Reasons Car Key Won’t Turn In Ignition (+ Solutions)

Did you notice that your key won’t turn in ignition when you want to start your car? If yes. This article is a guide on how to handle such a situation.

There are some reasons your key won’t turn in ignition, such as dirty or damaged keys, debris in the ignition, and some others. You can, as one of the solutions, apply a lubricant to your key to solve this problem.

In the course of this article, we will discuss the various reasons why your key won’t turn in ignition and offer your expert tips on how to fix this problem.

Let’s begin

When the key gets stuck regularly, it might be from debris in your ignition. Although applying something like WD40(lubricant) can be of help, this can also be one of the symptoms that there is damage to the ignition cylinder.

Make sure you do not use excessive force to bring out the key. A snapped or broken key can amount to a more serious problem, such that you could have avoided with care and patience.

Also Read: Key Broke in Ignition? Here’s a Solution

5 Reasons Your Key Won’t Turn In Ignition

Key Wont Turn In Ignition

It is good you know why the ignition key will not turn, so you can avoid being in that situation again. Here are five reasons why the ignition key of a vehicle gets stuck or fails to turn:

1. Bent or Worn Key

It is usually very common among the reasons. For example, when the key to a vehicle has been in use for so many years, it starts becoming worn out or bends. Especially if one forcefully pushes or turns it hard inside his/her ignition before turning it.

When such a key becomes bent, it will fail to turn because it is no longer aligned in the ignition’s lock cylinder.

2. Locked Steering Wheel

A steering system possesses a locking mechanism, and it is activated when one takes/ removes the key from the ignition. Sometimes, one may mistakenly move his/her steering wheel while removing the key from the ignition.

The result is that next time, one might encounter issues while turning his/her key in the ignition.

3. Jammed Ignition Cylinder

Materials or lint can stick to your vehicle’s key in the pocket. At such times, if you put your vehicle key into your ignition cylinder, it will make your cylinder cluttered with lots of debris.

This is what causes issues when you are trying to remove or turn the vehicle’s key.

4. Gear Not Properly Set

You need to set your gear naturally or, even better, park before turning your key in your ignition. You will get an explanation of why you cannot turn your key when the gear is set to another.

If your gear is set to neutral or park, try gently shaking the stick and give it another try.

5. Bad Battery

New vehicles possess electronic and modernized ignition systems. They need power from the battery to function. Hence faulty battery can affect the key from turning. Check your battery power to know if it is the issue.

Also Read: How to Put a Car in Neutral Without a Key (Step by Step)

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

Key Wont Turn In Ignition

1. Turn the Steering Wheel

When your steering wheel locks, the car key will be unable to turn. This happens when your steering wheel is moved after removing the key from your ignition cylinder.

  1. Steering wheel should be turned to its left and right
  2. Take note of the wheel’s direction and the side it refused to turn to.
  3. Pull your steering wheel to the direction you have given, then hold it.
  4. Turn your key towards your accessory position as you keep your steering wheel turned.
  5. Rock your steering wheel while turning your key, that is, if nothing happens.
  6. If nothing still happens, rock your steering wheel while jiggling your key in its ignition.

You can max or mix with the various methods of moving your key and turning your wheel. When the key turns, your steering wheel will automatically unlock, and the vehicle should start. In a situation where the key fails to turn, the problem is more serious than you think.

Tips for freeing up your steering wheel:

  • Do not keep pulling on the steering wheel if you are feeling resistance.
  • If you try to turn your key very hard, such a key can be snapped off in your ignition.

2. Lubricate the Lock

You should try lubricating your lock when the vehicle key refuses to turn in its ignition, possibly because your ignition cylinder is jammed up. However, WD40 is not the best lubricant in this case.

It has become a debate in the lock picking hobbyist and locksmithing community regarding the best lubricant for locks. To avoid controversy, it is better to use either graphite-based lubricant or silicon. You need something that will collect particles, dust, and grime and subsequently jams your lock’s internals to a great degree.

If you are prepared to continue changing your ignition cylinder when you have successfully turned your key, then go ahead and use WD40. It is not a problem that it gunks up in a matter of time.

  1. Collect the key, cloth, and lubricant
  2. Spray lubricant inside your keyway of its ignition cylinder
  3. From your keyhole, clean any sort of leak or overspray.
  4. Put the key, then turn it
  5. When it fails to work, jiggle your key
  6. If it still fails, put extra lubricant on and do it again.

If, after minutes and it fails to work, know that “lubricating” is not always the answer to your problems.

Tips for lubricating an ignition:

  • A dry lubricant. Most times, it is better than oil-based lubricants.
  • To prevent staining, wipe every visible lubricant
  • By manipulating your key in its ignition, you are working in the lubricant.

3. Rapping the Key

Asides from lubrication, you can try something else to unjam the lock. For example, bump keys fail to work on vehicles, but with a vibrating mechanism or hammer and the key that has failed to turn, you might solve the problem. Rapping means shaking internal parts in your lock, returning them to their proper positions.

Small components of the inner part of a lock can be stuck or springs go missing. Here lubricants cannot help but shake things back to their normal position and can let the key turn properly.

The tool does not necessarily have to be a hammer. You can use anything to create a felt vibration in your key or cylinder. The plan is to make the inside of your lock have an additional movement than you can do by merely shaking the dashboard, key, or vehicle.

  1. Put the vehicle’s key in its ignition
  2. Use a tool or hammer to vibrate or strike your key
  3. Use such tool on your key while making attempts to turn your key
  4. If it fails to work, use the tool on your ignition cylinder.

Be diligent with the extent of force applied so that you will not damage your key, ignition, or any other part. While hitting a key very hard to break one of the locking mechanisms, do so with extra caution because you will not want to break more things.

