Causes Of A Car Key Stuck in Ignition | How To Get Key Out Of Ignition

A common issue that often has a simple solution is a car key that is stuck or won’t turn in the ignition. This issue differs from a broken key scenario, where the top part of the key snaps off during an attempt to rotate it. If your ignition key isn’t turning in the ignition, it’s usually still possible to extract it.

Car Key Stuck in Ignition

It can be really irritating when your car key gets stuck. You might want to just pull it out, but this could make things worse. That’s why it’s important to know why the car key is stuck so you can fix it the right way. This article explains the possible causes of the stuck key in the ignition and how to remove it.

Reasons Why Is My Car Key Stuck in The Ignition

The key of your car may be stuck in the ignition for a variety of reasons. One common cause is if the gear selector is not set to Park or if there is an issue with the release button. The worn-out key or a locked steering wheel may also lead to this problem. Other potential culprits include a dead battery or a faulty ignition lock.

The following are the major causes of the car key that won’t turn or getting stuck in the ignition:

1) Inadequate Parking Gear

Parking Gear, reasons of car key stuck in ignition switch

Cars are engineered with numerous safety mechanisms. For instance, in automatic transmissions, the car key can’t be removed unless the vehicle is in park mode.

In a manual transmission, you need to shift the gear lever to neutral before removing the key. As a car owner, regardless of whether your vehicle contains a manual or automatic transmission, you should be familiar with this.

In the old vehicle models, the rubber or plastic shifter track might have been dislocated. Dirt or debris on the sidewall could prevent the shifter from reaching the park position.

2) Dirt on the Key

Dirty Key

Some people have a habit of using their car keys to open packages or gifts. However, it might be effective in cutting through the tape; it could result in the tape sticking to the key.

If you then insert the taped key into the ignition switch, it might not engage properly with the pins of the ignition cylinder.

3) Locked Steering Wheel

Locked Steering Wheel

The locked steering wheel is one of the major causes of the stuck key in the ignition.

The steering lock of your vehicle activates if you turn off your vehicle midway. This not only restricts the steering wheel from turning but also prevents the key from being removed. This is because both the steering wheel and cylinder are locked.

By turning the key and gently jiggling the wheel at the same time, both locks can be disengaged. After doing this, you can remove the key from the ignition and again start the engine.

Read More: Reasons Why Steering Wheel Is Hard To Turn?

4) Dead Battery

Dead Battery

It might seem unlikely that the car’s battery has any relation to the ignition, but it has. The ignition system relies on your vehicle battery to function properly. If the battery goes flat, the ignition automatically locks up, making it impossible to remove the key.

In such a condition, the ideal approach would be to either wait for the battery to recharge itself or replace it with a new one. Alternatively, you could lightly tap the ignition cylinder with a tack hammer.

5) Release Button

Release Button, causes of key stuck in ignition

If you newly buy a car, you might not have observed a release button next to the key. This button must be pressed to turn the key to the OFF mode. If you don’t push this button, you can’t fully switch off the ignition, and you can’t take out the key.

In a few vehicle models, you also have to press the key in and turn it all the way to the left to turn off the ignition and pull out the key.

6) Worn or Damaged Key

Damaged Key

Car keys are typically quite sturdy and can endure a great deal of wear and tear. However, every time you turn the key in the ignition, it wears down a bit more. In addition, when not in use, if the key is often stored in a pocket or tossed onto a hard surface, it can gradually deteriorate.

If the key ever becomes bent or develops a minor crack, removing it from the ignition can be quite a challenge. If you notice any such damage, it’s recommended to replace the key as soon as you can.

7) Accessory Mode

Accessory Mode

Many vehicle models have an accessory position. This mode, activated by a single click past the off position, permits the driver to utilize certain vehicle features, like the radio and power windows, without starting the engine.

You may have inadvertently left the key in the accessory mode in a rush. If you find that your key is stuck, try starting the engine and then turn it completely off again.

8) Damaged Ignition Cylinder

Damaged Ignition Cylinder

If your ignition lock cylinder is nearing failure, it could inhibit the ignition key from being released.

The ignition lock contains several rows of spring-loaded pins that conform to your key’s shape as you insert it. If the pins get slightly misaligned, you may face difficulty in removing the key or even inserting it, to begin with.

Read More: Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start

How To Remove the Key Stuck In Ignition

To remove the stuck key from the ignition, follow the below-given steps:

1) Put Gear Selector In Park

Make sure your gear selector is in Park mode to remove the stuck key from the ignition. Until it is set to ‘P’, you won’t be able to extract the key.

If the gear selector appears stuck, examine it closely. There might be an obstruction that needs to be cleared.

2) Jiggle The Key

Have you given the key a gentle wiggle? While there is no specific reason why this should work, it has proven to be successful on numerous occasions.

Hold the key lightly and shake it gently. But be careful not to be too rough, as your key may break inside the ignition.

