Car Key Gets Stuck in the Ignition : How To Fix?

Did you experience getting stranded due to a stuck car key in the ignition? Then you would know how frustrating and stressful it is!

Don’t panic and attempt to use brute force to remove the key, yet we can’t just leave the key in the ignition with the doors unlocked.

Thankfully, some steps let you free the stuck key without much professional assistance. In case, you can’t un-stuck the key from the ignition, then it’s best to consult a certified mechanic or locksmith to resolve the issue.

Before getting into the topic straight, we suggest you know the possible causes of why my key is stuck in the ignition and what to do if the key is stuck in the ignition.

Causes of a Car Key Stuck in Ignition

It can be frustrating and inconvenient when your car key stuck in ignition won’t come out. There are several possible causes for this issue, but it’s important to properly diagnose and address the problem. Here are some potential reasons why won’t my key come out of the ignition and how to fix them:

  • Gear Shift Position – If your car’s gear selector is not in the Park position, the key may not come out in automatic transmission vehicles. The interlock system restricts the key from being removed if the transmission is in the Park. Make sure your car’s gear selector is completely engaged in Park before you try to take off the key.
  • Steering Wheel Lock – Modern vehicles have a steering wheel lock mechanism that engages when you turn off the ignition. If you turn the steering wheel in either direction, it can bind against the lock and prevent the key from being removed. To fix this issue, gently turn the steering wheel in the same direction when turning off the ignition to remove the key.
  • Worn Ignition Cylinder or Key Over time, ignition cylinders and keys can wear down, making it difficult to remove or turn the key from the ignition. If your key is bent or excessively worn, it’s time for a new key. If the issue is with the ignition cylinder, replace it with the help of a professional mechanic or locksmith.
  • Foreign Objects or Debris – In some cases, foreign objects or debris get lodged in the ignition cylinder, which will prevent the key from being removed. To fix this issue, you need to inspect the keyhole regularly for any obstructions and carefully remove them (if any) with compressed air or a small tool.
  • Broken Key – If your vehicle key is broken inside the ignition, it can restrict key extraction. Hire a mechanic or locksmith to remove the broken key and replace the key or ignition cylinder.
  • Jammed Ignition Cylinder Tumblers – Tiny tumblers inside the ignition cylinder align properly when you insert the correct key. If these tumblers misalign or jam, they prevent the key from coming out or turning. Using a specialized lock lubricant or graphite powder will help to lubricate the ignition cylinder and align these tiny tumblers properly. If this doesn’t work, consult a professional mechanic or locksmith to disassemble and repair the ignition cylinder.
  • Faulty Ignition Switch A faulty/malfunctioning ignition switch is the main culprit that restricts proper key insertion and removal. If you’ve eliminated other causes and found no problem with these cases, replace the ignition switch. Although it involves a complex process, it’s always best to handle the repair process with a professional mechanic.
  • Dead Battery – A dead or weak battery can cause the key to get stuck in the ignition. If your vehicle’s battery doesn’t provide the essential power, it might lock the key in the ignition. Jump-start the vehicle or replace the old battery that no longer holds a charge to start the vehicle.
  • Internal Mechanical Issues – Internal mechanical problems within the ignition assembly can cause the key to getting stuck. If you find any of these issues, your vehicle needs to be thoroughly inspected and repaired by a qualified mechanic.
  • Anti-Theft System Malfunction – Modern vehicles are commonly equipped with an anti-theft system that may malfunction occasionally, resulting in issues with key removal. Check the user manual for information on resetting or bypassing this anti-theft system. If you can’t, consult your mechanic or dealership for further assistance to resolve the issue.

Verdict: These are the main reasons that give a clear idea of why my key is getting stuck in the ignition. If you can’t solve this issue on your own, seek assistance from a certified automotive mechanic or professional locksmith. In case, you attempt to disassemble the ignition or force the key out by yourself, then it causes further damage and expensive repairs.

How to Get a Stuck Key Out of the Ignition?

