What To Do When Your Key is Stuck in the Ignition?

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5. Replace the Key

The most simple fix when there is something wrong

The most simple fix when there is something wrong with your car key is to just replace the key. There is always a way to copy a broken key. No matter how the key is broken, or whether this is something you do yourself or a task that you contract out, there is a solution.

There are several ways to approach this process:

  1. Find an aftermarket electronic car key and choose a way to have it cut, and perhaps have a transponder chip programmed.
  2. Buy your supplies and get your service at the lock and key section of your local hardware store.
  3. Contact a locksmith.
  4. Contact your car dealership.

In terms of how much it costs for car key duplication, the number will go up or down depending on how much you do yourself. Contacting your dealership being the most expensive option as it is the most obvious and requires no research. Contacting a locksmith being the middle ground in terms of price, and handling all the work yourself being the cheapest option.

Tips for replacing your key:

  • The more work you do yourself, the less money you have to pay for labor.
  • Locksmiths can replace car keys cheaper than the dealership.
  • Transponder keys and remotes will need to be programmed once they are replaced.

Keyhole Obstructions

Once you have ascertained that your car is in the proper gear, it’s time to move onto the next reason why your key may be stuck: dirt, dust, or other particles blocking your key from being removed from the keyhole. It is very possible that debris has gotten into the keyhole, but it is not something to worry about. To get your key out, you have 3 options: Spray WD40 into the keyhole to loosen up the dirt that may be obstructing the hole. Gently wiggle the key back and forth, which should also loosen up any debris that may be blocking the keyway. Call a locksmith for professional help if neither of the above options are possible or working.

Why Does My Key Get Stuck In The Ignition?

There are many reasons why your key can get stuck in your ignition, including:

1. Your Car Is Not In Park Or Neutral

If your car’s parking gear is not set properly, you might not be able to get your key out of the ignition. In a car with an automatic transmission, the vehicle must be set to the park position before you can remove your key from the ignition. If you drive a car with a manual transmission and have trouble getting your key out of the ignition, move your shifter to neutral. At this point, you may be able to turn your key and slide it out of the ignition.

2. Your Car’s Running In Accessory Mode

Most cars with a hard key have an accessory mode that lets you activate the radio, power windows, and other features without turning your vehicle on. The feature is usually activated by turning your key one “click” past the Off position.

3. Your Battery Is Dead

If you turn your key and repeatedly hear a “clicking” sound, your battery may be dead. This can hamper your ability to remove your key.

4. There Is Debris On Your Key

Debris can collect on your key that prevents it from turning in the ignition cylinder. If you had a key replacement made, minor imperfections can cause it to get stuck in the ignition.

A Broken Key

The worst case scenario in a situation like this is that your key has broken, causing it to be stuck in the ignition. This may happen more often with duplicate keys, as they are weaker than the originals. You have two options when it comes to a broken key:   Use a key extractor tool and attempt to remove the piece of broken key that is stuck in the keyway. If this tool is not available to you in the moment, or if this solution is not working, your best option is to: Call a locksmith. Having an experienced, professional set of hands on the job will be the best bet for you if the key breaks off inside the ignition. Additionally,  it is always important to pay attention to the general state of your car key before putting it into the ignition. If the key already looks damaged, prone to damage, or is flimsy in any way, it has a higher chance of breaking off inside of the ignition.

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Here’s How To Repair An Ignition

You’re going to see that we ask you to refer back to your vehicle’s service manual regularly. This isn’t because we don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s because we have no idea what kind of car you own and how it differs from the directions we expect to give.

If you need to replace the ignition switch, you’ll need to get new keys to go with it, so don’t forget!

Let’s do this! 

Take Apart the Steering Column Covering 

  1. Disconnect the negative terminal on your vehicle’s battery.
  2. Remove the trim from around the steering wheel. There will be more than one piece, but the specific number will depend on the make and model of your vehicle.
    • Be sure to keep track of screws and other spare parts to avoid misplacing anything.

Replace the Ignition Switch

  1. Insert the key and turn the switch to accessory mode.
    • Even if the key is stuck in the ignition switch, you should be able to turn it.
  2. Press the release pin on the bottom of the ignition switch with a screwdriver.
    • This will require a narrow screwdriver to fit into the small hole.
    • The ignition module will slide right out once the pin has been released.
  3. Squeeze the release pin on the new module and slide it back into the ignition hole on the side of the steering column.
    • You should hear a click when the pin has properly seated itself. Keep working the switch until you hear the sound.
  4. Before reassembling the interior trim, you’ll need to test the new switch. To do this, reconnect the battery and make sure you’ve installed the new ignition switch properly. 
    • The vehicle should crank right up. If that’s not the case, you’ll need to review the steps you took to install the switch. Refer to your vehicle’s maintenance guide to ensure you understand the specifics for your model.
    • If the vehicle cranks properly, you’re almost done. Turn the ignition back to the off position and disconnect the battery again.
  5. Reinstall the pieces of your vehicle’s interior, being sure to replace them in the order that they were removed.
  6. Reconnect the battery.

Congratulations! You’ve just replaced your ignition switch.

Next Step

Schedule Ignition key does not turn Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Ignition key does not turn Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews… LEARN MORESEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

Why Won’t My Key Turn the Ignition?

There are several reasons why the key may have stopped turning the ignition.

Your car key may have stopped turning the ignition because of a safety feature of the car, a bad key, or broken or damaged wafers in the ignition.

 

A Safety Feature of the Car is Preventing the Key from Turning

As cars become more electronic and complex, a slew of safety features have been installed that will prevent the key from turning the ignition. We’ll cover the most common ones below.

Your Wafers are Damaged And the Ignition is Now “Frozen” and Won’t Turn

Damaged Wafers
Damaged Wafers

Unlike standard locks, which use round, cylindrical pins; auto locks use a wafer based system. The wafer is typically split down the center to accommodate the key when it slides in.

