Avoid locking your keys in the car

Amazon: Inkology Carabiner Band Clips, 6 Clips per Pack Here's Julia's method for keeping her car keys accessible:

I'm terrified I'm going to lock my son and my keys in the car together. So, when I'm putting my son in the car or getting him out, I put my keys on the roof of the car. I can put everything else in the car along with him (my purse or any shopping bags), but the entire time I keep the keys on the roof. 

Of course,  I drive a car, so the roof is pretty easy to get to. My sister-in-law drives an SUV, so she puts her keys on the hood.

I, too, am afraid of locking my keys in the car with the kids. I've attached a carabiner to my keychain so I can hang my keys on my purse strap when I need hands free. Another benefit: I keep them clipped to my purse when not in use, so can see at a glance if I've got my keys with me when grabbing my purse to head out the door.

How do you keep from locking your keys in the car?

Related: Keychain hacks


  1. Ted says

    I have three keys to the car: One for me, one for my wife, and one that I keep in my wallet. If I do lock myself out, I just reach into my wallet in my back pocket.

    This tip came to me years ago from a locksmith after I locked my keys in the car. She noted that some people carry the spare key in the glove compartment… which, if you’ve locked yourself out, defeats the whole idea.

  2. Valerie says

    Pockets. For a number of reasons, I have an iron-clad rule: if the pants or skirt doesn’t have pockets, I’m not buying it. Second rule, if I am not home or driving, my keys are in my right-hand pocket. Myself, I’m likely to loose or forget keys placed anywhere else. I am, however, extremely unlikely to loose my pants pockets.

  3. Ali says

    I have my keys on a lanyard – when I’m loading and unloading the car, I put it around my neck, so I know exactly where my keys are at all times. I can also clip my cell phone to the lanyard if need be – handy for those times when you don’t want to carry a bag, but want those items on you.

  4. Pam says

    Oh, I can’t sing the praises of the caribiner more highly. Ever since I attached a caribiner to my key ring, I have not lost them or locked them anywhere. Keys are attached to my purse strap (or attached to a hook inside my purse so they never fall into the Black Hole), or they are attached to a belt loop, or they are even clipped to my waist band in a pinch. At home, I clip them to a shelf next to my car in the garage.

    Although my daughter is old enough to get out of the car herself, I still worry about locking my keys in the trunk when I’m loading groceries or something, hence the caribiner.

  5. Shalini says

    As much as I hate to admit it, I did lock the baby in the car once. It was awful, and thank goodness I had just read the Baby Toolkit post on what to do. We had him out in a jiffy and I was definitely more traumatized than he was. I even had a carbiner on my keychain-I felt like such an idiot!! Since then, I’ve been putting the keys on the roof and that’s worked out great.

  6. John says

    We put caribiners on our keychains, but my wife also keeps a hairband on the caribiner. This makes it easy to put the keys on your wrist.

  7. Kookaburra says

    I put the keys into my pocket while buckling Baby Dear into the car. I am too afraid to leave the cars on top of the car for two reasons. 1. Keys easily scratch the paint. 2. More importantly, I’m afraid some wacko will come along and try to car-jack my car with my child in it. Serious safety issue there.

  8. ChristieNY says

    I have a carabiner on my keys. I keep them attached to the diaper bag or purse strap (whichever bag I’m using) at home.

    Then when I put the kids in the car I clip the keys to my belt loop. I always wear pants/shorts with loops now because of this. ;)

  9. adrienne says

    I absolutely love the hairband/carabiner combination. It’s brilliant, and it should help with those random days when I find myself without pockets or beltloops.

  10. Sandy says

    I have always placed keys, cups, books etc on the roof or driver’s seat of the car while buckling my son. My husband always unlocks the car and puts his keys back in his pocket until he is ready to drive. I do not carry a purse so when purchasing pants and skirts, the first criteria I consider is at least 1 pocket to make sure my wallet and keys always have a pocket. If I wear a dress, I make it a point to wear a jacket.

    1 other thing I did for convenience that ended up being a safety measure (a cop saw this and gave me the thumb’s up), was to move the car seat behind the driver’s seat. So when we unlock the car either in the 4-door (moot point in my 2-door), we open the driver’s door, place items on the roof and/or on the driver’s seat, and then buckle my son in, leaving the driver’s door open. This way the driver’s car door does not lock, the car does not lock as long as the driver’s door is open and we are still on the driver’s side blocking access to anyone trying to get into the driver’s door until we are done, so we are not worried about car-jacking as much.

    My new car has convenience access where I do not have to take the key out of my pocket to open the car or drive (has the Push Button to start). I think this is the best thing that new cars have as an option to ensure kids are not locked in and totally worth it.

