Why is Your Car Key Not Working?

October 18, 2021

Hopefully, this has never happened to you. You walk out to your car and try to use your key, and it just doesn’t work. While understandably frustrated, you start to think you don’t have time for this. Why isn’t it working?! There are several different possible reasons your car key isn’t working.

This article will cover all the potential problems, signs for each one, and how to get it fixed.

Problems Caused By The Key

This section will cover different issues that could be happening with the key itself, preventing it from working. Some of these issues are easily prevented, and in others, you will need to seek assistance. We will start with the ones that can be prevented by making some smart decisions.

Defective Key

If the key you are using is not the original key, the issue could be a defective key. When getting a spare key made, it is important to go to a reputable locksmith, or this could likely happen. Cheaper alternatives are available, but they will often not work correctly and could be why your car key isn’t working.

This could be the problem if the key you are using has never worked, looks different visibly than the original key, or cannot be programmed correctly. If you have a defective key, the only fix is to get a new key made. Always do business with licensed locksmiths to prevent this problem.

Duplicate Key

key duplication

In this same vein, if you are using a duplicate key, this can also be an issue. Every time a key is duplicated, the duplicate is not exactly the same as the original. Each additional duplicate is not as good as the previous one, which could cause your key not to work.

This could be the problem if your key never worked or if your original key works fine. This problem can be solved by getting spare keys cut from your car’s key code, not duplicating the original. This may cost a bit more, but your new key will be guaranteed to be the same as the original.

Broken Key

Having a broken key is a whole other issue entirely. A broken key is a key that used to work but has stopped working. Keys can be worn down by natural wear and tear each time they are used in a lock. If the grooves become extremely worn down, then this may cause the key to stopping functioning.

This may be the issue if your key cannot unlock any of your locks and cannot start the ignition. Other signs indicating this issue are spare keys functioning properly or other ways of unlocking the door (such as side buttons) work fine, but the key doesn’t. You will need to have a reputable locksmith cut a new key for you directly from your car’s key code to fix this issue.

Misprogrammed Key

This issue only occurs when your key has a key fob, remote, or transponder chip. This is common in newer car models, but not with older ones. These types of keys need to be programmed to work correctly in your car because the internal components of the keys connect directly to the lock. If your key is misprogrammed, it will not work correctly.

One common sign of this problem is if you recently changed your battery. This will often reset your key’s programming as an anti-theft measure. Other signs are if your immobilizer light is on or if you attempted to change the batteries in your key fob and it doesn’t correct the issue. This is quite easily remedied by a locksmith or the dealership. Both professionals will be able to program your key for you.

Problems Caused By The Key Fob/Remote

This section will only pertain to you if your car has a key fob or remote. This is a remote or button where you can unlock the door without needing the key. This is a convenient way to access your car, but it comes with many potential issues that can prevent your car key from working properly.

Dead Key Fob Battery

car key battery

As simple as this reason sounds, it is often overlooked when diagnosing issues. Your key fob runs on a battery, and like all battery-powered electronics, the battery can die. If you’ve had the same batteries in your key fob for a while, it may be the reason the key no longer works.

Some telltale signs of this issue are that your key fob will work inconsistently, buttons will only work if pressed repeatedly, and the key fob no longer works at the distance it used to. This is one of the most straightforward problems to fix. All you need to do is change the batteries.

Internal Damage To Key Fob/Remote

Another common issue with key fobs and remotes is they can sustain internal damage. These devices will only work properly if they maintain their connection between the transmitter and receiver. Any breaks in the connection will make your key not work correctly. These breaks can happen over time due to wear and tear or if you accidentally damage your key fob or remote.

The most common signs are based on any damage your key fob or remote has been through. If your key fob has been submerged in water, been struck, or put under excessive amounts of pressure, the problem could easily be due to internal damage. Also, another sign is if the buttons no longer work or are loose. A locksmith or your dealership will be able to help you by either repairing the damage or replacing the remote or key fob.

Problems Caused By The Car

This last section will cover the different reasons your key isn’t working because of an issue with the car itself. When the key doesn’t work, we assume the problem is due to the key, but sometimes the issue is the car and not the key. In these cases, the fix is typically more involved, and assistance will be necessary.

Damage To The Car Lock

This issue can affect two main parts. The parts that break will either be the lock cylinder or the lock assembly. You can test which issue you have by inserting the key and turning it. If the key turns but doesn’t unlock the door, the issue is most likely with the lock assembly. If a key fob works to open the door, but the key won’t open that door, then the issue is most likely with the lock cylinder.

Damage can be caused by lock freezing, debris blockage, or impact in a crash. If your lock is damaged, some visible signs will be if your keyway is blocked, the key will open one lock, but not another, and if the key turns but doesn’t unlock the door. This issue can be fixed by a locksmith. They will either repair existing locks or install new ones.

Faulty Ignition Cylinder

The last issue that could cause your car key to stopping working is a faulty ignition cylinder. This issue can happen over time with normal wear and tear. Signs of this issue include the key working to unlock the door, but it won’t start the car or if your immobilizer light is on. This issue can be fixed by a locksmith. They will either repair or replace your ignition cylinder.

We hope this article helps you in trying to diagnose why your car key has stopped working. At ASAP Locksmith, we are open 24/7, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can assist you in getting your key working properly again.

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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