Car locked with fob inside, what do you do?

Car locked with fob inside, what do you do?

Today, I had the misfortune to get myself locked out of my own vehicle. I parked my car in the tiny spot available in front of the post office, went inside to drop the mail and quickly came back to my car and to my surprise the door handles wouldn't extend, so I could go on my way. I started scratching my head as to why this could be happening I looked through the window and saw the key taking a break in the cup holder.

This was very unusual, as the fob never leaves my pocket, but I guess I've decided to drop it in the cup holder for a change, but I started to wonder why would the car lock with the key inside?

My head was now itching from too much scratching as you would expect, trying to figure out how did that happen and just then I realized I have the Android app I could use to get myself inside the car.

And then it struck me as a new owner of a Tesla, I didn't have access to the app for nearly 2 weeks (Tesla was unaware that the car changed owners and then it took them sometime to complete the transfer of ownership), what would have I done if the app wasn't there to save me?

Have you guys experienced this and what would you do if you don't have an access to the phone app?

I was surprised that the car will lock itself with the fob inside of it, you would think that it would be smarter than that, although I'm guilty at leaving the key inside for good 2 minutes.

Anthony J. Parisio | September 12, 2014

Did you push the handle. Handles in dose not mean locked. | September 12, 2014

Glad you figured one way with the app.

Actually I suspect the car was not locked at all. Did you try and press on any handle? It should cause them to extend.

Normally if there is no activity for about a minute, the handles will retract, but the car is not locked. The handles out or in is NOT an indication of the car being locked or not.

bduke | September 12, 2014

Touch the handles and they should extend.

jbunn | September 12, 2014

Agreed. The car was not locked.

s_k | September 12, 2014

I forgot to mention in my post that I did push the handle few times and try to extend with no success, which was surprising to me as usually a gentle push would do the trick.

When I jumped in the car after I unlocked it, the car showed that it's turned off as you would find it after being parked for extended period of time.

Anthony J. Parisio | September 12, 2014

I'm going to have to try this.

JohnnyMac | September 12, 2014

This has in fact happened on rare occasions. It happened to me at the exact moment when the service center rep and I were swapping my car for the loaner in my driveway. I placed my key in the cupholder and closed the door. Neither the handles nor the trunk would not open with a press. Had to use the app to unlock the car. The SC would not have believed me had their rep not seen it himself. They could not however reproduce it at the SC. Have not left my fob in the car since.

Bighorn | September 12, 2014

It happens. I would have tried the trunk.

s_k | September 12, 2014

I've experienced few bugs so far with the car and I've had it for about 2 weeks now, but they all seem to be software issues. If it was Windows OS I would be giggling each time it happened, but you would expect much more from Ubuntu.

I'll bring it up with the SC next time I go there and for the time being, I'll just have to check if I've taken the fob with me once I leave the car.

Electricious | September 12, 2014

I've left my fob in the car a couple of times, and thought the car was locked. I realized it wasn't when the handles didn't present themselves as I walked up to the car. When I tapped on the handles and got inside the car, I thanked my lucky stars that no one else had randomly tapped the handles and driven away with my car! I also concluded that it was clever engineering to make sure that the handles retracted--for this very reason.

Pungoteague_Dave | September 12, 2014

@anthony j, I have noticed that you use the word "dose" a lot, including in a title on a thread you started. Perhaps you don't have English as a first language. The word is "does". You can edit original posts and fix titles if you care to do so.

Haggy | September 13, 2014

The first thing I would do is check to see if the windows are rolled down. Then I'd try pressing the handle. If that didn't work, I'd try the app. If that didn't work, I'd call my wife. Of course my wife wouldn't be able to help you, but who knows?

Tesla road service should be able to help as a last resort. They are supposed to be to Tesla what AAA is to regular cars, and AAA always manages to help when you lock your fob in the car. I would hope that Tesla would have a record of who you are, and once somebody checks your ID, that should be enough.

