Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.

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

Key Won't Turn in Ignition

Posted On by

So you are asking yourself, “my key won’t turn in the ignition, what do I do?” The best thing to do is to keep everything simple. Below are simple solutions that you can use to solve the issue of a key that will not turn in your ignition. Some of the seemingly simple fixes can get complicated, so be sure to keep your eyes out for anything that increases the difficulty of your needed repair.

Tips to fix key that won’t turn in the ignition:

  1. Turn the Steering Wheel
  2. Lubricate the Lock
  3. Rapping the Key
  4. Fix The Key
  5. Replace the Key
  6. Replace the Ignition Cylinder
  7. Call a Locksmith

1. Turn the Steering Wheel

The most common reason that a car key will not turn is that the steering wheel has locked. This will happen when the steering wheel has been moved after the key has been removed from the ignition cylinder.

  1. Turn the steering wheel to the right and left.
  2. Note what side the wheel cannot be turned to, and the direction that has give.
  3. Pull the steering wheel in the direction that has give, and hold it there.
  4. Turn the key toward the accessory position while keeping the steering wheel turned.
  5. If nothing happens, rock the steering wheel as you turn the key.
  6. If this does not work, rock the steering wheel as you jiggle the key in the ignition.

You can mix and match with the methods of turning the wheel and moving the key. As soon as the key turns the steering wheel will unlock, and the car should start. If the key does not turn, then you may have a more severe issue.

Tips for freeing up your steering wheel:

  • Do not continue to pull on your steering wheel when you feel resistance.
  • If you turn the key too hard, you can snap the key off in the ignition.

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.

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.

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.

5. Replace the Key

Duplicate Car Keys

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.

6. Replace the Ignition Cylinder

If the problem is not with your key, then the reason your car key won’t turn in ignition might have to do with a faulty ignition cylinder. You will likely not have to replace the entire ignition assembly. And unless your car does not start when the key finally turns, you will not even need to undergo ignition switch replacement.

As long as you buy the proper ignition cylinder, ignition cylinder replacement does not have to be complicated. Make sure you are buying the right product for your make and model of vehicle. Understand that this process will leave you with an ignition key that is unique from your car door/trunk key. Rekeying will be necessary to remedy this issue.

  1. Turn your key to the accessory position
    1. This can be done with some of the methods listed above (2 or 3, mainly).
  2. Find the locking pin on your ignition assembly.
  3. Use a tool of the correct size to depress the lock pin.
  4. Pull the old ignition cylinder loose.
    1. You might need to shake the ignition cylinder loose or finesse it out of its housing.
  5. Insert your new key into the new ignition cylinder.
  6. Fit the new ignition cylinder into the housing.
  7. Allow it to lock into place.
  8. Remove your key.
  9. Test to see if the car will start and the key will won’t turn in the car ignition.

It can get a little hairy if you cannot use one of the methods above to get the key to the accessory position. If the key will not turn in the ignition, period, you might have to take the steering column apart and this will cease being a simple solution.

Tips for replacing your ignition cylinders:

  • If you have tested two keys, you may need to replace the ignition cylinder.
  • When removing plastic covers from the steering black, take note of how they fit back together.
  • Call a mobile locksmith to have the work done professionally.

7. Call a Locksmith

When you start by saying, “my key won’t turn in the ignition,” you might end up saying, “I need a locksmith”. A locksmith can help with any issue where a key won’t turn in the ignition of a car. If you are worried about how much a locksmith costs, know that it should be more reasonable than other avenues of professional help. There are three main reasons your ignition key won’t turn, and we will get into how a locksmith can help.

My Key Won’t Turn In the Ignition Because of the Steering Wheel Lock

For something as simple as your steering wheel locking, it is not likely to be essential for you to contact a locksmith. It would behoove you to be very patient with performing the process described in the first section of this article (Turn the Steering Wheel).

If you have a new car, it is unlikely that the key or ignition has worn out. But if there is some evidence of a break-in, the reason your ignition key won’t turn might not be something as simple as the steering wheel locking. In this case, if you cannot unlock your steering wheel and don’t know why your key won’t turn in the ignition, this is when you should call a locksmith.

My Key Won’t Turn In the Ignition Because of the Key

When there is something wrong with your car key, a locksmith is often the best option for solving the issue. Unless you have a spare key, avenues such as a hardware store are not going to be able to provide you with a duplicate once the key is already broken.

A locksmith will have key cutters and blanks for every type of car. If the key is worn or broken, there is no issue, as a new key can be cut from the code. Where the dealership might rake you over the coals, in terms of price, a locksmith can deliver all the services you need at a more competitive rate.

My Key Won’t Turn In the Ignition Because of the Ignition Cylinder

Ignition cylinder issues are some of the most difficult to detect and fix, and it is often overlooked when people are trying to figure out why their car won’t start or why their key won’t turn in the car ignition. Though it is possible to do this work yourself, a locksmith can solve any complications that rear their head.

Replacing the ignition cylinder can get rather complicated in this specific case, where you can’t turn the key in the ignition. Taking the steering wheel covers off, or manipulating the key as needed can create many opportunities to damage your automobile further. When your car key won’t turn in the ignition, do not let that lead to needing a mechanic and a whole lot of money. Turn to a locksmith before things get out of hand.

Closing Thoughts

Key in Car Ignition

Diagnosing the reason your car key won’t turn in the ignition is the best way to begin the process of fixing the issue. If you cannot determine the problem your car is having, it is best to contact the professionals. Calling a locksmith is always a simple answer, but the rest of these simple solutions can get complicated depending on your skills and situation. Take care to contact a more seasoned technician before things move from a complicated fix to an expensive fix.

Original Publish Date: May 16, 2018

Category: Automotive, Car Keys, How To's

Need a locksmith? Schedule an appointment today. 866.338.9997