Are you struggling with a stuck key in your car’s ignition switch? Don’t panic, we’ve got you covered! These are the step-by-step guidelines that safely remove the key whenever my car key is stuck in the ignition:

  • Stay Calm – Try to remain calm and avoid applying excessive force that could worsen the situation or further damage the ignition or key.
  • Check the Gear Shift – Make sure your vehicle is in the Park position (for automatic transmission vehicles) or Neutral position (for manual transmission vehicles) to ensure the key can be inserted or removed effectively.
  • Turn the Steering Wheel – A Steering wheel lock is a common reason for the key to get stuck in the ignition. Turn the steering wheel gently in the same direction as when the ignition was turned off. Then turn the key to extract it, as the slight movement may release the lock and remove the key.
  • Use a Spare Key – Try using a spare key to determine if the issue is with the key or ignition switch. Why because sometimes a dirty key itself might be the main culprit. So, check with another key to ensure it works smoothly (insert & take it off).
  • Lubricate the Ignition Cylinder – Sometimes friction within the cylinder might be a reason that the key gets stuck. So, lubricate the ignition cylinder with a specialized lock lubricant or graphite powder to free up any stuck pins/tumblers. Gently insert the key and turn it to allow for free movement
  • Jiggle the Key – Wriggling the key helps to properly align the internal components causing the key to stuck. So, jiggle it gently while extracting the key.
  • Tapping Method – Tap the end of the key gently with a small mallet or hammer to dislodge any stuck components, but avoid hitting it too hard to prevent damage (to both ignition and key).
  • Slightly Turn the Key – Try turning the key slightly in both directions to release it from its stuck position. Even a minor movement might prevent the key from getting stuck.
  • Check for Obstructions – Regularly inspect the keyhole for any foreign objects or debris that may be preventing proper insertion or removal of the key. In case, if you find any such accumulation, remove them carefully with a small tool or compressed air.
  • Battery Check – Check your vehicle’s battery to ensure it is not dead or weak, as this may also cause issues with key removal. Replace the worn battery or use a jump starter/battery maintainer to restart the vehicle’s low battery.
  • Consult a Professional If you have tried all these methods and are still unable to remove the stuck key, it is best to consult a qualified automotive mechanic or professional locksmith for assistance. They can easily resolve the issue with their expertise and the required tools to extract the key safely after making a proper diagnosis and addressing any underlying issues with the ignition.

Verdict: Never attempt to forcefully pull out the key, as this can result in damaging the key, ignition cylinder, or other internal components of the vehicle. Remember, seeking professional assistance is the safest and most effective way to resolve your issue.

How to Resolve This Issue?

Why does my key get stuck in the ignition? If you’re dealing with a stuck ignition key, here are some solutions based on the severity of the problem. The best way to fix this issue would be to replace the ignition switch and pair it with a new key.

However, you need to take some precautions, like disconnecting the battery and gathering the necessary tools, such as a screwdriver set, pliers, and replacement key/ignition switch. Be sure to refer to your user manual for detailed instructions and avoid using brute force to remove the key from the ignition switch.

Follow these steps to fix a broken ignition switch, which you need to perform whenever the key gets stuck in the ignition:

  • Remove the Steering Column Covering – Disconnect the negative terminal on the vehicle’s battery and remove the trim from around the steering wheel. The specific number of trims to remove depends on the make and model of your car.
  • Accessory Mode – Insert the key and turn the ignition switch into accessory mode. You can easily turn it on even though the key gets stuck in the ignition switch.
  • Remove the Ignition Module – Use a narrow screwdriver to press the release pin on the ignition switch’s bottom. The ignition module will slide right out when the pin is released.
  • Insert New Ignition Module – Slide the release pin on the new module into the ignition hole located on the side of the steering column. Work with the switch until you hear a clicking sound, indicating that the pin has been set properly.
  • Test New Ignition Switch – Reconnect the battery and try to crank the vehicle. If it starts up and you can insert and remove the key freely, then you’re done. Turn the ignition back to the off position and disconnect the battery again. If not, you need to reinstall the switch by repeating the previous steps.
  • Reinstall the Interior – Put back the vehicle’s interior pieces in the exact order that they were removed.
  • Reconnect the Battery Finally, reconnect the battery and test the key to make sure it moves freely.

Note: If you don’t hear any noise from the motor while turning the key, the issue might be under the hood. There are several causes/culprits for a stuck ignition key, so make sure that the key isn’t the only problem before disassembling the steering column.

The steering wheel lock is a common culprit that restricts the key from turning or being removed from the ignition switch. In some cases, a worn or damaged key that is lodged in the switch may also cause major damage to the ignition and make it harder to remove the key.

