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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Car Ignition Repair: Diagnose and Fix Your Broken Ignition

by Ralph June 30, 2021

This is not a how-to guide for car ignition repair. There is too much variation in car ignition cylinders and steering column construction for a definitive step-by-step procedure, which encompasses everything. However, the broad strokes are to remove the dashboard covers, turn your key to the accessory position, and unfasten the cylinder from the housing.

Now that you know that, how do you know what is wrong with your ignition cylinder? You can access it, but how do you go about the ignition repair? Calling a professional locksmith is going to be the best way to get the exact answers and service you need. But for now, let’s talk about the simplest parts to understand about car ignition repair.

What you need to know about car ignition repair comes down to:


How much does ignition repair cost?

The price of car ignition repair must cover parts and labor. Standard locksmith prices have a starting price of $95 for ignition repair plus the initial $15 service fee. You may incur the cost of a 24-hour locksmith or may require additional services depending on your circumstances. But standard ignition repair will be around $110 with no cost of towing or vehicle transportation if you hire a mobile locksmith.

Can a locksmith repair a car ignition?

Yes, a trained automotive locksmith can handle your car ignition repair. This is most common with keyed ignition cylinder repair, but as traditional car keys have upgraded to smart car keys, locksmiths have had to upgrade as well. If you are having trouble with any type of key or the device the key works with, a locksmith is a great option.

Why do car ignitions break? 

Car key ignitions break due to standard wear as well as after sustaining intentional/unintentional damages. The most common methods of damage are detached wires from improper servicing, over-torqued cylinders from incorrect key use, and theft attempts where the ignition was attacked. Just be sure you need car ignition repair and not car key replacement

Can I start my car without repairing my ignition?

When your car won’t start due to an ignition issue, there is no reliable way to turn over the engine without fixing the broken ignition. For certain cars you may be able to start the engine by hotwiring, removing the ignition cylinder and using a screwdriver bypass, and other methods criminals once used for automotive theft. Most new cars will have deterrents against these types of forced starts.

Signs You Need Ignition Repair

Before you start replacing parts, you want to know for sure whether or not the ignition is the source of your problem. Do you need car ignition repair? It is more likely that you need a new car key than a new car ignition, but the two issues can take on the appearance of the other. But even when a car key breaks in the ignition, the ignition may be the reason for the damage.

1. Key Not Turning

Usually, when a car key won’t turn in the ignition, it is because something is amiss with the key itself. But it could also be an indication that you need ignition repair. When you test the second key in the ignition, you can determine if this problem is localized to the key. When two keys will both refuse to turn, your issue is almost certainly the car key ignition.

What precisely is causing the ignition not to turn? It is likely a worn or blocked wafer, which is not lifting to the appropriate height when the key is inserted. Other than a wafer issue, there may be some other form of internal blockage that is causing the car ignition cylinder not to turn. For ignition repair to be possible, the cylinder must turn to the accessory position for removal and servicing.

Key Takeaways:

  • A key not turning is often a car key issue.
  • Use a second key to see if the problem persists.
  • If the ignition does not turn no matter what key is used, try ignition repair.

2. Vehicle Won’t Start 

When your car won’t start due to an ignition issue, it can be a bit tricky to troubleshoot because there are many other possible causes for an engine not turning over. You can rule out battery issues if the remote is still unlocking and locking the doors. If the car has been having trouble starting constantly, there could be the spark plugs.

If you have a remote start feature on your car remote, test to see if this will start the engine. If this does not work, there could still potentially be a problem with the ignition switch, but the keyed ignition cylinder would be worth investigating. Car ignition repair may also be a good place to start if the feel of turning the key has gotten looser or tighter.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are many potential causes for a car not starting.
  • No prior signs of trouble and functioning electronics are indicators of ignition issues.
  • If the car starts through other means, there is likely something wrong with the ignition.

3. Car Key Is Stuck 

A car key stuck in the ignition may be the result of a bound wafer, which is retaining the key. This can happen when a spring binds or a buildup of debris does not allow for enough space for the wafer to move. Sometimes the key is responsible, but in this case, it is more common that car ignition repair will solve the problem.

Any motorcycle locksmith will tell you that key deformation such as bending is common with manufacturers who use softer metal in their keys. But if it is questionable whether or not a key has bent, it is more likely that it will not work rather than jam. Though a stuck car key is a reliable signal that you need an ignition repair, it is also very likely that it will need to be replaced rather than repaired.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stuck car keys are often caused by ignition issues.
  • The internals within an ignition can bind so the key is not removable.
  • As long as the key can be turned to the accessory position, the lock can be serviced.

Ignition Repair vs. Replacement

Ignition repair is always preferable to ignition cylinder replacement. When you fully replace a broken car ignition, there is the cost of the new ignition plus all of the additional services you are likely to need. For example, after replacement, it is a good idea to rekey a car ignition so you do not need a separate key for exterior door locks.

Though car ignition repair may be more desirable, it is not always possible. There will be cases where the damage to the ignition cylinder will make it too difficult and costly to repair. To prepare you for these eventualities, let’s discuss what leads to circumstances where ignition repair must be put aside in favor of ignition replacement.

1. Destructive Removal

As was already mentioned in the section on the key not turning, most ignition cylinders need to be rotated to the accessory position in order to be removed. If there is a problem with the key, a locksmith can still use automotive lock picks to get the cylinder to rotate, but this is not possible if you need ignition repair. It is more likely that the lock will need to be drilled.

There are many things a locksmith is going to check before drilling a lock, but if the lock is too broken to be manipulated, it cannot be removed any other way. Once the lock is destructively removed it will fall into the category of too severely damaged. Though the initial damage may seem like ignition repair is feasible, there is no recourse for performing repairs.

2. Unavailable Components

The variety of vehicles comes with a wide variety of parts. Each of those parts consists of smaller components that can break to cause the part to need repair. For certain repairs to be viable, there have to be available replacement components to fully restore the cylinder. Ignition repair is only an option when all the necessary components can be gathered.

Unlike the cost to replace car door locks, which may include the bolt work and lock assembly, ignition replacement consists of changing one part. But because it is only one part, the number of components are also limited. Limited not only in number, but in accessibility because fewer parts means less chance of breaking, and less demand for spare parts.

3. Severe Damage

Just as destructive removal creates severe damage, there can be other factors that cause an ignition to break beyond the point of repair. This could be extreme wear or damage caused by a thievery attempt. If you have tried to handle the ignition repair, you may have caused things to break more extensively in the ignition.

At a certain point, the price of car ignition repair becomes greater than the cost of car key ignition replacement by virtue of requiring too many components to be replaced. That is to say, even if ignition repair is possible it may not be cost-effective if the damage is too extensive. Car ignition replacement can sometimes be cheaper than repair.

In Summation 

When your key is not turning, the vehicle will not start, or the car key is stuck in the ignition, investigate whether or not you need car ignition repair. If you have no spare car key, it will be more difficult to diagnose whether the ignition is the source of your problem. If your question is, “where can I get car ignition repair near me,” the best answer is a locksmith.

A locksmith comes directly to you, which is indispensable when your ignition is broken and it is not possible to drive the vehicle. A locksmith will also be able to tell you if ignition repair is less viable than replacement. Save time and money and call a professional locksmith to fix your broken car ignition.

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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