How to Use a Slim Jim

Two Methods:Determining If a Slim Jim Will Work for YouUsing a Slim Jim to Open Your Car Door

Learning how to use a Slim Jim can be a very valuable skill, especially if you find yourself locked out of your car. A Slim Jim, otherwise known as a lockout tool, is actually a very simple tool consisting of a thin piece of spring steel with a notch cut out of one end. The Slim Jim's notched end is used to move the rod mechanisms of a car door, via the car window, allowing you to move the door's lock into the unlocked position. As simple as this sounds, you actually need to practice the proper way to use a Slim Jim or you could end up damaging your car instead of opening it. Here are some steps that will help you practice and perfect your skills with a Slim Jim.

Part 1
Determining If a Slim Jim Will Work for You

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    Assess whether your car has manual locks, as a Slim Jim works most effectively on cars with manual locks. While modern locks use electronics to change your locks from open to closed, manual locks operate with a metal rod that physically moves your lock from open to closed.
    • If your car has power door locks and you don't want to call a locksmith, it is best to attempt go in through the top of your window with a wire in order to operate the power door-lock button on the inside of the car. This will probably be easier than dealing with the door mechanism. For other options see: Break Into a Car
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    Research how the mechanism inside your specific door actually works. While all manual locks function in the same basic way, they are constructed slightly differently depending on the manufacturer. You need to be able to visualize where the parts of the door lock mechanism are located and how they work in order to use a Slim Jim.
    • Most door locks function by means of a control arm and a lock rod. The control arm activates when the car key is turned in the lock, but it can also be bypassed in order to open the door without a key. The notched end of a Slim Jim should make it easy to pull the lock rod up, as if you have lifted the lock inside the car.
    • Most cars made after 1992 have a lot of mechanics and a variety of controls housed inside the door which make using a slim jim very difficult or even impossible. In fact, the doors on newer cars may have side impact air bags and electrical wiring for power locks housed inside the door and these can get badly damaged when trying to unlock the door.
    • Different car models by the same manufacturer may have similar lock mechanisms. In other words, your knowledge of one model may help you with another model by the same car company. [1]
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    Contact a professional locksmith if you are not sure whether you have manual locks and if you are not 100% sure of what's INSIDE the car door you are trying to open. You will likely damage the car door lock when trying to use a slim jim to open it and repairs can easily cost over $200 to fix damage to your (or someone else's) door panel.

Part 2
Using a Slim Jim to Open Your Car Door

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    Insert the tool carefully between the car door window and the weather stripping. You should position the tool directly above the lock, usually at the rear of the door. Holding the weather stripping back with your fingers, slide the Slim Jim down along the window. This is a tight space and you may only have a quarter of an inch of access to the lock linkage.
    • It's a good idea to try to unlock the passenger side door. There are usually more wires in the drivers side door and more chance to damage important parts of the door mechanism...particularly if you are a novice.
    • Be gentle, the Slim Jim may only go down a few inches before coming into contact with the door mechanism.
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    Move the tool slowly back and forth until the notch grabs onto the lock rod. Be sure to keep the Slim Jim relatively vertical inside the door panel. This will help you avoid doing damage inside the door. Be gentle with the lock rod, you don't want to accidentally disconnect it from the lock.
    • Because the inside of each type of car door varies, the rod mechanism you are attempting to move may be in a slightly different location and it may be shaped differently. Feel around once you make contact with parts inside the door panel in order to figure out where the rods are.
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    Carefully move the Slim Jim back and forth until the door lock moves. The car door is now unlocked!
    • Remember to be gentle when removing the Slim Jim! You may be excited that your car door is finally open but don't damage the door mechanisms at the very last moment.


  • Consider calling a locksmith to unlock your car door. They are trained professionals who will be able to open your car with little risk of damage.
  • Slim Jims come with notches in a variety of shapes. If one style doesn't work, try a different shape. Ask an employee at your auto parts store to suggest which shape would work best for your particular vehicle.


  • Be VERY careful when attempting to use a slim jim to open your car. You could damage the weather stripping, the rods of the door mechanism, wires inside the door, or even scratch or break the window glass.

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Categories: Tools