Tips for Dealing With A Car Key Stuck in Ignition

Fatima Buzdar

October 5, 2022

A close-up of a person's hand, reminiscent of a skilled locksmith’s precision, turning a car key in the ignition. The dashboard and steering wheel are partially visible, capturing the exact moment of starting the vehicle.

Trying to get your key out of ignition only to find the key stuck in ignition is highly inconvenient, all the more so if it is disrupting your crucial matters during a busy day. However, you should not panic as there are various ways to help you find your way out of this sticky situation.

First of all, you should definitely not panic and forcibly try to remove the key from the ignition. Otherwise, you can risk breaking the key. You should inspect the issue and consider any prior signs that could have predicted the issue, and then gently try any solutions that may resolve them. If the issue seems too intricate for you, then it is best to seek an automotive locksmith‘s car key solutions.

8 Reasons Behind Why Your Car Key is Stuck in Ignition And Solutions

Learn what can cause the key to get stuck in the ignition and what solutions can help remove the stuck key from the ignition.

1. Dry Ignition Lock Cylinder

If the ignition key cylinder is dried, then the resulting friction can make the key get stuck or the key won’t turn smoothly either. You should lubricate your ignition lock cylinder every 6 months or so, so that it is properly lubricated and continues to function smoothly. WD-40 and dry graphite are recommended for lubrication.

Once your key is stuck inside the ignition due to dryness, it would likely be challenging to remove the key on your own. However, you can attempt to lubricate the lock with a spray lubricant and use it with a straw to get the lubricant in despite the key blockage. You may be able to remove your key through that method, but this can be challenging. Your best bet would be seeking an automotive locksmith‘s services if your attempts do not work out.

2. Dirt Blockage in Ignition Lock Cylinder

If there is debris build-up inside the ignition lock cylinder, then the key can get disrupted when being inserted or pulled out. This can either make the key a hassle to get in and out, which can damage your key, or cause the key to be completely stuck. In order to prevent such a problem, you should clean your ignition lock cylinder regularly.

In order to keep your ignition lock cylinder clean, you can use an aerosol cleaner and spray pressurized air into the keyhole, which would clean up the debris and dirt inside it. You can then follow this step up with a lubricant.

If your car key gets stuck inside the keyhole, you can attempt with a lubricant to see if it can help. However, as mentioned in previous section, that can be hard to pull off on your own.

3. Grime Accumulation on Key

The car keys inevitably accumulate debris and grime. Along with time, that build-up can get excessive. While you may ignore it because it might not seem like a big deal, it can get real bothersome if the build-up ends you up with a stuck key.

In order to avoid such a situation, you should clean your keys regularly. It is recommended to use a cotton swab damp with rubbing alcohol to remove the grime gathered on the key.

Once the key is stuck in, however, you can try to wiggle the key around with small pressure to see if it can get out. Otherwise, you can try the aforementioned lubrication method.

4. Damaged Key

Your car key goes through constant usage many times on a daily basis. The condition of the key naturally deteriorates with time, especially if it is used roughly. If it suffers damage upon its shape as a result of that, e.g. it gets bent or forms cracks, then the key may get stuck inside the ignition cylinder.

If you suspect a damaged key to be the cause behind your issue, then it is best to not struggle with getting the key out of the ignition on your own, or you can risk breaking it in the ignition. It is best to call a locksmith in this case.

5. Locked Steering Wheel

Many vehicles utilize an anti-theft automatic locking mechanism that activates upon the steering wheel being operated even a little while the car engine is turning off. This entails automatically locking the steering wheel and disallowing to turn the steering wheel.

This automatic lock might extend to the ignition cylinder getting locked as well, resulting a key stuck in ignition. This is a mechanism to protect your car from theft. However, in instances like this, it can catch you off guard. The good news is that you can easily resolve this issue by turning off the mechanism.

In order to turn it off, you should also apply light pressure on the teetering wheel and wiggle it around gently. While you do that, gently try to pull the key stuck inside the ignition cylinder. You might hear a click sound that follows with the lock mechanism getting turned off which will then allow you to take out the key.

6. Car Not Set on Park or Neutral Position

Many modern vehicles with automatic transmission feature incorporate a safety feature that keeps the car from moving if transmission gear is set to Park. Similarly, vehicles with manual transmission use the Neutral position. This safety measure helps prevent an unattended car from rolling down a slope, for example.

In order to serve as a reminder for you to ensure that your car is in the Park or Neutral position, the car may have mechanisms to lock the key in the ignition if the transmission gear is not set to Park or Neutral. Make sure that you did not forget to set your car on either mode if your attempts to take the key out of ignition do not work.

7. Car Set on Accessory Mode

The accessory mode allows the car to run only partially to let you use certain features without having to turn the car off entirely. The limited features include interior lights, radio, power lock windows, etc. Hence, your car is not completely off in this case and as a safety measure, it is possible that the key won’t come out due to the accessory mode.

The accessory mode tends to get turned by one counter-clockwise click after setting the off mode, so it is plausible that you set it without knowing. To turn it off, you simply need to turn the key clockwise. If the accessory mode was holding back your key, then it should be possible to get a stuck car key to come out of the ignition.

8. Exhausted Car Battery

In the event of an exhausted or weakened car battery, the ignition system may be lacking the access to power to operate. For certain cars, this can make the ignition system lock up, and in turn prevents the key from getting out.

If you turn your key and keep hearing clicking sounds, then likely the battery is dead. In that case, you will need to replace the car battery.

What to Do If the Key Breaks in the Ignition?

Even worse than a key not coming out from the ignition is the key getting broken in the ignition, leaving only a piece of broken key in your hand. If you spot any cracks or signs of damage on your key, then it is best to have the matter looked into by a locksmith as soon as possible so that you do not get into such a situation.

Once you have gotten into such a situation though, then you should not panic as a locksmith can assist you with this problem as well. By utilizing a broken key extractor, they can remove the piece of broken key from the ignition. Once they have done that, they can also craft a whole new key, whether it is to replace the broken key or to give you a spare key that is recommended to be kept.

How a Locksmith Can Help With a Key Stuck in the Ignition

While you can attempt simple solutions on your own, you should not exert too much force and effort into getting the key out of the ignition. You would not want to damage the key or ignition lock cylinder along the way.

Expert locksmiths are proficient when it comes to any locks, and the vehicle locks are no exception to this. They have the right tools and expertise available to solve your problem without causing damage to your car and its components, which includes ignition lock issues along with other issues like malfunctioning key fobs, car lock-outs, and more.

If your key is still stuck after trying the layman-friendly solutions, then a reliable automotive locksmith can help release the key from the ignition. As aforementioned, a locksmith can also assist further by crafting a whole new key if the old one was damaged from the issue.

Get Help With Getting Your Stuck Key Out of the Ignition Now

Commuting with vehicles is one of the most crucial aspects of day—to—day lives and a stuck key holding you back can be highly inconvenient. It is important that you can have the issue resolved as soon as possible, so that you can go back to attending to your matters. However, DIY methods can take long and efforts to diagnose and implement, especially as an inexperienced person. Many issues may be beyond a layman’s capabilities to resolve as well.

Faster Locksmith can solve that issue. Whether you are troubled with your car key stuck in ignition or your car key won’t turn in the ignition smoothly, we can provide you with excellent and swift solutions. With our 5 years of experience of providing stellar services to car owners in Toronto, you can rest assured that our automotive locksmiths can get your ignition back to working as good as new in no time.

Safeguard your property with our expert locksmith solutions. Get in touch with our approachable, knowledgeable team.