What To Do If Your Car Key Won't Turn in The Ignition

October 3, 2021

Have you ever been in a rush to get somewhere, and you stick your key in the ignition, and it won't turn? If so, you know this is a very upsetting situation, and due to your need to get somewhere fast, you may start to panic. While this is completely understandable, panic won't help you to resolve this. To fix this problem, you need to be calm and patient. Next time this happens to you, take the time to read through this article and follow the tips here before letting panic take over.

Easy Fixes

In this section, we will go over the first things you should try if this happens. These are things that are relatively easy to do without the need for a professional. All of these should be tried before resorting to more drastic remedies. These solutions all have to do with different ways to manipulate your steering wheel or keyway.

The Steering Wheel

The first step in trying to figure out the issue is to inspect your steering wheel. The very common problem is that the steering wheel will become locked. This can happen if the wheel is moved after the key is removed from the ignition. It is a safety measure and, while frustrating for you, can help to prevent car theft.

If this is the issue, there is a process to unlock it. This will take a lot of patience and trial and error, but if it works, you will be able to get on the road faster than any other method. Make sure to try the following steps several times before giving up.

  1. First you need to try turning your wheel in both directions. One way it will allow you to turn and the other way it won't. Turn towards the way it allows you too until you cannot turn anymore. Hold the wheel in this position and attempt to turn your key.
  2. If you've tried this a few times and the key won't turn try rocking the wheel in the same held position and turning the key.
  3. Lastly, if neither method works try both rocking your wheel in this position and jiggling the key to see if it will then allow you to insert and turn.

After you have checked this multiple times and it isn't working, the issue is most likely not your steering wheel, and you will need to try one of the following methods instead.

The Key Way

The next step is to check your fundamental way. Your crucial way is the spot in your ignition where you insert your key. This spot can get jammed or blocked, which will make it impossible to insert and turn your key.

If this happens, you will need to grease your crucial way to loosen the jam. This is not a job for WD40. You will want to use a dry, non-oil-based lubricant, such as silicone or graphite. Try the following steps a few times before moving to the next one.

  1. First spray the key way with the lubricant. Make sure to clean away any excess that leaks out.
  2. After this try inserting and turning your key.
  3. If this doesn't work try jiggling the key in the lock and see if it will turn.

If you have tried this multiple times and the key still won't turn, it is time to try something a little more drastic. The following fixes will only be temporary, and you will need to have the problem remedied by a locksmith as soon as possible.

Hard Fixes

If you've gotten this far and nothing has worked, most likely, the issue is a damaged key or a broken lock. In both of these cases, your goal is to get the problem temporarily fixed until you can get it repaired. This section will cover both how to handle if you think the key is the issue or if you believe the lock is broken.

The Key

If you suspect that key damage is the issue, then there are a few ways to check. First, you want to inspect your key for any wear, bends, or breaks. You can also try a spare key if you have one to see if this will allow you to turn it in the ignition.

If you do not have a spare, a locksmith can duplicate your key without the original needed. You can also get a new key made at the dealership, but this will, in most cases, be a lot more expensive than a locksmith. Note that if you get a new key made, your transponder key will need to be reprogrammed to use again.

If you have tried either a spare or replacement key and it still will not turn, then your issue is most likely not the key and the lock that is broken. Following, we will cover the options you have if your lock is broken.

The Lock

If you have exhausted all options up to this point, then your lock is the culprit. Note that you will need professional help to fix this and that any DIY options are just temporary until you can get it repaired.

The first thing you will want to try is to hit your key gently. Note, this is not the same as a bump key. Bump keys do not work in cars. This is not a way to force the key into the ignition. This process can temporarily allow any internal parts that may have broken to coordinate and allow the key to turning.

The force should be a light hit, and make sure you are only hitting the key. Also, do not attempt to break the lock; this will cause you more significant issues. If this works, you will still need the ignition lock replaced, but you can at least get your car moving again.

This last step is for professionals. If gently hitting your key allowed you to turn the key, it needs to be looked at as soon as possible. If it didn't work, then it also needs to be looked at. In this case, most likely, your ignition cylinder will need to be replaced. This is best left to a locksmith as you could easily damage your ignition, further increasing your cost and stress.

ASAP Locksmith

Keep in mind that if your ignition cylinder is replaced, you will have one key that starts your car and a different key that opens both your car and trunk. If you wish all the keys to match, you will have to have your vehicle re-keyed.
We hope this article proves helpful for you, and next time you are in a jam, don't hesitate to give us a call at ASAP Locksmith Dallas.

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!

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