7 Simple Solutions To Fix A Car Key That Won't Turn In The Ignition

Reason 1 of 3: Related component problems

Various components related to the ignition system are the most common culprits behind your car key being unable to turn in the ignition. Fortunately, they are also the quickest to identify and fix. There are three components to be aware of:

Component 1: Steering wheel. In many vehicles, rem

Component 1: Steering wheel. In many vehicles, removing the key locks the steering wheel from turning. Occasionally, because of this lock, the steering wheel can get stuck, which in turn means the vehicle key also becomes stuck and cannot move to release it. “Jiggling” the steering wheel side to side while also attempting the turn the key can relieve this lock pressure and allow the key to turn.

Component 2: Gear selector. Some vehicles do not allow the key to turn unless the vehicle is in either park or neutral. If the vehicle is in park, shake the shifter slightly to ensure it is in the right position and try again to turn the key. This only applies to cars with an automatic transmission.

Component 3: Battery. If the car’s battery is dead, you will often notice that the key won’t turn. This isn’t unusual in higher end vehicles, which frequently use more complex electronic ignition systems. Check the life of your battery to verify this.


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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.

Have Cheap Lock & Key replace your ignition cylinder and mechanical keys

When all else fails, replacing the ignition cylinder and keys are the best course of action. It ensures the mechanical functions will be back to proper working order, and it will be a more permanent fix.

If you have more questions on your vehicle's ignition system and mechanical keys, or you are in need of an ignition cylinder or key replacement, talk to a local locksmith company like Cheap Lock & Key! You can contact us at (813) 545-5462.

Reason 3 of 3: Ignition lock cylinder issues

Also known as a key cylinder, the ignition lock cylinder is another area that could be causing issues with a key turning over. Below are the two most common problems associated with the ignition lock cylinder and the key not turning.

Problem 1: Obstruction. An obstruction inside the key cylinder will not allow the key to turn the ignition properly. Look inside at the key cylinder with flashlight. You will want to look for any obvious obstruction. Occasionally when a key cylinder has completely failed you will see metal debris inside.

  • If attempting to clean the ignition lock cylinder, always begin with safety glasses to protect your eyes from any flying debris. To clean, use electrical cleaner or compressed air, and follow the precautions and instructions on the can. Make sure your work area is well ventilated. You can try to re-spray if necessary. If any debris was successfully removed, the key should slide in more easily.

Problem 2: Stuck springs. The pins and springs ins

Problem 2: Stuck springs. The pins and springs inside the key cylinder conform to the unique shape of your key, so that only your key will work to turn on your car. There can be problems turning the key due to issues with the pins or springs. When this happens, use a small tack hammer to gently tap the key ignition. This can help loosen any stuck pins or springs. You do not want to hit hard – the aim is to use the vibration of the tap, not the force, to help loosen any jammed pins or springs. Once they are free, you can attempt to insert the key and turn it.

The methods listed above are great ways to get your key turning if it refuses to budge. However, if you are still struggling with key turning issues after you try all these tips, you should contact a mechanic for further diagnosis. YourMechanic provides certified mobile mechanics who come to your home or office and can easily diagnose why your key isn’t turning and make the necessary repairs.

Other Ways to Turn the Key in an Ignition

Check the gears. Another reason why the ignition will not go on when your key is inside is because the car may be in another gear. Some vehicles with an automatic transmission do not enable the key to turn unless it is in park or neutral. Make sure you’re in park mode before trying to turn the key. 

If that doesn't work, check the battery. If your battery is dead, the key may not turn the ignition on. In that case, it's time to get a new battery.

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.

How to Get a Car Key to Turn in Your Ignition

So, how can you remedy the situation when you have a key that won’t turn in your ignition and a steering wheel not locked? There are a handful of things that you can try. Some of them might give you some hope, while others might not work at all. But you should be able to find something that’ll get your car key to work like it should as long as you’re willing to work hard enough at it. Here are some suggestions on what you should do when your car key won’t turn in your ignition.

1. Begin by Attempting to Turn Your Steering Wheel While Turning Your Car Key

If your steering wheel is ever moved after you’ve taken your car key out of your ignition, it’s going to lock up on you. A lot of people do this inadvertently when getting out of their cars and then wonder why they can’t get their car keys to turn. So the first thing you should do when you notice your car key not turning in your ignition is try to move your steering wheel so that you can get your car key to work.