What Not to Do

When your car key gets stuck in the ignition, it’s important to avoid certain actions that could worsen the situation or cause additional damage. Here are some suggestions of what not to do:

  • Don’t remove the key with excessive physical force. This can break or bend the key and damage the ignition cylinder, making it hard to extract the key.
  • Don’t repeatedly turn the key forcefully. Instead, it’s best to pause and assess the situation without making it worse.
  • Avoid using pliers, wrenches, or other tools to twist or pull out the key, as this can damage both the key and the ignition cylinder.
  • Don’t use the wrong type of lubricant (like WD-40), as this can worsen the problem by attracting debris and dirt into the cylinder. Use specialized lock lubricants or graphite powder instead to lubricate
  • Avoid disconnecting the vehicle’s battery to release the key, as this can disrupt the electrical system and cause further issues.
  • Don’t attempt to disassemble the ignition cylinder or other vehicle components in a DIY process, unless you have the expertise and required tools, as this can cause further damage and expensive repairs.
  • Try to stay calm and think rationally about how to release the key from ignition. Avoid panicking, which results in impulsive actions that can worsen the situation.
  • Gentle tapping on the key might help in some cases but avoid hammering it with excessive force, as this can damage the ignition cylinder or the key.
  • Don’t use your car key in another vehicle’s ignition in an attempt to release it, as this can damage the ignition systems of both vehicles.
  • Don’t ignore the issue, as it poses a safety risk and can result in further damage or complications.

Verdict: Overall, it’s important to follow safe and cautious procedures when dealing with a stuck key in the ignition. Seek professional assistance from a certified mechanic or qualified locksmith to diagnose and address the ignition problems with their expertise and necessary tools to extract the key safely without causing any further damage or issues.

What to Do If Your Key Breaks in the Ignition?

If you find yourself in a situation where your car key breaks in the ignition, don’t panic. Follow these simple steps to handle the situation.

  • Turn Off the Engine – If the vehicle’s engine is still running, then try to turn off the engine.
  • Don’t Remove the Broken Key – Don’t try to remove the broken key on your own, especially if you don’t have experience with this type of issue.
  • Contact a Professional Make sure to contact a certified mechanic or professional locksmith to safely extract the broken key and address any ignition or key-related issues.

Conclusion

To sum it up, dealing with a broken or stuck car key in the ignition can be frustrating, but it’s important to stay calm and avoid actions that could make the situation worse or cause damage. Check for basic issues like the position of the steering wheel, gear shift, worn or broken key, faulty ignition switch, dead battery, or other mechanical problems. If you’re unable to resolve the issue on your own, seek assistance from a professional mechanic or locksmith to safely address the problem and prevent any further complications.

We hope this article has provided helpful information on the causes of a car key stuck in the ignition, what not to do and what to do when the key is stuck in the ignition, and how to resolve the issue. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. We’ll respond promptly to help you resolve the issue.

Car Key Stuck in the Ignition – FAQs

1. Why does my car key get stuck in the ignition?

Ans: There can be several reasons for this issue. Common causes include a worn-out key, a malfunctioning ignition cylinder, a damaged key fob, gear shift position, jammed tumblers in the ignition cylinder, or debris inside the ignition. We have clearly explained the main causes in the article.

2. Can I force the key out of the ignition?

Ans: No, it’s not advisable to force the key out of the ignition. Forcing it can damage the key, the ignition, or both, making the situation worse.

3. What’s the first step I should take when the key is stuck?

Ans: Start by ensuring your car is in park (for automatic transmissions) or in neutral (for manual transmissions). Sometimes, the key won’t come out if the vehicle is not properly in the right gear.

4. Is it possible to remove the key myself?

Ans: While it’s possible to remove the key yourself following these steps, if you’re not experienced or confident in doing so, it’s safer to seek professional help to avoid causing further damage.

5. Should I try turning the steering wheel?

Ans: Yes, gently turn the steering wheel back and forth while attempting to remove the key. Sometimes, the steering wheel lock can engage, causing the key to get stuck.

6. Can I drive my car with the key stuck in the ignition?

Ans: It’s not recommended to drive with the key stuck in the ignition. It can lead to safety issues, and if the key turns accidentally, it may cause problems while driving.

7. Shall we lubricate the ignition to release the key?

Ans: Lubricating the ignition may help if it’s a problem with a sticky or corroded cylinder. Use a graphite-based lubricant and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

8. What if the key still won’t come out after trying these steps?

Ans: If the key is still stuck after attempting the above steps, it’s advisable to contact a professional locksmith or your car manufacturer’s roadside assistance service for further assistance.

9. How much does it cost to fix a stuck key in the ignition?

Ans: The cost of fixing a stuck key in the ignition can vary widely depending on the make and model of your car, the severity of the issue, and whether you require professional assistance. Contacting a locksmith or your car manufacturer’s service center can provide you with cost estimates.

10. How can I prevent my key from getting stuck in the ignition in the future?

Ans: To prevent this issue, regularly maintain your car’s ignition system, avoid using a damaged key, and be cautious when inserting or removing the key to prevent any damage to the ignition cylinder.


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