,” he said.

While some Iowans swear by the hot water trick, others advise against it.

“Boiling water, even real hot water, is dangerous; it can crack glass,” said Jerry Phillips, an employee at O’Hara Hardware. “Although yes, some people have [been successful]; I even did it once when I was [desperate].”

But, added owner Mike O’Hara, hot water may just end up refreezing the door shut.

The trick would be to get your vehicle inside immediately, then wipe down the door jams, said Phillips. But that usually isn’t an option.


“Because if they had a heated garage, they’d probably keep the car there in the first place,” he said.

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