To do this, you’ll need to start by turning your steering wheel to the left and right to see which side has a little bit of give to it. Then, you’ll want to turn your steering wheel in that direction and hold it there while trying to turn your car key. With a little lock, this should get your car key to turn, though you may have to jiggle your steering wheel just a bit to get it to go. Just make sure that you don’t try to force the key to turn since that could potentially cause bigger problems for you.

With a little luck, this will get your car key to turn for you and get you on your way. It’s not always going to be that easy to fix a key that won’t turn in an ignition, but it does sometimes work wonders for those trying to turn their car keys.

2. See If the Ignition Cylinder Needs to Be Lubricated

Over time, it’s not all that out of the ordinary for dirt, dust, and other gunk to get into your ignition cylinder. When it does, it can gradually make it more and more difficult for you to turn your car key. It could eventually lock up your ignition and stop it from working in the way that it should. You may need to lubricate it to clear it up. This is a major cause for your key won’t turn in the ignition steering wheel when it’s not locked.

You’re going to need to be very careful whenever you add any lubrication to an ignition cylinder. If you use the wrong lubricant, you could make the situation worse. You could even force yourself to have to replace your ignition cylinder. But if you suspect that your ignition cylinder could be on its last legs anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to try lubricating it to see if that helps you to turn your car key in it.

3. Try Rapping Your Car Key to Get It to Work

If you’re not able to turn your car key in your ignition right now, it could be because some of the internal components in your ignition cylinder aren’t lined up right. You might be able to get them to line up again by rapping your car key while you’re in the process of turning it. Rapping a car key involves taking a hammer or another tool and gently tapping on the car key while attempting to turn it. This might be enough to line up all the components inside of an ignition cylinder again.

You are going to want to steer clear of hitting your car key too hard while rapping it. You could damage your car key or your ignition cylinder if you’re too rough with either of them. But you might be able to get your car key to turn again by rapping it lightly. It could be a great short-term fix for an issue with a car’s ignition cylinder. If your key won’t turn in ignition steering wheel when it’s not locked, this is an important method to test.

4. Find Out If Your Car Key Needs to Be Fixed

When you’re having trouble turning a car key in your car’s ignition, you might automatically assume that it’s because of a problem with the ignition. But you could actually have a problem with your car key on your hands that’s stopping it from working. You should remove your car key from your ignition and give it a good look to see if anything seems amiss. You could very well find that a piece of your car key has broken off.

If you happen to have a spare key for your car, you should go ahead and give that a try in the ignition. If it turns with ease, then you’ll know that you need to fix your main car key so that it also works in the ignition. You can call on a locksmith to help you out when it comes to fixing a key. They can get your key working again in no time at all in most cases.

5. Replace Your Car Key Altogether

Although repairing a broken key is usually a possibility, you might not feel 100 percent confident sticking it back into your car’s ignition. Instead, you might feel more comfortable having your car key replaced with a new one. This will ensure that you’re able to turn it in your ignition every time from now on without having to worry about it breaking again. 

There are several ways in which you can replace a car key that isn’t working. You can have a local car dealership cut a new key for your car. You can also have a local locksmith set you up with a new key. You might even be able to have a local hardware store whip you up a key. Just try to make sure that it’s your car key and not your ignition that is the problem before you go through the trouble of replacing a car key. 

6. Take Out Your Old Ignition Cylinder and Replace It With a New One

More often than not, the ignition cylinder in a car will last for as long as the car does. Ignition cylinders don’t usually fail at any point. But there is always a chance that you might have a faulty ignition cylinder in your vehicle. And that could be the cause of you not being able to turn your car key in your ignition.

Rather than worrying about repairing or replacing your car key, you’ll need to take the proper steps to replace your ignition cylinder when it’s not working. The good news is that you shouldn’t have to replace your entire ignition assembly to get your cylinder working again. But you will have to take out your old ignition cylinder and put a new one in its place, and you’ll likely need to hire either a mechanic or a locksmith to assist you with this process.

7. Contact a Locksmith to Lend a Helping Hand

If you’re pretty handy with regards to working on cars, you might be able to diagnose why your car key won’t turn in your ignition on your own. But if you don’t have the slightest clue as to why your car key won’t turn, you might want to skip trying to figure it out yourself and hire a locksmith to help you.

A locksmith can inspect everything from your steering wheel to your car key to your ignition to see what seems to be the problem. Within just a few minutes, they should be able to tell you what’s going on so what you can start trying to fix it. Contacting a locksmith is, hands down, the simplest way to solve your problem when you find yourself searching “key won’t turn in ignition steering wheel not locked” online.

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