Tips for rapping the key:

  • Use the same force as a knock on the door to strike your key
  • Ensure that you do not hit any other thing
  • Do not try to break your lock

Key Wont Turn In Ignition

4. Fix The Key

There may be a problem with the key. The only solution is that it needs to be replaced. If it is a broken key, it can be fixed.

The main thing is to decipher why the vehicle’s key is not functioning; hence you can solve the problem. When you remove the key, if it fails to turn in the ignition, investigate the vehicle’s key.

  1. Try out the spare key to know if it works
  2. Compare it with the one that fails to turn
  3. On the blade of your key, look at its bitting for any tear or wear.
  4. Examine to know if there is any break, twists, or bends.

Yes, you only need to know the problem to fix your key. If the problem is unclear, it may be an issue with electronics.

Tips for fixing car keys:

  • It becomes difficult if you do not have a spare vehicle key
  • If both keys fail to work, it may not be the problem
  • A locksmith can make a brand new key if the key is broken.

5. Replace the Key

It is the easiest fix; replacing the key. Not minding how broken your key might be, there is always a way of copying it and making another one.

Ways of approaching the process:

  1. Get an aftermarket electronic vehicle key, pick a way it will be cut, and get the transponder chip programmed.
  2. Purchase the needed supplies, then go to the lock and key section of a local hardware shop/store.
  3. Call a locksmith
  4. Call your vehicle dealership

The cost of key duplication depends on how much you do yourself. Calling your dealership is a more expensive choice because it does not need any research. Calling a locksmith is a middle ground choice about money. While doing it yourself is the least expensive option.

Tips for replacing your key:

  • More work done personally amounts to less price paid for labor
  • The dealership will cost more than a locksmith
  • Once the remotes and transponder keys are replaced, they will require programming.

6. Replace the Ignition Cylinder

If the key is not the problem, it may be a failing ignition cylinder. You may not have to change the whole ignition assembly. If the vehicle fails to start when your key turns, replacing the ignition switch will not even be needed.

So long as you purchase the right Ignition cylinder, replacement of the ignition cylinder will not be complicated/complex. Ensure you purchase the correct product for the model and make of your car.

Note that the process leaves one with an ignition key that is different from the vehicle’s trunk/door key. Rekeying will be needed to resolve the problem.

  1. Turn the key to an accessory position, and do so with several methods stated above. Mainly two or three.
  2. Locate a locking pin on the ignition assembly
  3. Make use of a correct sized tool for depressing a lock pin.
  4. Loosen the ignition cylinder(old one) by pulling. Finesse the ignition cylinder out of the housing or shake it loose.
  5. Put the new key inside your ignition cylinder (new one)
  6. The ignition cylinder(new one) should be fitted inside the housing.
  7. Let it lock into place
  8. Remove the key
  9. Carry out a test to know whether the vehicle will start and your key will not turn in the ignition.

If the methods stated above cannot be used and the key fails to turn on its ignition, another option is to take apart your steering column, and it will stop being a simple solution.

Tips for replacing your ignition cylinders:

  • Having tested two keys, you will likely have to change your ignition cylinder
  • While taking out plastic covers from your steering’s back, note how it fits back together.
  • For professional service, contact one of the mobile locksmiths.

Key Wont Turn In Ignition

7. Call a Locksmith

As you started saying that your key has failed to turn on its ignition, you may need a locksmith. The locksmith is best for handling problems about your key not turning on the ignition.

In addition, the amount that will be spent on a locksmith is more budget-friendly than other options. 

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

If your steering wheel locks, you do not need to call a locksmith. Exercise patience while carrying out the methods provided above, as regards “Turn the steering wheel”.

If it is a new vehicle, the chances that the ignition is worn out is low/ impossible. But if you notice a sign of a break-in, the reason has escalated steering wheel locking.

Also Read: Key Stuck In Ignition? Here’s How To Remove It

Key Won’t Turn In Ignition Steering Wheel Not Locked

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

When the key to a vehicle has a problem, the locksmith is the best option for you. Unfortunately, except if you want a spare key, a place like the hardware store will not give you a duplicate when your key is broken.

The locksmith has blanks and key cutters for every model or type of vehicle. A new key can be made from a code of the broken or worn key. The dealership is much more expensive than the locksmith, who offers services at a competitive rate.

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

It is difficult to fix and decipher issues about the ignition cylinder. People often overlook it if the car fails to start or the key fails to turn in a vehicle’s ignition. You can do the work on your own, but if complications come about, it can be solved by a locksmith.

Changing an ignition cylinder gets complicated regarding the failure of the key turning in an ignition. In addition, you can cause further damage by manipulating your key or taking off your steering wheel covers.

If your vehicle’s key develops a problem of not turning on your ignition, call a locksmith rather than escalating the problem that will need a lot of money and the attention of a mechanic to be fixed.

Key Wont Turn In Ignition

Frequently Asked Questions – Key Won’t Turn In Ignition

What causes the ignition to lock up?

It can happen when one turns off the vehicle with his/her steering wheel. Or when someone attempts to turn the wheel after turning off the vehicle. These can make the ignition key and wheel lock.

How do you unlock a stuck ignition?

By jiggling your key. You can also press down your key cylinder using the left index finger while using your right hand to jiggle the key. This can let the key slide out, having loosened the pins and grasp of the springs found in the cylinder.

Conclusion – Key Won’t Turn In Ignition

Deciphering the reason why the vehicle’s key has failed to turn in the ignition is the first step to fixing the problem. If you cannot tell the problem, call a professional locksmith.

All the solutions discussed can become complex if you are not skilled and also depending on the situation. Ensure that you call an experienced technician before it turns into an expensive fix.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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