    I watched one parent struggle when her son was locked in and she had to talk him through hitting the unlock button, and the On-Star Operator did not help as they would not unlock unless the kid spoke back to her, and of course the 2 yr old boy was not going to respond to a stranger. He did manage to unlock the door and thankfully she had not turned on the child-lock.

  11. Brian says

    I will forsake my kids’ safety to keep my car from getting scratched. :)

    Actually, my car will only lock with the key fob, so I have to hold the key to lock it ensuring that my kids’ are safe.

  12. conedude13 says

    I just keep the key in the pocket. I stick my hand in my pocket and push the unlock button twice, then remove my hand from my pocket.

    This would only fail in the freak case that my pants fall off in the car while i’m buckling the kids in and don’t notice that my pants fell off. :P

    I’m a guy though, so i have nice big pockets to hold my key for me. I just have one key for the car, the house keys are on a regular key chain. The car key was too awkward to have on with the house keys.

  13. Kookaburra says

    Brian you missed my point entirely. I was adding in about the scratching, but like I said above, MORE IMPORTANTLY, I’m afraid some wacko will come along and try to car-jack my car with my child in it. Serious safety issue there.

  14. Sue at nobaddays says

    We recently went out as a family and my husband was driving. I put my keys on the car roof, as I always do, and strapped my son in. About 30 minutes and roughly 25 miles of freeway driving later, we heard a slide and a thud, and I realized what I’d done. We drove back to find my keys on the side of the road. I can’t believe they stayed on the roof that long, and was glad they slid off in our destination neighborhood not on the side of the freeway!

  15. Amberlynn says

    I’ve lost my wallet by leaving it on top of the car before (luckily someone turned it into the police). I keep my keys on a hooking keychain that can attach to my purse, diaper bag, or beltloop, like a carabiner only smaller. Also, my husband and I never shut a door, including the trunk, without asking the other “do you have your keys?” It’s a great habit to have.

  16. James E. Robinson, III says

    After you do it once, you vow to never let it happen again. I simply carry two key-chains in the pocket: one with just the car key, the other with a house key, work keys, etc. and a spare key to the car door.

  17. James says

    Don’t forget about using the old standby “hid-a-key”.

    Not the old ones made of plastic with a little magnet on them, those are too easy to discover, in my youth I would routinely look for cars with the old plastic hidden key deals, instant access to the car, and no one looks twice when you use a key to get in.

    The new ones though, they have combinations on them and are usually an abs plastic covering a hardened steel box, usually cost about $25 for the good ones, but well worth the piece of mind.

  18. James says

    I keep my key/car remote on a small loop by themselves and it’s in my pocket whenever it’s not in the ignition.

    If I tried your trick, in less than a week I would leave them on top of the car and someone would steal the car.

  19. Amber says

    If I kept my keys clipped to my purse or diaper bag they would for sure be locked inside the car. I put my bags down in the car first and then strap the kids in. I need my hands free of junk to clip them in safely.

    The method that works for me and my husband is to show one another or ask to see the keys before closing and locking the doors. We also have copy keys made and relatives have them. So that when it does happen they can zip on over to the rescue.

    My husband also learned his lesson about starting the car to cool it down buckling one child in and then head over to the other side to load another in. The doors automatically locked. I’m sure this happens a lot in the hottest and coldest months. We don’t do that anymore and we make sure and leave at least one door open no matter what.

    Honestly, the safest bet is to have someone else that lives close to you or the area you frequent keep a copy of all of your keys. If you can forget your keys inside, you can forget the items they are clipped onto inside the car too. Have the solution removed from all possible situations.

  20. Rachel says

    I too use the carabiner method, and that thing really does come in handy often.

    I clip my keys to my purse, use it to hang my keys up at home, and it’s a great emergency toy to clip to a shopping cart for baby to jingle the keys.

  21. Rob Bentley says

    Sounds like US cars have some kind of autolock feature. Here in the UK, this is rare. Surely the garage can disable the autolock function ? Then you can lock the doors yourself if you need to.

  22. Brian says

    I have a simple rule before closing the doors to the car: I slap my pockets to check for my keys. Works like a charm for me.

  23. Lindsay says

    Great Ideas!
    I have been terrified of this also..
    I have made a habit to hook my keys on my purse, thrown my purse on my shoulder even before i get out of the car…
    I also went to my car dealership and had a skeleton key made, I think I paid $15.
    Then I got one of the magnetic boxes and put the key in it and hid it under my car..I know car thiefs look their first, but it can not start the car and the thief is more then welcome to take a few of the 800 toys I have in their for my little guy!
    I have had to use it one time but not for locking my kid in their but I did lock my purse and keys… Sheesh, my momnesia gets the best of me sometimes!

  24. Susan says

    If you use the “hide a key” option, buy the one that uses velcro, not magnets. I’ve had the magnetic kind fall off more than once but in 12 years, have never lost the velcro kind.