WATTAGE | September 13, 2014

Happened to me once while picking up my youngest daughter from school. Had to crawl through the open pano roof. Not fun. Daughter thought it was hilarious.

akikiki | September 13, 2014

Even when the handles will not present with the fob in the car, you can open the trunk. Then crawl though and open a door.

Anthony J. Parisio | September 13, 2014

Thanks for pointing that out. English is my first language but I just switch letters a lot. If auto correct dose no catch it then I might not see it. This is very problematic when I do accounting but livable.

J.T. | September 13, 2014

Brian H has a most surprising disciple:

Pungoteague_Dave | SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 NEW
@anthony j, I have noticed that you use the word "dose" a lot, including in a title on a thread you started. Perhaps you don't have English as a first language. The word is "does". You can edit original posts and fix titles if you care to do so.

Perhaps your vitriol towards Brian H has something to do with "cursing those faults in others we see in ourselves."

Neech | September 13, 2014

This happened to me once, except the fob was in my purse which was sitting on the center floor tray. The door handles wouldn't budge and the trunk would not open. I called owner support and they were able to unlock the car remotely.

J.T. | September 13, 2014

@Neech If your cell phone was in your purse as well that would explain it.

Neech | September 13, 2014

The phone was in the purse too. Others on this forum have mentioned it would interfere with the fob. Both are always in my purse but the door handles work fine from the outside. As a precaution now I won't close the door if I am stepping out briefly without taking my purse with me.

Brian H | September 13, 2014

"dose no catch it" !!!
Was that a joke?

Anthony J. Parisio | September 13, 2014

No, see what I mean?

Rocky_H | September 13, 2014

@Pungoteague_Dave, that was about the most polite and respectful spelling correction I've seen. Nicely done.

Tâm | September 13, 2014


Locked out misconception has been extensive on the internet.

However, if you have a fob and a car, you can do your experiment yourself and thus, this thread is unnecessary.

Please see:

s_k | September 13, 2014

@Tam I don't think you understood well what exactly happened in my case and I thought it would be beneficial to share and see if others are experiencing similar issues and report to Tesla.

1. If this had happened just 24 hours earlier, Tesla wouldn't be able to help me, as they would be unaware car changed it's owners.
2. I stepped out of the car for no more than 2 minutes.
3. Car went in a sleep mode of some sort, screen took a while to wake up.

Obviously, as a new owner, I don't know all the gimmicks of the car and the interaction between the fob and the car, but as any other sane person would imagine, leaving the fob for 2 minutes inside the car would not cause it to lock itself and would operate just as my previous cars.

If that happens next time, I'd try with the trunk and see what happens.


I'm sure it was fun to watch too.

Pungoteague_Dave | September 13, 2014

Vitriol toward Brian H? I hope not. Brian's great.

cerjor | September 13, 2014

My fob got locked in the car so I called customer service. They asked for the vin and several security questions. Then the door handles popped out.

J.T. | September 14, 2014

Pungoteague_Dave | SEPTEMBER 13, 2014 NEW
Vitriol toward Brian H? I hope not. Brian's great.

Is that PBEndo?

PBEndo | September 26, 2014

JT - it wasn't me

BTW - I had this happen last night. When leaving a charity auction, I see the valet parked my beloved Tesla right up front. There is a large crowd all waiting for there cars to be brought up, so I tell the valet he can just give me the keys and I'll take it from there. He literally starts crying.

Valet "Sir, I am so sorry, but I locked the keys inside and we can't get it open. We tried everything. I am so sorry"

me "No problem, it will still open with the keys inside. Stop crying"

I then nonchalantly pressed the door handle. nothing. Tried again. Nothing. I could see the keys sitting up on the dash, right in front of the steering wheel. I was surprised it wouldn't open. I knew I could try the trunk but I just brought up the app and unlocked the doors.

Valet "Oh my God, that is amazing, Thank you so much, again I am so sorry."

Me "Thanks. Stop crying"

PBEndo | September 26, 2014

edit - "Their cars"

PBEndo | September 26, 2014

I should add, when I use the app to make the handles present -

Crowd waiting for their ICE cars "Oooooooooooh. That was cool!"

