December 12, 2018 at 3:38 PM
Cold weather can be really harsh on your van making it work harder to start and run properly. Plummeting temperatures cause windscreens to freeze over and can potentially freeze your doors shut including rear and sliding side doors.
Everyone reliant on a van to go about their daily business knows how important it is to keep their vehicle in good working order. As a responsible van owner, you will have it regularly serviced, check the tyres for wear and damage, and test the lights for any blown bulbs.
Sadly, most of us neglect the doors and they barely get looked at until they refuse to open.
WHY DO DOORS FREEZE SHUT?
Door seals take a massive pounding with doors being continuously opened and closed. Throughout their lifetime small hairline cracks can appear around the rubber door seals.
When it rains, water is able to get into these hairline cracks and when the doors are closed, moisture is squeezed from the seals. This isn't a massive problem until the temperature drops below 0º.
The moisture sits on the door seal and freezes the door to the body of the van, making it extremely difficult for you to open the door when you come to it in the morning or after work.
HOW DO YOU UNFREEZE A VAN DOOR?
Before you try any of the below methods, check to see if all of the doors to your van have been frozen shut. Ideally, you need either the driver or passenger-side door to open so that you can turn the engine on and warm the vehicle up.
If all of the doors are frozen, don't pull on the handle to try and pry it open - you might break the handle and then you're really not getting in any time soon.
All of the methods in this section assume that you can unlock the car, but not open it. If the lock itself is frozen, skip to the section below.
Method 1: Push On The Door
Lean on your frozen door and apply as much pressure as you can. It may seem as though there's only a small amount of movement, but ice is very brittle, especially when it's thin, and doesn't need much disruption to break.
Try to open the door, but don't force it open. Hopefully the pressure will break the ice around the door's seal.
Method 2: Chip Away The Ice
The ideal tool for this is an ice scraper, but it is highly likely that your one is trapped on the inside of your car! If that is the case, you can use any stiff plastic object such as a spatular or credit card. Avoid using metal objects because they may scratch the glass or paint.
Using your plastic instrument, try to break the ice off at the seal of the door and the handle if necessary. Combined with Method 1, this might be enough to get the door open.
Method 3: Pour Warm Water On Frozen Areas
If trying to dislodge the ice manually doesn't work, it means that the door is well and truly frozen shut. In this instance, you need to try and disolve the ice.
Grab a container or bucket and fill it with warm water - never use hot or boiling water because it could shatter your window. Cold water could even be useful here because it will still be warmer than the ice, but it will take longer.
Pour the water around the seal of the door to thaw the ice. You may need to repeat this process several times depending on how thick the ice is.
Once you've got the door open, it's important to dry off the inside of the seal with a towel or dry cloth to prevent re-freezing.
Method 4: Apply De-Icer
De-icer is sold in most supermarkets and auto shops (e.g. Halfords). As the name suggests, it helps to dissolve the ice, but it also leaves a lubricant behind to help prevent further moisture from collecting in the seals.
After using it to get into the car, you can also apply the de-icer to the inevitably frozen windscreen, door mirrors and windows.
Method 5: Melt The Frozen Area With A Hairdryer
If you've got an extension lead long enough, you can give your van doors the hairdryer treatment to melt the ice. Exercise extreme caution using this method because you're mixing electricity with water.
In addition, too much heat in one spot could break the glass, especially if there are existing cracks or chips, so constantly move the hairdryer back and forth.
One other concern is that plastic trim and door handles could potentially be melted by a hot hairdryer.
HOW DO YOU STOP VAN DOORS FROM FREEZING?
Prevention is always better than curing so you can save yourself the time and hassle of trying to unfreeze your van doors. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of being frozen out of your van.
Method 1: Wipe A Protective Product Over The Rubber Seals
It's best to use a special rubber conditioner from an auto shop; however, you can also use a silicon spray lubricant, WD-40 or even Vaseline.
Whatever product you choose, get a rag and rub it on the door seal and door frame to fill in those hairline cracks and prevent moisture from building up and freezing.
Method 2: Cover Your Car
You should be able to get a protective sheet as an accessory from your manufacturer. You could also use a duvet cover, table cloth or tarpaulin.
Covering the car will keep the ice off the doors, locks and windscreen. In extreme weather conditions, it's advisable to cover the bonnet as well.
Method 3: Shut A Bin Bag In The Door
This is the ultimate DIY hack for preventing doors from freezing shut. By placing a bin bag, or something similar, in between the door and the seal you create a barrier so that they won't stick together.
Obviously, this is only a short-term fix and you should opt for something more permanent in the near future.
Method 4: Replace The Door Seals
If your van doors keep freezing shut and you've tried using protective products, it's time to replace the door seals.
Once you have them replaced, it's important to look after them and monitor their condition for when the colder weather comes round again.
A frozen lock is relatively easy to cure and doesn't necessarily mean that your door is frozen shut. If you can’t get the key into the door lock you can use a lighter to gently heat the key and insert it as far as you can into the lock.
If you don’t have a lighter, a few squirts of WD40 or de-icer into the lock, and a few minutes patience, usually solves the problem.
Alternatively, you can blow warm air into the lock using a hairdryer. Place something cylindrical (like a cardboard toilet paper roll) over the lock to direct the air flow.