7 Simple Solutions To Fix A Car Key That Won't Turn In The Ignition

Diagnosing the Problem

If your car key does not turn in the ignition, don’t fret. There’s always a reason for the issue. Without a doubt, it is frustrating, but the good news is that most difficulties are common. They’re usually easy to fix as well.

You can diagnose the problem to know how to handle it.

There are three main factors to consider when determining why the key refuses to turn:

1. Components

The ignition has different components and at least one of them could be the culprit. In such a case, it’s usually easy to fix.

The method of repair depends on what you are dealing with:

  • Steering wheel: Most vehicles lock the steering wheel when the key is removed from the ignition. It’s why the steering wheel gets stuck, which means your car will not budge.
  • Gear selector: It is possible that you have a car that does not allow movement when it is in park or neutral.
  • Battery: Another component that affects whether or not the ignition will turn is the car battery. The vehicle will not move, and the key won’t turn if the battery is dead.

2. Keys

Your key could be the exact problem of why the ignition isn’t turning. It could be bent, worn out, or it’s not the right key for your car. To learn more about car keys, please read our blog post on car keys, locks and responders.

3. Ignition Lock Cylinder

You may know this part of the car as the key cylinder. It may be the reason why you’re having issues with the ignition and key. Check that there are no obstructions and stuck springs. These two leading causes can stop the key from turning.

Like anything else, you cannot simply correct the problem with your car key and ignition if you do not know the root cause. Diagnosing the issue first will help you narrow down the solutions that you can try to fix this frustrating problem.

Common Ignition Problems

We’ve worked on enough ignitions to know when things can go wrong. A few of the most common problems include: 

  • One of the most likely culprits for a stuck ignition key is the steering wheel locking mechanism. When a vehicle is parked, the steering wheel can lock. That’s great for theft prevention, but it also prevents the key from turning or being removed from the ignition switch. In some cases, the ignition or vehicle isn’t the problem. It can be a worn or damaged key that has lodged itself in the ignition switch. Pulling or yanking on the key can cause major damage to the ignition and might make it even harder to remove the key.
  • We’re not calling you dumb (we’d never do that!), but be sure that you’re using the correct key for the correct car, and inspect the key for any damage prior to starting a repair on your car’s ignition. If you’re absolutely sure that the problem is the ignition itself, keep reading.
This is not a recommended repair method., DepositPhotos


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Steering Wheel Locked

If your key is stuck in the ignition and you find that your car’s steering wheel is also locked in place, it is possible that you  have inserted the wrong key. Locking the steering wheel is a safety feature on most vehicles that is present in case the incorrect key is inserted. Fixing this is the simple process of turning the steering wheel slowly to the left and then to the right while applying slight pressure to the key. Once you have enough pressure, you should be able to unlock the steering wheel and remove the key from the slot.

Damaged/Worn Out Key or Ignition Cylinder

When it comes down to it, your car is a mechanical system and mechanical things tend to break or wear down over time. This is true for both mechanical keys and key cylinders. After inserting and removing your ignition key thousands of times over years, things can be worn out and stressed.

After some time, the key may fail to turn or fall out of the cylinder completely. Turn to a professional to replace your damaged parts. Damaged keys can be easily replaced by using a professional like Cheap Lock & Key to cut a new one. Damaged ignition cylinders can need replacement and should also be done so by a qualified professional, such as us.

When replacing your mechanical systems, it is important to get a newly matched lockset that includes both the door and trunk cylinders.

Why Does My Key Get Stuck In The Ignition?

There are many reasons why your key can get stuck in your ignition, including:

1. Your Car Is Not In Park Or Neutral

If your car’s parking gear is not set properly, you might not be able to get your key out of the ignition. In a car with an automatic transmission, the vehicle must be set to the park position before you can remove your key from the ignition. If you drive a car with a manual transmission and have trouble getting your key out of the ignition, move your shifter to neutral. At this point, you may be able to turn your key and slide it out of the ignition.

2. Your Car’s Running In Accessory Mode

Most cars with a hard key have an accessory mode that lets you activate the radio, power windows, and other features without turning your vehicle on. The feature is usually activated by turning your key one “click” past the Off position.

3. Your Battery Is Dead

If you turn your key and repeatedly hear a “clicking” sound, your battery may be dead. This can hamper your ability to remove your key.

4. There Is Debris On Your Key

Debris can collect on your key that prevents it from turning in the ignition cylinder. If you had a key replacement made, minor imperfections can cause it to get stuck in the ignition.

3. Rapping the Key

Beyond lubrication, you might need to try something more severe to unjam your lock. It is true that bump keys do not work on cars, but by using a hammer or a vibrating mechanism and your key that won’t turn in the car, you might be able to solve your issue. This “rapping”, if you will, is meant to shake internal components in the lock into the proper position.

Springs can get lost, or other small parts of the inside of the lock can get stuck. Where lubrication can fail to unstick or get things to move properly, you can shake things temporarily into positions, just in time to turn the key properly.

The tool that you use does not need to be a hammer. It can be anything that can create a noticeable vibration that can be applied to the key and/or the cylinder. The idea is just to get the inside of the lock to move more than you could by shaking your key, car, or dashboard.

  1. Place your car key in the car’s ignition.
  2. Gather a hammer or other tool strike or vibrate the key.
  3. Use your tool on the key while trying to turn the key.
  4. If this does not work, try to use your tool on the ignition cylinder.

Just be very diligent about the amount of force you use in this process, as you could damage your key, the ignition, etc. If you are trying to hit your key hard enough to break a locking mechanism, operate with extreme caution as your desire to break things might be more successful than you intend.

