What should I do if the key is stuck in the ignition and won't turn?

There are a large number of situations that vehicle owners are afraid of getting into. One of them is to find that the key is stuck in the ignition and cannot be turned or removed. This is a really serious problem and if this situation happens to you, it can cause stress. In this article, we will explain why this can happen and how to solve the problem. However, at the very beginning, we want to warn you against trying to force a stuck key out of the ignition, as this can only exacerbate the problem and lead to a broken key or damage to the ignition!

Also, you should be aware that any key in the ignition should be easily pulled out of the lock after turning the key fully counterclockwise. If the key does not come out of the lock after turning, then you should understand the possible causes of the problem. We will talk about this in detail, having found out not only the most common problems with stuck keys but also all the ways that will help get a stuck key out of the lock.

Any car is a complex technical device that can have many problems and breakdowns. The hardest part of any car is diagnosing the problem. After all, many signs of a malfunction can often point to various components of the car. It is not very easy to determine the cause of the key being stuck in the ignition switch.

If you find that the key cannot be pulled out of the lock, you need to be patient and never use force to try to remove the key. But many motorists sometimes find it difficult to control themselves when an unpleasant problem appears in the car. Especially if the car key does not come out of the lock. After all, according to the law of meanness, such things, as always, happen at the wrong time.

Often, with a stuck key, many drivers begin to look for some kind of aid that they believe will help them get the key out of the lock. For example, some car enthusiasts try to pull the key out with pliers.

Do not under any circumstances do this. If you try to force the key out of the lock, you risk breaking it. Thus, you will only multiply the problem. After all, not only do you have to pull out the rest of the key from the lock and then restore the broken key, but you may also have to spend money on a new lock cylinder.

We hope you will heed our warnings and take advantage of our advice if you encounter such an unpleasant problem. Now let’s take a closer look at some points that will help you diagnose a possible problem with a key stuck in the ignition.

Check if the ignition is completely off

If your car has a key stuck in the ignition, the first thing you should do is ask yourself: Did you turn off the engine? At first glance, this is a stupid question. But you will not believe how many drivers every day, trying for hours to get the key out of the ignition in various tricky ways, then suddenly find out that the engine was not turned off to jam the key in the lock. Often, drivers do not fully return the ignition lock cylinder to its place in order to freely remove the key from the lock. This means that the ignition is still on and you will not be able to remove the key.

What to do first: So, if you can’t get the key out of the ignition, first make sure you turn off the engine and turn the key all the way counterclockwise.

Check your car’s steering wheel

You should be aware that if your car’s key won’t come out of the ignition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the problems are inside the lock cylinder. Sometimes the key may not be pulled out for other reasons. For example, did you know that the ignition key can get stuck in the lock due to the steering wheel of a car? The fact is that the steering wheel, in addition to controlling the direction of the car, is also an addition to the ignition switch. In addition, the steering wheel can be blocked by the ignition switch. Why is this needed? Now we’ll tell you. Usually, most cars do this as a safety measure. Thus, the steering wheel lock is necessary to prevent the car from moving when the ignition key is not in the ignition and when the car engine is turned off. The steering wheel lock is not removed if someone else’s key is inserted into the ignition lock. When you insert the “native” key into the lock, the steering wheel is unlocked. However, since the ignition switch is tightly coupled to the steering wheel, a locked steering wheel may cause the key to get stuck in the ignition switch.

What to do first: To fix the problem, you will need some time to unlock the steering wheel, which will eventually unlock the key in the ignition. To do this, you need to slowly turn the steering wheel left and right (even if the steering wheel is locked, it will still have play, allowing you to rotate the steering wheel in different directions). At the same time, you should, by gently and slowly pressing on the key, try to turn it in the lock. Ideally, this movement of the steering wheel and key should unlock the ignition and allow you to safely remove the key from the ignition.

The key in the ignition could break

Nothing lasts forever in our world. Including the ignition key, which can simply break inside the lock and get stuck in it. This may happen in the following cases. So, the key may break due to the fact that you have already inserted a broken, crooked, or cracked key into the ignition. In the world, many drivers neglect the condition of car keys, postponing the solution of this problem until later. As a result, it breaks down in the ignition switch at the most inopportune moment. So, never ignore the condition of the ignition key. If your key has become unusable (cracked, bent), do not try to repair it or force it into the lock. You risk breaking it and getting a headache in the form of a stuck key. You can also break a normal key if you use it incorrectly. For example, turn it too hard in the lock or try to turn the lock with the key not fully inserted.