Ignition wafers can be one piece or two pieces (a split wafer). A two piece wafer is very similar to that shown except it is split down the middle. Split wafers are susceptible to jamming in the cylinder. Over time either of the wafer styles can become damaged.

Our Tempe Locksmith technicians see this a lot because it’s a college town. Older cars and aggressive turning of the ignition lead to the wafers becoming damaged and the key won’t turn.

Pro Tip from an Automotive Locksmith: If you are someone that carries around a large, heavy key ring, don’t. The weight of that key ring is constantly pulling on the wafers in the ignition as you drive, day after day, year after year. Lighten the key ring will extend the life of your ignition wafers.

Performing an Ignition Repair
Performing an Ignition Repair

Your Key is Worn so Not Putting the Ignition Wafers in the right spot

Another common reason a key won’t turn an ignition is not due to the ignition at all. It is due to the key being worn out. It is the edges of the car key that get worn.

With every turn of the ignition the edges of the car key are under force to get the wafers to align correctly. Over time this thins out the edge and wears it down until one day it will no longer turn the ignition. New keys cut by code have sharp crisp edges, while old keys have soft, rounded edges.

Pro Tip Automotive: If you are down to one car key. Get a backup key made as soon as possible. No matter how expensive a backup key is, it will always cost more to an originate a key (make a key when no existing key is available) than to copy an existing key. When a spare key is not used often, it will not wear down so you will have a backup key.

 

4. Will I Require a New Ignition?

For a car key stuck or snapped in the ignition, some models will require a new car ignition this is due to the ignition itself breaking down causing the key to become stuck.

The price for a new car ignition is likely to be from £45 for parts and £70 labour, this price will depend on the type of car model you own though.

Why use a MLA Approved Locksmith?

All locksmith companies approved by Master Locksmiths Association are:

Vetted

Our Locksmiths are criminal record checked.How we check our locksmiths

Inspected

Our Locksmiths are Regularly Inspected.How we inspect our locksmiths

Qualified

Our Locksmiths have passed the MLA exam.Read about MLA Exam here

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How Much Does It Cost To Repair An Ignition?

The parts to fix an ignition switch will cost anywhere from around $75 to over $200. Where your costs land on that spectrum will depend on the type of vehicle you own and how common replacement parts are. 

That’s not the cheapest DIY car repair job you can do, but contrast those costs with the price of having a pro do the job and it starts to make sense. Beyond the costs of parts, you’ll pay between $100 and $200 more for labor to have them installed. 

Damaged/Worn Out Key or Ignition Cylinder

When it comes down to it, your car is a mechanical system and mechanical things tend to break or wear down over time. This is true for both mechanical keys and key cylinders. After inserting and removing your ignition key thousands of times over years, things can be worn out and stressed.

After some time, the key may fail to turn or fall out of the cylinder completely. Turn to a professional to replace your damaged parts. Damaged keys can be easily replaced by using a professional like Cheap Lock & Key to cut a new one. Damaged ignition cylinders can need replacement and should also be done so by a qualified professional, such as us.

When replacing your mechanical systems, it is important to get a newly matched lockset that includes both the door and trunk cylinders.

2. Steering Wheel Binds While Driving (Low Power Steering Fluid)

If your steering wheel locks up while the car is in motion, perhaps the most likely culprit is a lack of power steering fluid, or dirty power steering fluid.

Especially at lower speeds like parking lot maneuvers, the power steering system allows you to turn the wheels with ease. If this system malfunctions, you might not feel much of a difference when cruising, but the car could become difficult to steer at lower speeds. If damage has caused the system to spring a leak, this could lead to a lack of fluid pressure in the system. Additionally, the power steering fluid may need to be changed if it has become excessively dirty. If the fluid simply isn’t circulating through the system properly, you may require a new power steering pump.

Locked Steering Wheel/Ignition Key What You Can Do to Unlock Them

Locking your steering wheel can easily happen and is easily fixed. The ignition is mechanically connected to your steering wheel lock. This is for safety reasons, should a thief try to steer the car without the key.

When a person turns their car off with the steering wheel turned, or tries to turn the wheel after the car has been turned off, the wheel and the ignition key can lock up.

To unlock them, simply reinsert your key and slowly turn it in the direction you normally would to start the car, while slowly turning the wheel in the only direction it will allow you. This will typically unlock the steering wheel.

3. Rapping the Key

Beyond lubrication, you might need to try something more severe to unjam your lock. It is true that bump keys do not work on cars, but by using a hammer or a vibrating mechanism and your key that won’t turn in the car, you might be able to solve your issue. This “rapping”, if you will, is meant to shake internal components in the lock into the proper position.

Springs can get lost, or other small parts of the inside of the lock can get stuck. Where lubrication can fail to unstick or get things to move properly, you can shake things temporarily into positions, just in time to turn the key properly.

The tool that you use does not need to be a hammer. It can be anything that can create a noticeable vibration that can be applied to the key and/or the cylinder. The idea is just to get the inside of the lock to move more than you could by shaking your key, car, or dashboard.

  1. Place your car key in the car’s ignition.
  2. Gather a hammer or other tool strike or vibrate the key.
  3. Use your tool on the key while trying to turn the key.
  4. If this does not work, try to use your tool on the ignition cylinder.

Just be very diligent about the amount of force you use in this process, as you could damage your key, the ignition, etc. If you are trying to hit your key hard enough to break a locking mechanism, operate with extreme caution as your desire to break things might be more successful than you intend.

Tips for rapping the key:

  • Strike the key with the same force to knock silently on a door.
  • Make sure you are not hitting anything else during this process.
  • Do not attempt to break the lock.

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