Why do car doors lock when the car is on fire?

By Arif

Car door lock

Why do car doors lock when the car is on fire? The answer to this question can save many lives who fail to exit their vehicles in a life-threatening situation.

Car owners often felt helpless when trying to escape a car emergency through the doors. While the doors do not automatically lock when the car is on fire, some causes can lock/jam the door, putting the car owner in a vulnerable position.

In this post, you will learn about the causes of car doors getting locked and the steps to get out of it successfully.

Why do car doors lock when the car is on fire?

In some cases, car doors lock or malfunction due to extreme heat and damage caused by fire. One of the worst victims of a car fire is a power failure.

A door’s locking mechanism is internally linked to a car’s electrical system. When the power fails, it impacts the electrical system of a car resulting in the malfunctioning of all the electrical components including the door’s locking mechanism.

Secondly, if the car fire is caused by a major crash/accident the eventful impact could lead to a defect/malfunctioning in the door latch which may fail to open.

Additionally, some car models are featured with automatic locking systems when the car is in motion. This could become a potential hindrance to escaping the car immediately if the locking system is affected by the impact of fire/accidental damage.

In any case, it is important for car occupants to be aware of their vehicle’s safety features and the causes that lead to car doors getting locked.

Power failure

A car fire can cause a power failure if it damages the electrical system/components of the vehicle. The electrical system of a car is responsible to transmit power for the functioning of various components including the engine, lights, and other electronic devices.

In most modern cars, the door locking mechanism is part of the electrical system which is operated through the car’s central locking system.

Car power failure

If a car fire harms any of these components it can cause power failure which can make it difficult to unlock the door from inside. Even the remote and keyless entry may not work in such conditions.

However, it’s worth noting that not all cars are equipped with the same locking mechanism and the specific cause of door locking due to power failure can vary depending on the car make and model.

Impact pressure

There is no denying the fact that a car can catch fire as a result of an accident. The impact pressure meaning the force of a crash or collision can play a major part in a car’s door-locking mechanism.

The forceful impact often damages the door handles and overall door structure which can eventually lead to damage of a car’s locking mechanism.

The damage can prevent the doors from unlocking leaving the occupants stuck inside the car for a long time.

Latch Defect/malfunctioning

A defective or malfunctioning latch can cause a car door to lock/jam in an emergency situation. This is because a latch is an important part to secure or hold the car door closed.

Car door latch

There are several ways that a latch can get defective after a crash or accident. If the latch is broken, misaligned, or become faulty it may not be able to release the door or engage with the striker plate on the door arms which can prevent the door from opening when the handle is pulled.

For any of the above reasons, if a door latch is not working properly it creates a potentially dangerous situation of trapping the occupants of a car inside.

Steps to escape the car when the doors are locked in an emergency situation

When you find yourself trapped in a car with doors locked here are some of the steps you can take to get out of the vehicle safely:

First of all, stay calm and assess the situation. Check the alternative doors or windows and try to open them to see if you can escape. If none of them works look for the objects or tools to break the windows.

Using the objects

There are several objects that can be used to escape a car when the doors are locked. The most commonly used is the seat headrest. Dislodge it from the seat and use its metal poles to break the windows.

If you are unable to remove the headrest or feel that it is not strong enough look for other heavy and sharp objects made of metal. Some of these include tire iron, screwdriver, knife, scissor, or any type of metal rod.

It is important to note that when using any object aim for the corners of the window as they are typically the weakest and can be broken with minimum effort.

Physical effort

Using the objects and escaping from the car isn’t a cakewalk. In fact, it may require calculated effort and exceptional physical strength in some cases.

The amount of effort required will depend on your physical power, as well as the strength and thickness of the glasses and object you are using to break it.

If a car door is jammed, it may require significant effort to break the windows using the headrest or any other object. Attempting to forcefully break the window could be difficult especially, if you are in a stressful state of mind.

It is therefore necessary to keep calm and conserve your energy as much as possible. While performing the breaking task use your body weight and strength to help you exert more force. Take breaks if necessary and catch your breath if you feel overwhelmed or fatigued.

Car escape tools

Instead of using miscellaneous objects, there are multiple escape tools designed to help vehicle owners free themselves in an emergency especially when the car doors are locked. These are:

Emergency escape tool – Emergency escape tools normally consist of a combination of a hammer and a seat belt cutter. Such instruments can be used to break a window and cut a seat belt without too much effort.

Car escape hammer

Multi-tool – Multi-tool is a versatile tool that includes a variety of instruments such as pliers, screwdrivers, knives, saws, etc. These are handy equipments to break the windows as well as perform various other tasks related to vehicle emergencies.

Glass breaker – A glass breaker is a small tool designed specifically for breaking car windows in emergency situations. These are easy to carry for their pocket size stature and can be also used as a keychain.

Regardless of the type of tool you use, what’s more, important is the way you use it. Since such tools are designed to break and cut vehicle parts using them improperly can cause injury or damage to the vehicle.

In any case, it is always a good idea to keep an escape tool in your car while driving as you never know when you may need to use it in an emergency.

Why do car doors lock after an accident?

Car doors can lock after an accident for a variety of reasons. Many modern cars are equipped with an automatic locking system that engages in the event of an accident and prevents the doors from opening.

Secondly, the impact sensor that works on the detection of crashes/accidents may trigger an automatic locking system. Notwithstanding, an electrical malfunctioning courtesy to the accident can force the doors to lock because of a short circuit or damage to the wiring.

Moreover, an accident itself could be a major cause of concern for doors getting locked or jammed. The severity of a crash can damage the car doors to the level where it can be impossible to open them with bare hands.

When you find yourself locked in a car that met with an accident, try to escape by using an emergency escape tool or using other metal objects to physically break the windows.

Do car doors lock with a key in the ignition?

Yes and no. The older model cars were designed to lock the doors with a key in the ignition. In recent years, most modern vehicles unlock the doors if the key is still in the ignition.

This is a safety feature designed with varied functionality according to the make and model of a car. It is advisable to check your car manufacturer’s user manual to remain aware of the door locking mechanism.

Additionally, it would make sense to keep a spare set of keys in a safe and accessible location to handle any case of emergency.

Why do car doors lock underwater?

Car doors lock underwater due to the level of pressure pushed by the water against the door. The force of the water against the car can create significant pressure which can cause the doors to get jammed or locked.

Some cars have automatic locking mechanisms that engage when the car is submerged in water for safety reasons.

This is more of a safety feature but can hinder your escape process leaving you trapped in the car. It is recommended to keep and use an emergency tool in such a situation to save yourself.

Final thoughts

Car doors getting locked when the car is on fire is subjective to the type and brand of car you own.

Whether or not the doors will lock in an emergency is comprehensively detailed in your car manufacturer’s manual. So, make sure to go through it to get yourself aware and prepared for any unexpected situation.

There are instances of car doors actually getting locked/jammed due to power failure, electrical malfunctions, internal locking mechanisms, etc. after the car catches fire. In such cases, it is important to act quickly and sensibly.

While you can use several objects to break the car windows for escaping, emergency tools such as a hammer and seat belt cutter are more effective and better options.

It is also recommended to regularly check and maintain car safety features and always have an emergency escape plan ready to successfully escape in a car emergency situation.

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I am the founder of TheCarPlus. As a passionate car owner and enthusiast, I offer practical solutions and insights from my own personal experiences combined with extensive online research.

The purpose of creating this website is to empower fellow car owners and motorcyclists like 'YOU' with knowledge and practical solutions to enhance your vehicle's performance and aesthetics.

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