Car Key Won't Turn In Ignition: 7 Effective Solutions

Car ignition keyhole to start the engine
Publish at Sep 25, 2022 By: Dustin Fernandez
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You are in a hurry looking to get into your car and want to start the engine as soon as possible. You put the car key into the ignition hole to start the car. DANG! The car's ignition isn't just starting.

This scenario can happen to anyone. You might have faced this also. This doesn't necessarily happen all the time, but it seems like it happens at the wrong time when you are in a rush. Things like these can make anyone panic, which is bad for the situation. You need to be calm and think about what actually can go wrong. Sometimes a simple fix can get complicated if you think too much of it.

Let's see why an ignition key won't turn in the ignition and what exactly the fixes are. Many fixes are simple and won't give you much headache.

Why has My Car Key Won't Turn In The Ignition?

In older vehicles, the ignition system setup is fully mechanical. The lock cylinder and the cylinder that turns on the ignition switch are all mechanical in older models.

Car ignition keyhole to start the engine

Newer cars have chip keys and must be equipped properly with the car's system through software.

Three main reasons for ignition lock and ignition failure are pointed out below -

  • Locking of the steering wheel or the ignition key.
  • Dirt or debris in the ignition.
  • Damaged wafers and worn-out car keys.

These are the reasons many vehicles suffer ignition lock. They are described below -

Locking Of The Steering Wheel Or The Ignition Key

The steering wheel lock is a part of the safety features and can happen anytime. This is a theft deterrent mechanism. The steering wheel gets bumped or turned when you remove the car key.

The solution to the steering lock is pretty simple. Re-insert the key and pick the wheel with one of your hands. Jiggle the steering wheel (in the direction) you would normally start the car. This will unlock the steering wheel, and you can start the car. You won't need to wait much for this.

Just make sure your car is in the park or neutral mode. Park mode deactivation may restrict you from turning on the key. Gently tap the shift lever even when in the park to ensure your gear selector is activated.

Damaged Wafers And Worn-out Car Keys

Ignition cylinders of most cars use wafers, and this wafer can get worn out over time. Though they usually show signals before they are worn out, most people miss it either way. This is one of the reasons for the ignition lock and not turning in the ignition.

Sometimes the car key gets bent down. A bent key won't fit in the ignition and thus won't start the car. A hammer can be helpful to flatten out the bent key.

You will need a spare key if your car key gets worn out. In case you do not have a spare key to use, you can always make a new key.

Dirt Or Debris In The Ignition

If you are still stuck with the ignition lock cylinder, try to look for any interference inside the key cylinder. Look if there is any metal debris inside. You can use a light to see the key cylinder's inside properly. Go for this if it is possible to clear the dirt by your hands from the ignition cylinder.

Compressed air is the other way if you can't remove the objects with your hands. Blow a compressed air container around the ignition cylinder to remove every piece of dirt.

In modern cars, the keys are programmatically set up with the vehicle. These keys function properly with that specific model vehicle. You will always need the correct key to turn the ignition in these vehicles. See the owner's manual and double-check whether you are using the right key or not.

What Are The Ways To Fix Keys That Won't Turn In The Ignition

Try the following steps before you call a mechanic to repair your ignition key.

  1. Jiggle the steering wheel
  2. Moisturize the locks
  3. Gear shift checking
  4. Checking the battery condition
  5. Fixing the key
  6. New ignition cylinder
  7. Contact a mechanic

Jiggle The Steering Wheel

For safety purposes, many vehicles now have a system of locking the steering wheel. The wheel gets locked with slight turning or bumping as soon as you remove the keys from the ignition lock cylinder.

This is the most common reason to get stuck in the car. Sometimes people get panicked, especially if they are in a hurry. Fortunately, the fix is straightforward.

Turn and twist the steering wheel to the left and right. Notice where the steering wheel turned is possible and where not. You can quickly turn your keys and start the engine by doing this.

If turning the key seems impossible, you might need to look deeper. The problem can be elsewhere and probably more severe than it seems.

Moisturize The Locks

Sometimes a key won't turn in the ignition simply because the keyhole got jammed up. Using some lubricant will unjam the locks and might solve the issue.

WD40 is the go-to choice as a lubricant for many people. But, in my opinion, this is not the best option. WD40 stores dust and dirt over time eventually jams the keyhole again. Better use a lubricant that is graphite or silicon-based.

A quick tip: If you want to clear all the dust and germs inside your car, you can use rubbing alcohol. It is very effective.

Gear Shift Checking

Some cars have an automatic transmission feature that prevents the key turn. This will not allow you to start the car unless the car is in the park or neutral.

Shift the gear to ensure it's in the right position, and then try again to start the engine with the key.

Checking The Battery Condition

Some newer cars have advanced technology where you won't be allowed to turn the key if the battery is all but dead. Try to replace it and get a new battery as soon as possible. This issue has no other way around.

Fixing The Key

Closeup view of inserting a key in the ignition hole

It is possible for a key to not turn in the ignition cylinder because it's not in the right shape.

A key with dents won't fit in the ignition lock cylinder hole. Before using the key, you must flatten out the dents with a hammer.

Things will get a bit more difficult if your key gets broken. However, you will be good if you have a spare key. Otherwise, you will need to get your key replaced. Try to contact a locksmith to get new keys.

New Ignition Cylinder

If you know your key isn't at fault, but the vehicle still does not turn the ignition, it's time to look at your ignition cylinder.

Replacing the ignition cylinder isn't much of a complicated issue. Just make sure to buy the correct model for your specific vehicle. By the way, you will get a new ignition key with your newly bought ignition cylinder.

Contact A Mechanic

If all the above methods fail to turn in the ignition, you need to look for a professional. Professionals can spot the fault and repair it accordingly. An experienced technician can get the key and decide whether it's needed replacement or repairing.

For automotive repairs, you can contact 'ASAP Locksmith.' ASAP Locksmith is very experienced in this field and can solve any ignition system issue.

Final Thoughts

If your key doesn't turn in the ignition, the above steps can greatly help you. You must understand what is causing the problem and follow the abovementioned steps. Don't stress out if you can't identify the problem or if the solution seems too clunky. It can bring more harm than good.

Contact ASAP Locksmith if you want to have top-class car repair services. ASAP Locksmith has professionals with high experience in this industry. Contact 469-208-0041 to get connected with the ASAP Locksmith team.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Causes The Ignition To Lock Up?

When a driver twists the steering wheel to turn off the vehicle, the ignition switch can be unlocked, and the ignition keys can be locked.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Key Ignition?

The cost can vary from $180 to $225. This price range doesn't include taxes or other charges. Also, replacement cost varies depending on the car model.

How Does A Key Ignition Work?

The ignition switch operates by activating the battery voltage. This voltage creates a spark which is then sent into an ignition plug to start the car.

Article written by: Dustin Fernandez
I am Dustin Fernandez, and I'm the owner of ASAP Locksmith in Dallas. My company is a family business, and we provide locksmith services to residential, commercial, and automotive customers. I've been in the locksmith industry since 1995 when I was just 20 years old. I started by working for another locksmith company before eventually starting my own. Over time, my father joined me as a partner in this venture, which made him proud to help his son succeed at something he loved doing!