You may panic while you try to figure out how to get it out since you can’t just leave it in the ignition with the doors unlocked while you go to work, your home, etc.
If that ever happened to you, you know how stressful it can be to have your car key get stuck in the ignition of your vehicle. If your key won’t turn in the ignition, you may still be able to pull it out. But, if your key won’t come out of the ignition easily, don’t force the issue. Otherwise, your key could break off. Then you’ll have a much bigger problem on your hands.
Why Does My Key Get Stuck In The Ignition?
1 – Parking Gear Not Set
The gear of the transmission must always be set to “Park” before attempting to remove a car key from the ignition. In an automatic transmission, if the gear is set to drive, neutral, or any other available gear, then the key will not come out. In a manual transmission, make sure the gear shifter is set to “Neutral” and not in any other gear.
Sometimes people may attempt to change the gear to park, but the gear doesn’t get set all the way over to it. If your vehicle has a digital screen that displays the gear settings, check that to ensure the “P” is highlighted.
2 – Steering Wheel Lock
If you turn off your vehicle while moving the steering wheel just a little bit, the steering wheel lock will activate. Not only will this prevent you from turning the steering wheel, you won’t be able to pull out the key from the ignition either.
3 – There Is Debris On Your Key
Debris can collect on your key which prevents it from turning in the ignition cylinder. If you had a key replacement made, minor imperfections can cause it to get stuck in the ignition.
4 – Dead Battery
The ignition system depends on power from the battery to function properly. If the battery dies, it will likely cause the ignition system to lock up. Then you won’t be able to get the key out of the ignition. The best thing you can do here is to wait for a jump start or a new battery to be installed.
5 – Worn or Damaged Key
Car keys can take a lot of abuse over the years. Each time you put the key in the ignition and turn it, it wears the key just a little bit. When aren’t not using your car key, you may keep it in your pocket or toss it onto a hard-surfaced desk. This kind of abuse will slowly damage your car key.
If it ever bends or forms a small crack somewhere, then it will be tougher to remove it from the ignition. Replace the key immediately if you start noticing this damage
6- The ignition Cylinder Is Defective
If you have an ignition lock cylinder that’s on the verge of failing, it can prevent your key from coming out. This is because there are several rows of spring-loaded pins inside the ignition lock which match up with the shape of your key when inserted.
Here are three things you should do if your key is locked in the ignition:
1. Unlock The Steering Wheel
Many cars have a locking mechanism that gets activated when the steering wheel is turned too far to the left or right. The mechanism also prevents you from removing your key. To release the locking mechanism, turn your wheel in the opposite direction and try turning your key once you feel that the wheel is no longer locked in position.
2. Jiggle Your Key and Steering wheel
Use your left index finger to push down on your key cylinder. At the same time, jiggle your key with your right hand. This can loosen springs and pins inside the cylinder to the point where you can slide your key out of it.
If you’re sure that you correctly set the gear and the key still won’t come out, try slowly jiggling the steering wheel back and forth while you gently pull on the key to remove it. Sometimes when the steering column locks (a safety and anti-theft feature in most cars), it puts additional pressure on the ignition lock mechanism and prevents the key from coming out. By slightly moving the steering wheel, the pressure on the lock is removed and the key should slide out.
3. Shake The Gear Selector
Your car must be set in park or neutral before you can remove your key. Yet, there may be times when your car doesn’t recognize the fact that you’re parked or in neutral. In these instances, gently shake the gear selector. Alternatively, try resetting your gear into the parking position.
3. Lubricate the Key
In case the battery and shifter are working fine, you can lubricate the key to slip it out of the ignition. The key or ignition block may have developed rust, preventing it from turning the lock.
To remove the key with a lubricant, simply follow these steps:
- Apply a small amount of lubricant around the key.
- Turn and move the key repeatedly until it slips out.
- Upon removing the key, apply another lubricant to the keyhole.
- Wipe the key and keyhole with a dry cloth.
- Test the key again, but you can let a locksmith authorized by the car manufacturer check or replace your key.
4. Key Extractor
Use a key extraction tool to remove the broken key. This is often something a professional locksmith would use and is usually much cheaper than calling one. There are a few different types but this one does the best job of removing a key that’s broken off in a lock (any type of lock).
Finally, look at your key before you put it in the ignition. If your key is damaged or dirty, it becomes increasingly likely that it can break off inside the ignition.