JPPTM | September 26, 2014

A suggestion if you valet park...set up a Profile for Valet in which you turn auto-lock OFF. Thus if the valet parks your car and leaves the keys inside (or walks away with them), the doors will not lock.

PBEndo | September 26, 2014

When I first had the car I would bring up the instructions for a valet on the touchscreen.

But in the last 6 months or so, every valet has already driven a Tesla so I stopped doing it. I guess I should have done it last night.

vbabali | February 6, 2015

This same problem happened to me today and was quite scary. I parked my Model S (85) in my garage with my sleeping baby in the back. I then got out of the car and closed the door behind me in order to punch the key code on our lockpad and disable the alarm without waking the baby. I left my purse with my key fob in the middle yacht floor where it had been located through my entire drive home. My cell phone was in the cup holder. As I turned around to open the door to get the baby out, the handles retracted and would not re-present despite pressing firmly on all four door handles and pressing the trunk release lever. The only thing that would function was the charge port which did open after a delay when I pointed the charge cord at it and pressed the release. At no point did the car seem to wake up, even when I plugged it in (the area around the charge port was glowing blue and it was not actively charging). Fortunately I was at home and my husband left his fob in the house so I was able to get my baby out of the car, but if this had happened in a parking lot on a hot day it would have been a major problem requiring window smashing as my phone with the Tesla app was also in the car. My question is why does the car seem to randomly fail to recognize that the key is inside? I love this car and I believe in the technology, but for something this important it either needs to work properly EVERY SINGLE TIME. I plan to call the dealer in my area and replace the key fob battery even though it seems to work fine now, but shouldn't it give you some indication that the battery is low before your child gets locked in a car (which you can't leave unlocked once you close all of the doors) with the key in it? If this were a standard car with a standard key I would have been able to close the doors without locking them then reopen them at will. I won't ever leave the fob in the car with my child again, but this is an important safety issue that Tesla needs to deal with yesterday.

Bighorn | February 6, 2015

It could have been fob interference from the cell phone, but it's also a known phenomenon that's been discussed before. Don't think the battery (CR2032) would have made any difference. I agree it shouldn't happen, but the lesson is that you don't close the fob in the car, especially if you don't have your cell phone app available to you as a back-up.

tezzla.SoCal | February 6, 2015

Sounds like User Error to me.

Captain_Zap | February 6, 2015

The blue light at the charge port means that the car and the charger are communicating.

Cellphones and metal objects will block the fob's signal. I have had things change position in my bag while driving and I would get the "key not found" alert. I would just move things around and it would sense the fob again.

I never leave my fob in the car under any circumstances. I'm just paranoid that way, and it is now habit.

tezzla.SoCal | February 6, 2015

I never leave my fob in the car under any circumstances. I'm just paranoid that way, and it is now habit.

Same here, and when I do, I ALWAYS leave a window open (just in case).

sbeggs | February 6, 2015

We had the idea to put our fobs on different color lanyards and thus the fobs are always with us. We don't take them off unless it is to hang them inside the house where we usually keep them.

Blue for Steve, red for me!

Paddlegirl7 | February 12, 2015

This happened to us twice one day in January 2015 too - scary becaeu we almsot didn't have a phone outside the car. Threw our stuff inside, including my purse with fob (and phone and ipad) inside. Stood around talking outside for a few minutes. When we wanted to get in, pushed on all doors and tried trunk - locked out. Luckily husband had phone in his pocket and we unlocked using the app.

Later that day we left the fob on the dash, and the same thing happened. I thought it might be a 6.0 thing because it's never happened before and 3 times a week I leave the fob inside during workouts (car in secure location, no need to go hide the fob away from the car.) and the handles have always extended for me. Now that I've written this, hopefully I'll remember to make a bug report in the car. Daylight savings is coming and I will start leaving it 3 times a week again.

Fob battery was not low.

Haggy | February 12, 2015

If I did manage to leave my phone and my fob in the car and I couldn't reach my wife on the phone so she could unlock it with the app, I'd either use Visible Tesla or the Trevor Stone app for Chrome. Unfortunately, there were changes to Tesla's servers that stopped those apps/program from working for many people. It still works for me, but I can't understand why Tesla won't give basic functionality from the web once you log in.