Tips for rapping the key:

  • Strike the key with the same force to knock silently on a door.
  • Make sure you are not hitting anything else during this process.
  • Do not attempt to break the lock.

Reason 2 of 3: Issues with the key itself

Oftentimes, the problem is not with the related co

Oftentimes, the problem is not with the related components of the car, but with the vehicle key itself. The following three factors may explain why your key is unable to turn in the ignition:

Factor 1: Bent key. Bent keys can sometimes enter the ignition cylinder, but once inside will not line up correctly to allow the car to start. If your key looks visually bent, you can use a non-metal hammer to carefully flatten the key down. Your goal is to use something that will not damage the key, so ideally this would be made of rubber or wood. You can also place the key on a piece of wood to cushion the blow. Then, very carefully, tap the key until it is straight and attempt to start the car again.

Factor 2: Worn out key. Keys that are worn out are

Factor 2: Worn out key. Keys that are worn out are actually very common, particularly on older vehicles. If your vehicle key is worn out, this will not allow the pins inside of the cylinder to drop correctly and start the car. If you have a spare key, try to use that first. If you do not, you can obtain a spare key by writing down your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is found on the driver’s side windshield or inside the door jamb. You will then want to contact your dealership to get a new key made.

  • Some newer cars have key codes attached to a set of keys. If your key is worn out and you need a new one, you can give this code to your dealership instead of the VIN.

Factor 3: Incorrect key. Sometimes it’s a simple mistake, and the wrong key is inserted into the cylinder. This happens most often when someone has more than one car key on their key ring. Many keys look similar, especially if they are from the same make. So double check the correct key is being used to try to start the vehicle.

  • If you see that your key is dirty, cleaning it can also help. Cleaning the key itself is also very easy. Use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to remove any foreign material that may be stuck to the key. You can then attempt to start the car again.

  • Some resources recommend tapping the key with a hammer, or other object, while it is in the ignition, but it is not recommended due to the high risk of not only breaking the cylinder but also breaking the key. This can trap a piece of the key inside the cylinder, causing more damage.

6. Replace the Ignition Cylinder

If the problem is not with your key, then the reason your car key won’t turn in ignition might have to do with a faulty ignition cylinder. You will likely not have to replace the entire ignition assembly. And unless your car does not start when the key finally turns, you will not even need to undergo ignition switch replacement.

As long as you buy the proper ignition cylinder, ignition cylinder replacement does not have to be complicated. Make sure you are buying the right product for your make and model of vehicle. Understand that this process will leave you with an ignition key that is unique from your car door/trunk key. Rekeying will be necessary to remedy this issue.

  1. Turn your key to the accessory position
    1. This can be done with some of the methods listed above (2 or 3, mainly).
  2. Find the locking pin on your ignition assembly.
  3. Use a tool of the correct size to depress the lock pin.
  4. Pull the old ignition cylinder loose.
    1. You might need to shake the ignition cylinder loose or finesse it out of its housing.
  5. Insert your new key into the new ignition cylinder.
  6. Fit the new ignition cylinder into the housing.
  7. Allow it to lock into place.
  8. Remove your key.
  9. Test to see if the car will start and the key will won’t turn in the car ignition.

It can get a little hairy if you cannot use one of the methods above to get the key to the accessory position. If the key will not turn in the ignition, period, you might have to take the steering column apart and this will cease being a simple solution.

Tips for replacing your ignition cylinders:

  • If you have tested two keys, you may need to replace the ignition cylinder.
  • When removing plastic covers from the steering black, take note of how they fit back together.
  • Call a mobile locksmith to have the work done professionally.

A Dead Car Battery

A final reason why you may not be able to remove the key from the ignition is a dead car battery. The fix for this is fairly simple: to check if your battery is in fact dead, try turning on your headlights or turn signals. If these are not working, your car battery is most likely dead. Once you have ascertained that this is the case, simply jump-starting your car will allow you to remove the key from the ignition keyway.

Next Step

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Other Tricks You Can Try

If you want to turn the key or remove it from the ignition, here are other things that you can do:

  • Check that the car is in the “Neutral” or “Park” position. Automatic transmission vehicles have a safety feature where the vehicle “locks” the key in place. You cannot turn it if it is not in park or neutral, which is the only way to take out the key. If this feature does not exist, the car can drive itself off.
  • Did you turn off the car properly? Look at the car ignition first. You will see a few sections with their own labels. If you do not see the “Off” label, you will see “Lock” in its place. This section is typically at the lower part of the ignition circle. When “Lock” is on, the system tells the car it is still running. It’s why you cannot remove the key.
  • The lock status of the steering wheel can also be an issue in some cases. Try to turn the steering wheel left and right first. It should move when you do this step; otherwise, it means you have engaged the lock for the steering wheel. It’s yet another safety mechanism that stops vehicle motion unless there’s a key in the ignition. The same system is what prevents you from using a different or wrong key. You may be able to insert that key, but you cannot use it to unlock the steering wheel. The only way to do that is to use the correct key.
  • You may not have thought about lubricating the ignition socket, but it does work at times. If nothing works, it could be a problem with the socket, which may be too dried up or stuck. Use a silicone-based lubricant, let it dry and wipe off the excess fluid. Try twisting the key again.

All the methods above are guaranteed to work depen

All the methods above are guaranteed to work depending on the cause of the key refusing to budge. If they do not work for you, there is no need to panic. The best solution is to always go to a real key and lock professional. You do not have to go anywhere else because you have come to the right place. Diamond Lock & Security can help further diagnose the problem. Then, we will take care of the necessary repairs for you.

Contact us today to stop your frustrations about your car key issue.