You may have found yourself in a situation where the ignition key of your car won’t turn. This will leave you frustrated, and you will end up asking many questions on what could have gone wrong. You are lucky if you have never been in the situation where your car key is stuck in ignition, I think it is safe to say that it is bound to happen without warning. Car keys getting stuck in the ignition is a common problem and fixing it is not a complicated process.
In this article, I will highlight some of the issues leading to this problem and possible troubleshooting steps that will get you out of this situation.
The main reasons as to why your key won’t turn or get stuck in the ignition are lock cylinder problems, key problems, and problems linked to related components. Here is what you will need to troubleshoot these problems.
What You Will Need
1. A flashlight for checking inside the key cylinder for any obstruction.
2. Electrical cleaner or compressed air for cleaning out or blowing out debris that may be stuck inside the ignition lock cylinder.
3. A small tack hammer for gentle tapping of the key ignition.
4. A cotton swab and cleaning fluid to wipe the keys of any debris.
5. The Vehicle Identification Number may be noted for possible replacement of the key.
6. A bobby pin for lifting off the small ignition cylinder cap.
Step By Step Instructions
NOTE: I highly recommend that you put your car on a parking brake when going through the steps below. Attempting to solve the key problem while the car is in drive may result in lurching causing injuries and damages to others.
Method 1: Sorting Car Components Problems
Step #1: Jiggle the Steering Wheel
Moving the steering wheel from side to side while simultaneously trying to pull or turn the key, this is supposed to relieve the lock pressure and allow the key to turn or be removed.
Step #2: Gear Shifter Position
Some automatic vehicles may not lock the gear shifter in the recommended position. If your gear position is not in park or neutral, you may not be able to remove the key. Try and shake the shifter to find the ideal lock position and then try removing the key.
Step #3: Battery Levels
A dead car battery in some vehicles will lock the key in the ignition until the battery is partially charged.
Method 2: The Car Key Problem
Step #1: Ignition Key Problem
If the ignition key is bent or covered in layers of dirt, it will most likely get stuck because of misalignment with the ignition cylinder. You can use a small tack hammer to straighten it up. Apply gentle force when doing this to avoid damaging the key. To clean up the key use, a clean cotton swab immersed in alcohol or cleaning fluid.
Step #2: Use Correct Key
Make sure that the key you are using is the correct one. You can try using the spare key if you have one. If you think that your key is worn out, the best thing to is to note the Vehicle Identification Number and go to your trusted auto dealer to get a replacement.
Method 3: Ignition Cylinder Problems
Step #1: Remove Debris
You can use compressed air to spray targeting the cylinder and watch out for any debris flying out. You can also try spray electrical cleaning fluid to soften any hard substance that may be stuck in the cylinder.
Step #2: Stuck Springs
The key cylinder has pins and springs that help in moving the keys when attempting to turn on or off the ignition. Make use of the tack hammer and tap gently on the cylinder to help loosen any tight springs. A bobby pin can be used to lift off the lid of the ignition cylinder for better pin and spring adjustments.
If you have tried all the above methods and you have failed to remove or turn the key, you need to look at the possibilities of replacing the entire ignition cylinder. You can do this by asking a towing company to take the car to your preferred garage. Here you will find an auto locksmith who will be able to help you change the ignition cylinder.
Other Reasons Why Car Keys Get Stuck in Ignition
In addition to the above well-documented reasons why car keys get stuck in ignition, I have highlighted other possible reasons below.
1. Locked Steering Wheel
The most recent cars come a with an inbuilt safety feature that will put the steering in a lock position if the car is not operational. To get out of this problem, you need to turn the steering wheel in one direction using both hands. When you feel like the wheel is tight enough and wants to spring back, turn the key without forcing it.
2. Low Pressure
Cars that have a power steering feature have a pump that maintains a certain amount of pressure when the engine is running. When the front wheels are left turned after the engine shuts down, the car will lose pressure, and it will force the steering wheel against the lockout pin.
To solve this, you will need to be a bit gentle on the steering wheel as you turn it in the direction it allows you to. Turn gently as you practice a little shaking to put pressure on the steering wheel.
3. Weighted Keychain
This may seem like a small problem, but with time the weight from the keychain will apply pressure to the key cylinder which may cause a slight displacement. This will most likely cause the pins and springs in the ignition cylinder to be out of place. It is a good practice to avoid having too many keys attached to your key holder.
4. A malfunctioning Steering Column
The Cables connecting the steering column to the drive chain may be worn out to force the car in an auto lock position. You may consider calling your auto mechanic to give you the exact diagnosis.
5. Key Left in Accessory Position
Leaving your car keys in the accessory position long enough, it will drain the battery and leave your car deprived of power to turn the key on every start attempt. This is the best time to invest in a Lithium-ion Jump starter to give your battery enough voltage to start your car.
TIP: Another technical method you may use to release a stuck car key is by opening the plunger (found on the underside of the steering column) and manually unlock the car.
You have never thought of a scenario where you are stranded on the road because your car key is stuck in ignition. I have shared with you some of the common problems and the corresponding solutions. Some of this solutions are easy, and you should be able to do them by yourself. But when you find yourself in a situation where you cannot remove the key completely, you should not panic but let the professionals handle the issue from there.
Attempting to fix some of these problems on your own may result in further damage to the key, the ignition chamber or the entire vehicle. I have played my part in informing you, and it is quite clear that there are tens of reasons why you may have such a problem. I urge you to share this information in your forum, and if you have any additional comments, please feel free to use the comment section.