Assuming you have a house phone, you could call Tesla and have them unlock it. Overall, there are far more ways of unlocking the car if you accidentally lock yourself out. In this case, it was the car that locked you out, and that should never happen.

I've never locked a child seat/child in the car, but I certainly worried about it back when I had babies. With my previous car, I would have hooked the fob to the child seat, so if I forgot, the car would beep at me if I got out, and would refuse to lock if I touched the door handle (no autolock feature.) Tesla should not only fix the problem, but it would be good for them to have a proactive feature to prevent a child from being locked in.

garygid | February 12, 2015

Tesla could have an option, a Setting "Do not lock with fob in car", and
even allow user setting of a time-to-wait before locking with the fob inside.

To help avoid draining the fob battery, the interval of checking
for the fob could be increased to once each 10 seconds, or ???

fltinstr | February 12, 2015

I have 'Walk-Away Door Lock' feature turned off due to similar reasons. I lock my car using fob. But I agree this needs to be fixed.

Tabarnouche | February 13, 2015

My wife drove our infant to the daycare. She got out and walked around the car to get the child out of the back. Like many mothers, she left her purse in the front so she wouldn't have to hold it while leaning in to unbuckle the child and lift her out. Doors were locked and wouldn't open. Luckily, she happened to have her phone in her hand and not her purse this time.

Had she left her phone in her purse (many women don't have pockets) or had she been in an underground parking lot or other area with no service, she would have had to leave the kid in the car and walk somewhere for help or try to flag down a passing stranger.

I phoned the SC and they said the car will indeed lock itself with the key in the car. It is a theft prevention feature. The only way to disable it is to disable the walk-away locking (which disables one of the best features of the car and forces you to lock the car with the fob every time you get out).

There's no warning that the Model S, unlike most modern cars, will purposefully lock you key in the car. You can be stranded with you kids or pet in the car.

This is a safety issue. It's an accident waiting to happen. That's not good news for the "safest car on the market."

brian_in_TX | February 13, 2015

I have nothing helpful to add here, but I find it impossible to read the title of this post without hearing Dennis Hopper's voice from the movie Speed.

Kimscar | February 13, 2015

A few months ago my mom was in rehab for broken hip. I was at her house taking care of her cat and things when I left my keys on the counter and left. got to car and realized mom's house was locked with keys inside. So Android phone out, logged into the Tesla app and unlocked the car and drove home where I got my other set of house keys. Went over next day and retrieved my keys. Now I try to put the keys back into the pocket.
Phone app saved me.

logicalthinker | February 13, 2015

Tesla could implement a backup=unlock system consisting of facial recognition (via the front or rear-facing camera, sure it's awkward, but better than being locked out).

And/or Tesla could implement owner-specific voice recognition and unlock to a spoken passphrase.

I think both of these could potentially be software upgrades

garygid | February 13, 2015

Are you saying that one can get into an unlocked Tesla S
and, with no fob in the car, or anywhere nearby, just
drive the car away?

Hopefully not, and you had another fob locked in the car?

However, if someone (like a valet) could drive your car,
then they could turn off the Auto-Lock feature, and the Remote
Access feature, and continue to use the car until someone
of authority contacts Tesla to get them to disable the car?

Or, disconnect or shield the cell-data antenna or module,
and even Tesla could no longer find it or disable it?

Apparently one does not need the cell-data connection
to charge the car, right?

tezzla.SoCal | February 13, 2015

Leaving your FOB in the car is just dumb! Anytime/anywhere. I've never locked my keys/fob in a car and I've been driving for over 40 years. USER ERROR!

murphyS90D | February 13, 2015

My Ford Fusion Energi has an invisible, until you touch it, 5 button keypad on the B pillar. Enter the correct code and the car is unlocked and the alarm is turned off. Very handy when working in the garage and the key fob is in the house on the second floor. The key fob is still required to start the car.