What to do first: Usually, if you break the key, you will quickly find out about it by removing the rest of it from the ignition. But don’t panic. Depending on the complexity of the key and ignition lock design, you may be able to remove the rest of the key from the lock yourself or you will have to contact a locksmith who will easily solve the problem.

Ignition cylinder problems

Determining that something is wrong with the ignition switch is much more difficult than everything that we have told you above. The fact is that if the key is stuck in the ignition, you first need to determine what is the cause – the key itself or the lock.

Naturally, if you broke the key, then by pulling it out of the lock, you will immediately find out what is the reason.

What to do first: Sometimes it is very difficult to determine this. For example, if you still turned a broken key in the lock. How, then, to find out that the problem with a stuck key is connected precisely with the lock cylinder or with its larvae? This usually involves first making sure you don’t have a problem with the key itself. If you are sure that the key is not broken, then most likely the probable cause of the key blocking is in the lock itself.

Ignition switch dirty

Sometimes the ignition key can get stuck in the lock for other reasons. For example, if the key is not pulled out, then dirt in the lock may prevent its movement in the lock cylinder. Unfortunately, many automakers do not protect the ignition keyhole with a special plate.

As a result, over time, a large layer of dirt forms in the lock, which can cause the key to get stuck. By the way, sometimes dirt can even lead to breakage of the key. In this case, you must use some kind of lock and key cleaner.

What to do first: Sometimes, to solve this problem, it is enough to pull the key out of the lock a little (often, even if the key is stuck in the lock, it can be pulled out of the lock a little), and then reinsert all the way. You can also use a can of compressed air with a nozzle to clean the ignition lock, with which you can remove dirt.

Car key wear

Since the car key is often stressed, it may wear out over time (the teeth of the key may grind off). In this case, the key may simply not unlock the lock due to a mismatch between the teeth of the key and the lock larvae.

What to do first: You will end up using a spare car key or ordering a new one. But in some cases, the key, which, due to its wear and tear, did not coincide with the lock cylinders, may get stuck inside. In this case, try to pull the key back a little (usually, if the key is stuck, there is still play).

Then try turning the key a little to the right and left. Then insert the key all the way back in. It is quite possible that this method will help you still pull the key out of the lock.

The car key won’t come out of the ignition

Naturally, if the key is stuck in the lock, you will need time to understand the causes of this problem. You also must think about how to fix the situation and how you will get the key from the lock.

Here are some of the possible solutions that can help you when you can’t get the key out of the lock:

How to remove a car key stuck in the ignition

If your car key is stuck in the ignition since it broke inside, you must first assess the situation to understand who will solve the problem – yourself or a car mechanic.

The process of extracting a broken car key is not overly complicated, but it can cause additional problems if you do it incorrectly.

Most people, of course, prefer to do everything themselves, so as not to throw money away on the services of a car mechanic. But remember that you must weigh the risks as well. After all, if you break the ignition lock, you will spend much more money than you pay to auto locksmith for pulling a broken car key out of the lock.

Replacing the ignition lock cylinder

As we previously mentioned, the key can get stuck due to problems with the ignition lock cylinder. In this case, you will have to consult a car locksmith, who will be able to repair the lock, for example, by replacing its cylinder. This is much easier as he will be able to accurately diagnose the cause of problems with the ignition lock cylinder. In addition, an auto locksmith can tell you if the lock can be repaired or if you need to buy a new one.

Keep in mind that if you refer to an auto locksmith, then it will first have to remove the key from the ignition before it can begin its work.

Who to call if the key is stuck in the ignition?

If you encounter a problem when the key is stuck or broken in the ignition, you can always contact us. We’ve Got The Key is a national auto locksmith company, whose specialists practice exclusively non-damage methods for extracting car keys.

By contacting us, you can be sure of both the quality of the service and the speed of arrival of the vehicle locksmith to your car.

In order to get advice or order a service, just call us or leave a request through the callback form. Our phone operators work for you 24/7.


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