Why your Toyota key won’t turn in the ignition and how to fix it

My Car Key Won’t Turn the Ignition – What Can I do?

Key Won’t Turn in Ignition
Key Won’t Turn in Ignition



It’s the worse possible scenario and it always seems to happen at the wrong time. You head out to your car, put your key in, and the key won’t turn the ignition. What should you do next?

Ignition cylinders use wafers and those wafers bend, crack and break over time. There are usually some warning signs, but like most people, you’ve probably ignored them until it was too late.

If you’ve found this article and the key is sticking in the ignition, you’ve saved yourself some time and money! Get your car to a locksmith. They can repair the car’s ignition before it’s too late.

When you car key won’t turn the ignition: 1) jiggle the steering wheel and the car’s shifter, 2) check if the battery is charged, 3) try a spare key, 4) spray silicon spray into the ignition, 5) jiggle the key and/or tap the key slightly. Details are included below. When you get the key to turn, head to your local locksmith or mechanic to fix the problem immediately so you don’t get stranded.

Details on these techniques, and why they work to get the ignition to turn, are below.

When none of these tricks work, EBay has great prices on ignitions and your local locksmith will be able to key the new ignition up to your existing keys and install it if necessary. If you are in the Phoenix area, ACME Locksmith can help you take care of this.

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Cars With a Start Button

The steering wheel lock is essentially an electronic deadbolt. Wiggle the steering wheel with your left hand, using significant force. At the same time, use your right hand to tap the start-stop button. Do not step on the brake. These steps should put your ignition in ACC mode and unlock your steering wheel without starting the engine.

4. Fix The Key

Sometimes the problem is with the key you are using, and addressing that particular point of failure is the only option for solving the issue when the ignition key won’t turn. If the key is broken, all hope is not lost. Sometimes you can fix a broken key. This is not always the case but it is possible.

The most important part of this process is figuring why your car key is not working. This will allow you to discover the many different ways the variety of complications can be solved. As long as you can get your key out when your car key won’t turn in the ignition, you should be able to investigate the car key.

  1. Try a spare car key, and see if a different key will work.
  2. Compare the car key that won’t turn in the ignition.
  3. Look at the bitting on the blade of the key for any wear.
  4. Examine for any twists, bends, or breaks.

Fixing the key can be very simple, you just need to know what is wrong. If the issue is not clearly visible, assume there is something wrong with electronics.

Tips for fixing car keys:

  • Checking this without a working spare car key is difficult.
  • When two keys don’t work, the key is likely not the issue.
  • If your key is broken and you have no spare, a locksmith can still make a new key.

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2. Lubricate the Lock

A very common reason a car key won’t turn in the ignition is that the keyway of the ignition cylinder is a little jammed up. Just lubricating the lock may be enough to solve your issue. You will say that WD40 is often the go-to example for lubrication of any kind, but I would not recommend it in this case.

It is a classic debate in both the locksmithing and the lock picking hobbyist community as to what the best lubricant is for locks, so at the risk of starting a controversy, I will recommend either using silicon or graphite-based lubricant. Essentially, you are looking for something that is not going to collect dust, grime, and particulates over time, which will eventually jam the lock’s internals to a greater degree.

You can use WD40 as long as you are going to be changing out the ignition cylinder after you turn the key successfully. When you are going to replace it anyway, it gunking up further over time, does not matter.

  1. Gather your lubricant, key, and cloth.
  2. Spray the lubricant into the keyway of the ignition cylinder.
  3. Wipe away the overspray or anything leaking from the keyhole.
  4. Insert the key and turn it.
  5. If this does not work, jiggle the key.
  6. If this does not work, add more lubricant and repeat.

In cases where this goes minutes without working, lubrication is not the answer when your car key won’t turn in the ignition.

Tips for lubricating an ignition:

  • Dry lubricant is preferable to oil-based lubricants.
  • Clean off all visible lubricants to avoid staining.
  • Work in the lubricant by manipulating the key in the ignition.

Check your ignition for dirt or debris

The inside of cars can collect a lot of debris over time. It is possible these particles can get into your ignition and cause problems turning the key. Check to see if there is any visible debris in your ignition. If you can remove it manually by using your hands or blowing gently, go for it.

If you are still having trouble dislodging the dirt or debris, you can try compressed air. Get a can of compressed air, usually used for cleaning computer keyboards, and spray it into the ignition.

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.

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