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What to do if your Car Key is Stuck in the Ignition

What to do if your Car Key is Stuck in the Ignition

Most modern cars are extremely reliable and very rarely cause problems if looked after properly. However, situations can arise that make it impossible to drive your car and having the car key stuck in the ignition is one of them.

Problems invariably occur at the most inconvenient times and need to be sorted out quickly. However, a key stuck in the ignition can often be resolved but the main message is not to panic. Applying force to a key that won’t turn in the ignition will often result in it snapping off or bending and that will only make matters worse.

What is happening?

Keys can get ‘stuck’ in ignition locks in a variety of ways. Most commonly we see keys that will:-

  • Slide into, but then cannot be removed from the ignition
  • Slide in and out of the ignition, but will not turn left or right
  • Not ‘spring back’ from the On position when starting the car
  • Turn freely in the ignition without clicking into Accessories or On positions

The type of problem you are having will determine what needs to be done to fix it. Some Makes & Models have notorious ‘stuck key’ problems after a certain age that have distinctive characteristics. A couple of examples can be found in our blogs Ford ignition problems and VW ignition problems

Why is my Car Key Stuck in the Ignition?

A car key gets stuck in the ignition for several reasons:

  • The key may have become worn over time so the ignition keyway no longer registers the cuts properly
  • The key may be bent or otherwise damaged so that it no longer fits perfectly into the ignition keyway
  • Dirt or debris on the key, or in the ignition lock can jam up the keyway so always check and clean the key when necessary.
  • The waferswithin the ignition cylinder can become bent,damaged or stiff over time and make extraction of the key a problem.
  • For some automatic transmissions, the gear selector must be set to Park or Neutral before you can remove the key.
  • It may simply be that you haven’t turned the ignition off fully so one more click will release it.

How to Remove a Key Stuck in the Ignition

Although there are many reasons why a car key gets stuck in the ignition, your main problem is how to fix a car key stuck in the ignition. There are some simple methods you can try initially:

  • Try turning the steering wheel to release the lock so the key can be removed.
  • For an automatic transmission car, the fact it’s set to Park or Neutral may not be recognised. Changing the gear to Drive or Reverse, then back to Park may correct this.
  • While pushing on the key cylinder with your left index finger, gently jiggle the stuck key with your other hand. This may loosen wafers that are gripping your key and enable you to slide it out. If this works, great! But be warned that your ignition or key is telling you it needs a fix or service soon.

If none of these methods work, don’t be tempted to exert more pressure on the key. Brute force rarely works and is more likely to cause the key to break in the lock. Then you’ll need an extractor tool to remove the broken part. Worse still, you may damage the small internal parts of the ignition keyway, leading to a whole new problem.

If the problem is serious and you can’t get the key out, hare at Northside Car Keys we have the equipment, knowledge and experience to do it for you. The key may be stuck due to a faulty ignition, old worn key, or something else. We can undertake any repairs necessary as well as providing new keys from our extensive stock. So call our mobile auto locksmith on 1300 727 917 for a fast and efficient service if you have any problems with your car keys or ignition system.

Car Key Stick in Ignition? Follow this Step-by-step Guide

Finding your key stuck in the ignition can be a frustrating experience. While there are steps you can take to troubleshoot the issue, it’s essential to emphasise the importance of seeking professional help. Here’s a step-by-step guide to address the problem, but remember, it’s highly recommended to call a professional auto locksmith rather than attempting these fixes yourself.

Step 1: Ensure You’re in Park

Start by ensuring your car is in park. Often, the key gets stuck when the car isn’t in the correct gear. If it’s in drive or reverse, shift to park and try removing the key again. However, if the issue persists, it’s time to consider professional assistance.

Step 2: Attempt Gentle Key Jiggling

Try gently jiggling the key while being cautious not to force anything. Sometimes, minor obstructions or wear and tear can cause the key to get stuck. Additionally, moving the steering wheel slightly might disengage the steering lock, allowing the key to be removed. Be extremely careful if attempting this, as excess force can break components within the lock and do more damage.

Step 3: Check for Unusual Locking Systems

Look around the ignition for any buttons or unusual locking mechanisms. Some cars have aftermarket systems that could be affecting the key’s removal. However, if you’re unsure or unable to identify the cause, it’s best to seek professional help.

Step 4: Apply Lock Lubricant

Using lock lubricant can sometimes alleviate the issue by reducing friction. However, it’s crucial to use the appropriate lubricant and apply it carefully to avoid worsening the situation. Mixing different types of lubricants can lead to complications, highlighting the need for professional expertise.

Step 5: Consult a Specialist

If the above steps haven’t resolved the issue, consider seeking advice from a specialist car locksmith. They will have insights or techniques specific to your vehicle. However, avoid dealerships as they may not have the expertise required for older vehicles.

Step 6: Prepare for Ignition Repair or Replacement

In cases where the key remains stuck, you may need an ignition repair or replacement. This task can be complex and needs to be completed by a competent automotive locksmith. Attempting it yourself could lead to further damage or complications, emphasising the importance of calling a professional locksmith. Often, an ignition repair & service can avoid a complete replacement, is usually a more affordable option, and means you can still use the same key for the doors and ignition. See our Ignition Repairs service page for more details. Where a complete replacement is required, our auto locksmiths will ‘key alike’ the new ignition to your existing door locks, avoiding the need to carry two keys with you at all times.

While troubleshooting a stuck key in your car ignition is possible, it’s crucial to recognize the limitations of DIY solutions. Calling a professional auto locksmith ensures the issue is resolved safely and efficiently, minimising the risk of damage to your vehicle. Don’t hesitate to seek expert assistance when dealing with complex automotive problems.

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