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key in the ignition

Have you ever experienced getting into your car and inserting the car key to start it, but the car key won’t turn? This cannot occur in a vehicle equipped with a push-button start or an electronic key.

However, having the key jammed in place might be inconvenient for the rest of us who still use traditional keys. You don’t want to twist the Key too hard, damage the car, or break it.

When the key doesn’t turn in, ignition is annoying and dangerous. It may increase the possibility of getting stuck at a place, to a locked steering wheel. The first sign of this issue is when you insert the key in the ignition switch, but it doesn’t turn smoothly. If you don’t notice the slightest signs of a poor car ignition key, the car key may not budge!

Hopefully, this article will help you learn about the most common causes for why a key won’t turn in the ignition and the solution to how to deal with it.

Top reasons why your key won’t turn in the ignition

There are several reasons why your vehicle key won’t turn in the ignition lock cylinder. Some of these issues may be unique to a specific vehicle model, and however, most key ignition problems are universal and can occur in any make or model vehicle. Here are the reasons why your ignition key won’t turn:

Parking gear is set wrong

Before trying to remove a car key from the ignition, always set the transmission gear to “Park.” If the gear in an automatic transmission is set to drive, neutral, or any other available gear, the key will not come out. If you have a car with a gear that requires manual transmission, make sure the gear shifter is set to “Neutral” and not any other gear.

When users try to move the gear to the park, the gear does not constantly shift over to it. If the car’s gear has a digital display that shows the gear settings, make sure the “P” is highlighted.

Steering wheel lock

If you lock your car while moving the steering wheel, even a little ignition problem can activate the steering wheel lock. This will hinder the turning of the steering wheel. Also, you may not be able to pull out the key from the ignition cylinder.

The reason is the ignition cylinder locks simultaneously the steering wheel locks. Twist the key while wiggling the steering wheel to unlock both locks simultaneously. This may allow you to remove the key or start the engine.

Debris on Key

Many of us carry our car keys in pockets, on keychains, or in bags—they all have the potential to make keys dirty. Furthermore, if you use your car key to open packages with tape, the adhesive might stick to the metal, making it easier for debris like lint and grit to accumulate on your key. This prevents it from adequately aligning up with the ignition.

Dead battery

The battery powers the ignition mechanism of a car to function correctly. Thus, the ignition system will likely lock up if the battery fails. Then you won’t be able to get the Key out of the ignition.

In this situation, the best thing you can do is wait for a jump start or a new car battery. Either that or use a tack hammer to tap the cylinder gently.

Worn or damaged key

Car keys have faced a lot of wear and tear over the years. The older metal of the key will not allow the pins inside the car’s ignition cylinder to drop correctly and start the vehicle when it gets worn out. You can quickly check if this is the reason by testing your spare key. Since you likely don’t use duplicate keys much, it won’t have as much wear and tear. Thus, it should have difficulty matching the grooves in the ignition key lock cylinder.

Ignition lock cylinder problems

If the ignition lock cylinder of your car is on the verge of failing, it may stop your key from coming out. This is due to multiple rows of spring-loaded pins inside the ignition lock that match the shape of your key when you insert it.

If the pins inside the lock are slightly out of position, you may be unable to remove the key (or even insert it in the first place).

Bent Key

Another issue that can cause the key to stopping turning is if it has become bent. Again, even minor misalignments can prevent the key turn in the ignition. So place the key against a flat, level surface. If it doesn’t press flush against the entire edge, it’s most likely a bent key that’s creating the problem.

You’re using an incorrect key.

This possibility may appear crazy, yet sometimes the most obvious response is the correct one. At the same time, many manufacturers will place distinctive elements on the keys to identify which one fits where; it’s possible that you have many keys and have mixed up the keys or picked the wrong key ring. Swap out the key you’re currently using with the correct key when in doubt.

Manufacturer recall or TSB

While it is unlikely that your specific year, make, and car or truck model may be subject to a technical service bulletin (TSB) connected to the ignition lock cylinder.

Enter your VIN into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. This will help you determine if your vehicle is affected, and this can assist you in inquiring about any other outstanding recalls or TSBs.

Tips to fix when the key doesn’t turn in ignition cylinder

Removing your car key from the ignition can depend on specific circumstances. Is this the first time it has failed to remove? Does the key gets stuck in the ignition all the time? Did you already attempt to get the Key and break it? In each case, here are the methods listed below.

Key stuck in the ignition.

Set the parking gear

The most typical reason for not pulling the Key out is that your vehicle’s parking gear is not set correctly. If you have an automatic transmission gear, it should be selected as “P” or “Park.” Further, if you have a manual transmission gear, it needs to be shifted to “Neutral.”

Turn the steering wheel.

If you’re confident you set the gear correctly, but if the key still won’t come out, try slowly moving the steering wheel back and forth while gently pulling on the key to remove it. When the steering column locks (a standard safety and anti-theft function in most cars), it exerts additional strain on the ignition lock mechanism, preventing the key from being removed. The pressure on the lock is relieved by slightly turning the steering wheel, and the key should slide out.

The key continues to get stuck in the ignition.

Lubricating the lock

Your key may not turn or get out of the ignition cylinder due to the jammed pins of the ignition cylinder. Spray a tiny amount of WD-40 on the ignition lock. The can should include a thin straw that fits (or nearly fits) between your key and the ignition lock. This extra lubrication may be enough to extract the key by gently wiggling it or inserting it in the key cylinder.

If the key had been stuck in the cylinder, inspect it for damage.

Also, look for bending signs once the key has been removed. If this is the case, you should get the key changed.

Clean the Key

If the key is not damaged, but you see some dirt or grease, properly wipe it with rubbing alcohol or an adhesive remover (such as Goo Gone).

Fixing the Key

If the key is bent, it will not twist in the key cylinder. Either it would be best if you got the key repaired or got a new key. A professional locksmith or car dealership can help you in both cases.

Changing the ignition cylinder

If using WD-40 to remove the key does not turn in the ignition, and you’ve previously tried the three solutions in the previous section, you may have a problem with the ignition lock itself. A can of compressed air can help remove any debris in the cylinder. You should confirm this with a locksmith or technician and get a new ignition cylinder installation.

Key broke off in the ignition

Key extractor

To remove the broken key, use a key extraction tool. Professional locksmiths frequently use this and are usually far less expensive than calling one. There are several sorts, but this one does the most satisfactory job of removing a broken key from a lock (any lock).

Jigsaw blade

As jigsaw blades are so thin, they can frequently fit just across the key within the ignition channel. After inserting the blade, turn it enough to grasp the notches in the blade onto the broken key and then slowly take it out.


If you are still not able to extract the broken key, or the operational key is still not working, then you should consider calling a professional. Professional locksmiths deal with such problems every day, and therefore, they prove to be the best to help you out.

Call a locksmith today!

If all else fails and your key still won’t turn the ignition, it’s time to call a professional locksmith. The most significant benefit of hiring an automotive locksmith is coming to your location, and otherwise, you have to get your vehicle towed.

The experts at Flat Rate Locksmith can save you from time-consuming repair. After hearing you, our executives further diagnose the key and the lock pressure to provide a simple fix to your problem. We will ensure that the key turns in the ignition cylinder and starts your car.

We can get your car’s key repaired and changed regardless of the situation. If you have any key ignition-related questions or want to get your ignition key repaired, call us at 678-686-7426. Our experts will be at your location in no time and get your car moving again!

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