3) Read Your Vehicle Manual

If you’re struggling to pinpoint the issue, your car’s manual might provide some insight. Go through the troubleshooting section of the manual to gain more understanding.

Additionally, it’s good to have a service manual for your car. These manuals can give you step-by-step instructions for lots of different situations.

4) Unlock The Steering Wheel

A locked steering wheel may also cause why a car key won’t turn in the ignition. If there is something wrong with the steering wheel lock, you’ll need to fix it. This feature is designed to deter theft, but it is not infallible.

Try lightly rocking the steering wheel from side to side. While doing this, attempt to eliminate the key from ignition, but be careful not to exert too much force.

5) Shake the Gear Selector

We have briefly discussed the possibility of the gear selector getting stuck. If you can’t see any obvious obstructions, it might be time to give it a little shake.

Gently wiggle the selector to see if you can free it. Keep in mind while you’re doing this, your foot should be tightly on the brake pedal.

6) Check the Safety Key

Different American and Japanese vehicle models come with an extra ignition lock switch. This requires inserting the key and pressing a button to freely turn and eliminate the key. It’s worth checking your vehicle’s manual to ensure you are not overlooking anything.

7) Lubricate Ignition Lock

Foreign objects may get lodged in the ignition lock, or it might just require some lubrication. You may try several methods to address this issue. One option is to use compressed air to blow out contaminants from the lock.

After removing the dirt, apply some lubricant. It might be hard to do this with the key still stuck in the lock, but something like WD-40 can help because it comes with a little straw to make it easier to get the oil where it needs to go.

8) Charge the Battery

Since a drained battery may lead to a car key becoming stuck in the ignition, charging the battery can help get the key out.

If you think the battery might be low (you’ll hear a repeated clicking noise while turning the key), you could try charging the battery. This can help you figure out if a low battery is an issue. You may also jump-start your vehicle with another vehicle.

9) Override function to remove the key from the ignition

There’s an override feature you may use to extract a stuck key from the ignition. Begin by finding the override button, typically situated towards the base of the steering column. After finding this button, press and hold it.

While keeping the override button depressed, turn the ignition key to the “off” mode. At this point, you can remove the key from the ignition.

10) Contact A Professional

If your attempts to solve the problem have been unsuccessful, it might be necessary to enlist the help of a professional locksmith. These experts have specialized tools that can safely remove the stuck key.

If your key becomes damaged while removing it, a locksmith also has the ability to replace it. In the worst case, a complete ignition lock replacement may be required, which is a task best left to a professional.

However, hiring a locksmith for help does have a few drawbacks. Firstly, there’s the associated cost, which could be significant, especially if you require their services outside regular working hours. Moreover, you might have to endure a wait, particularly if the professional is attending to another call.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove a Key Stuck in Ignition?

The cost of removing a key stuck in the ignition depends on different factors, such as your vehicle model, labor cost, and the severity of the issue.

In the case of an old vehicle model, the removal cost of a stuck key in the ignition may be about $60.

But in the case of new models with a more complex ignition system, the cost could be from $90 to $160.

However, if your key is stuck because of a dead battery, the new battery may cost from $50 to $210.

FAQ Section

How to use the Override function to remove the key from the Ignition?

Begin by finding the override button, typically positioned near the base of the steering column. When you’ve located this button, press and hold it. As you continue to press the override button, rotate the key to the “off” position. At this stage, you can remove the key from the ignition.

Can a locksmith get a broken key out of the ignition switch?

Yes, a locksmith is equipped to remove a broken key from the ignition. They can also assess if the lock has sustained any permanent damage, and if necessary, they can replace the cylinder. This service, however, can be costly, particularly if a new key is needed as well.

What tool can I use if my key gets stuck in the ignition?

If you want to try and fix it yourself, you could use a key extractor, which is like the tools a locksmith would use. Or, you could try a jigsaw blade because it’s thin and can fit next to the key in the lock. If the key is sticking out a bit from the lock, you could also try using tweezers or needle-nose pliers.

How do you know if your ignition lock cylinder is bad?

Typically, there are symptoms when the ignition lock cylinder starts to fail. When it becomes faulty, you may notice that your key is briefly sticking in some positions, like the ACC or ON position. It is advisable to get the lock checked the moment it becomes difficult to insert or remove the key.

What to do if your key breaks in the ignition?

The worst-case scenario involves a broken key in the ignition. In this case, you have two options: engage the services of a professional locksmith or utilize a key extractor tool.
Utilizing a key extractor tool might help you get the broken part of the key out of the ignition. But, if you hire a professional locksmith, they can make sure the broken key is taken out the right way.
Before you put your key in the ignition, check it. If your key is dirty or broken, there’s a higher chance it can break and get stuck in the ignition.

Can you use WD-40 on your lock?

Using minimal amounts of WD-40 might help, but exercise caution. WD-40 is considered a solvent, not a lubricant, making it less than ideal for your ignition cylinder. One reason is that it can solidify when it dries, potentially causing the tumblers in the ignition to stick.

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