    I’m not too worried about thieves finding the hidden key … well, if they really want my 10 year old car with the crappy stereo, they can have it. The odds of theft are slim, or at least a lot slimmer than the odds of me locking my keys in my car!

  25. Bob says

    Great tips. But no matter how careful we are, there are situations where we forgot where we put the keys and I believe that this happens to most people. There should always be a spare key for emergency.

  26. Kirstin says

    Be careful about that roof trick. It’s what I do, too, but I have been known, after carrying a sleeping babe or a load of groceries in to the house when someone else was home, to leave the keys sitting on the roof all night long! Lucky we still have a car!

  27. Fiksu says

    Yep, you do it once, you never, ever do it again.

    I used to toss purse, keys, etc. onto the front seat before buckling the kids in. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    One hot day, I snapped the baby in, then tried to put the toddler in. She threw a tantrum. I pulled her out and slammed the door in a huff. And my heart leapt out of my body.

    It was rush hour and we were downtown. All-important Friend With Spare Key started heading toward us at the same time I called the the lockout guy. It took the lockout guy half an hour to get to us.

    Several Kind People With Questionable Pasts said they could easily break into the car, except it was a Volvo and they are impermeable. Even the lockout guy said a Volvo was a tough case. I was this close to smashing the window when he finally pulled the keys out with a balloon and a hook. We called the nurse’s line as soon as I pulled my hot, screaming baby out of the car. He nursed and we draped him in wet towels. And he, thank god, was fine.

    Ever since then, keys go on the car roof every single time. Every single time. I put them down, then take an extra beat to look at them and make sure they are actually there.

  28. Meg says

    We used to do this but the system failed us twice (yep, we are slow learners) when both of us were loading wee ones in the car… one of us (ok, it was ME) forgot to get their keys off the roof, and they flew off the back of the car and got driven over by a following car! Only works if you’re dealing with just one set of keys. :-)

  29. Jasi says

    Caribeaners are cool but I just use link-a-doos. I grip one off of the HSH (holy-shoot-handles) where I leave them to dangle and amuse the child. Grab one, slap it on my purse handle and hang the keys. Then I click it to the cart cozy’s tether in the store. Babe loves to touch the real keys and it keeps them in sight for a fast load up.

  30. Danni says

    This is very common among some of my friends. They’re like forgetful people who always have so many things in their minds. Lucky they have a spare key.

  31. Terrible Speller says

    I used to put my keys on top of my car, but one day I had two sets with me, one was just my car keys that attached to a larger set with my house and other stuff. Well I was driving down the road, 10 minutes from the house, when I hear the strangest noise for top of the car. Then it hit me, my keys just feel off the top of the car. Lucky for me I was able to turn around and spot the keys in the middle of the road.

    Now I have a Ford with a key-less entry. I LOVE IT!

  32. Dori says

    This is a great tip. I usually give my keys to my 3-year old to hold as I have a little flashlight that he likes to play with. It keeps him happy while I’m getting my 6-month old out and I have a place for my keys!

  33. hip.umma says

    we always keep one door open. so, open a door before you close one. and the last door that get closed is the door you get into the car with.

  34. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Sorry, Maggie — my attempt at humor. Srinivas is an Indian proper name. I was searching Amazon for keychains, and I found these bizarre “I ‘fill in the blank'” keychains. I just thought “I Srinivas” was so funny, because how many people are really going to buy that off of Amazon?

  35. Tina says

    I have a carabiner and a trick too. I always open the drivers window first thing. Then no matter what, I can reach in and unlock from inside.

  36. chris says

    Hide-A-Key is a beautiful thing! Put your key in the magnetic case and hide it somewhere that nobody will ever look. Mine is on top of the frame welded hitch. Yeah, I’d have to lay down in the parking lot to get to it, but no ‘bad guy’ is going to find it. As an added precaution, the key that is in there is a copy. My car has the security chip thingy in the key so that a non-dealer made key will not start the ignition. My Hide-A-Key will open the door and then I can use the regular key to drive with.

    The Hide-A-Key came in especially helpful on a blazing summer day. I had used the remote start to cool down the car while I loaded the babies. I somehow accidentally neglected to unlock the doors after I started it. Not a big deal, the keys were in my pocket. As I pulled my keys out of my pocket, I dropped them into a sewer grate at my feet. My children were locked in a car on a upper-90’s day. I used the Hide-A-Key to get them out and wait in the store until some handy work with a coat hanger rescued the keys from the drain.

  37. mummyjaan says

    Amazing how we all share the same fears.

    I pop my keys into my pocket while strapping the kids in.

  38. Elle says

    Some solid advice mentioned! Key copies and safety equipment help our household along with the following: I take a breath and slow down. You’d be amazed how much time ten seconds is when you count it.