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What To Do If Your Car Key Doesn’t Work In The Ignition

At least once, every car owner has experienced difficulties when turning the key in the ignition. It may be just a temporary issue, it may be because of the lack of strength you put in, etc. But very often it means that you need professional help. Don’t worry. Ignition issues are pretty common, and here is what you need to know in such a situation!

Figure Out What Has Happened

If you're unable to turn your car key, it's a clear sign that something is wrong. While this situation often triggers panic, there's no need to worry with comprehensive guidance at hand. Sure Lock & Key is here to assist with all key-related issues, providing insights into the most common problems for prompt self-diagnosis.
The key itself
Sometimes the ignition doesn’t work because the key isn’t right for the car. You were in a hurry and accidentally took your partner’s keys, for example. Very often people call us because of ignition issues, but after our examination, it turns out that the key is the exact issue. It can be bent or worn out. Some latest car keys like smart keys and card keys may need reprogramming.
Ignition’s elements
Every ignition consists of lots of components, but there are at least three of them you can check to define the problem. First of all, you need to know whether your car allows turning the ignition when the gear selector is in neutral on park. If everything is alright here, let’s go further and check your car battery. In case it’s dead, you won’t be able to start the car.
Lock cylinder
The ignition lock cylinder is also known as the key cylinder. If the mentioned-above car parts work as they should, then most likely this may be a culprit. First of all, you need to check if nothing is stuck there. It could be dirt from your key or some detail of the ignition. To be more precise, you can use a flashlight to see if there’s something inside. Aggressive turning leads to lots of issues with pins or wafers (depending on what ignition type your car is equipped with).
Check Battery Issues:
A common reason for a key getting stuck in the ignition is battery problems. Ensure your vehicle's battery is charged and functioning correctly, as low power levels can disrupt the ignition system. Consider replacing the battery if necessary.
Clean the Key and Ignition:
Accumulated debris or dirt in the key or ignition can impede smooth movement. Our seasoned experts recommend regular cleaning for both the key and the ignition to maintain optimal functionality and prevent sticking issues.
Inspect for Damaged Elements:
Examine both the key and the ignition for any visible damage. Bent or damaged keys, as well as a worn-out ignition, can contribute to the key getting stuck. Promptly handling these issues will eliminate potential risks and further complications.
Malfunctioning Lock Cylinder:
If turning the key feels unusually difficult or gets stuck, it could indicate issues with the lock cylinder. Professional assistance is recommended to identify and manage these problems effectively before they escalate into serious breakages.
Still, if you experience ongoing issues or are unsure about the cause, seeking professional assistance is crucial for a comprehensive assessment and effective resolution.

DIY Or How To Fix The Car Ignition Issue By Yourself

We believe that the previous paragraph has proven helpful in enabling you to identify the issue with your ignition. Armed with this information, you are equipped to implement the recommended solutions and address the problem effectively. Depending on the underlying cause, consider applying one or more of the suggested remedies.
  • Suppose you've diagnosed that the gear selector doesn't allow you to turn the key. In that case, it's necessary to shake the shifter to put it in the right position before trying to turn the key again. Consider doing this carefully and gently to avoid causing further damage. Also, this method isn't suitable for every car model. It's effective only for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission.
  • If the car battery turns out to be dead, you probably won't go anywhere for some time. To restart the car, it's advisable to use a portable battery charger or replace the battery if necessary.
  • Many cars are equipped with steering wheels that get locked when you remove the key. This steering wheel might be simply stuck in position, leading to ignition blocking. To resolve this problem, consider shaking the steering wheel back and forth while carefully trying to turn the key.
  • If your key is bent, it won't fit the ignition. It's better not to attempt to turn it, as doing so may cause significant damage, rendering the car unable to start. If you need to go somewhere immediately, you can try to straighten it by yourself using a hammer. However, in doing so, exercise extreme caution to avoid breaking the key completely.
  • man tries to start a car
  • The constant usage places considerable pressure on your car key. Consequently, the bitings on the old key's blade may become "invisible" to your ignition and prevent the pins from turning, resulting in the car not starting. Fortunately, this issue is easily resolved. All you need to do is use a spare key or obtain a new one.
  • Are you sure you use the correct key? Keys can look pretty similar, so it's not a wonder you may accidentally take the wrong one. There are lots of methods to avoid this issue. Consider using a keychain so your key will be easily recognizable among others. When picking it, ensure your keychain is not too large or heavy, as it could pull on the wafers in the ignition and cause significant damage. Also, using a key cabinet or board to keep all your keys is another solution to organizing your keys.
  • A dirty car key could be the reason it won't turn in the ignition. Cleaning it is a quick process, requiring just five minutes. Use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to clean even the hard-to-reach parts of the key thoroughly.
  • If you've noticed something blocking the ignition or faced difficulty inserting the key, it's crucial to clean it using appropriate products and tools. The safest method is to use compressed air. Additionally, our locksmiths recommend wearing safety glasses and thoroughly reading the instructions before cleaning to avoid any potential mishaps.
  • man tries to start a car
  • How does the ignition work? Its pins and springs align with the key's bitings to start the engine. If something is wrong with the ignition springs, the key may be hard or even impossible to turn. Please don't try to solve this issue by putting more pressure on the key. Our seasoned locksmiths recommend gently tapping the ignition key with a small tack hammer. However, it's wiser to call a professional automotive locksmith for quality assistance and expert solutions.
  • Finally, consider lubricating the ignition socket to make your ignition work smoothly once again. For this purpose, it's advisable to use a silicone-based lubricant. After applying it to the ignition, wait until it dries, and then try to turn the key again.
  • car keys stucked in the ignition
    car keys stucked in the ignition

    Summing Up

    In conclusion, navigating the frustration of a stuck car key in the ignition is a common challenge, but with Sure Lock & Key by your side, you're not alone.
    We believe our comprehensive guide will empower you to diagnose and address key issues confidently. Whether addressing battery problems, cleaning the key and ignition, or identifying damaged elements, our expert insights ensure a prompt resolution.
    However, professional assistance remains crucial for a thorough assessment and effective services if problems persist despite your best efforts. Trust Sure Lock & Key for reliable automotive assistance to ensure your journey stays on course!

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