Is your key stuck in the ignition, and you can’t figure how to get it out or why it’s stuck? A key stuck in the ignition can get you all panicky as you try to figure out how to get it out.
Worry yourself no more because this article will take you through the process of getting your stuck key out of the ignition, reasons why it’s stuck in the first place, and how to prevent such future occurrences.
7 Reasons Why Your Key Is Stuck In Ignition
Your car key should come out of the ignition when you rotate entirely clockwise or when you push your car release button depending on your car’s make or model.
If this fails to happen, you may be dealing with a case of a key stuck in the ignition.
Although the problem may be unique to your car’s particular make and model, most causes are universal and happen to any vehicle make or model.
The seven most common reasons are:
1. Failure To Set Parking Gear
If you drive an automatic vehicle, you should always set the transmission gear to parking before attempting to remove the key from the ignition.
For manual cars, the key will only come out if the transmission gear is set to neutral.
If your vehicle comes with a digital screen, you can check the gear status for a sign of the letter “p” to mean that transmission gear is set at parking.
2. Steering Wheel Lock
Your car’s steering wheel will lock when you turn off the vehicle while moving the wheel. When this happens, you won’t turn the steering wheel or remove the key from the ignition.
A locked steering wheel occurs when the ignition cylinder and the wheel lock at concurrently.
You can reverse this scenario by turning the key while wiggling the steering wheel to unlock it and release the key.
3. Debris On The Key
Debris on the key may be due to sticky tape pieces, or adhesive glue acquired while trying to open packages or boxes using the car key.
While it may seem cool and fast, you are damaging your key and risking it getting stuck in the ignition.
Debris on your car’s keys will hinder it from engaging the ignition cylinder pins, causing the key to getting stuck.
4. A Dead Battery
A dead or low voltage battery causes the ignition to lock up and a subsequent failure to release the key.
When this happens, do not attempt to use force to remove the key because you may get into more trouble when the key breaks.
5. Damaged Key
Just like any other key, a car’s key is subject to wear and tear with time.
If you constantly find yourself putting your key in the pocket or tossing it against hard surfaces, you will notice cracks on it with time. You also risk bending your key when you sit with it in the pocket.
A damaged key may get stuck in the ignition and may be difficult to remove. Keep checking your key for any damages and if you notice any, replace it as soon as possible.
6. A Damaged Ignition Cylinder
A damaged ignition cylinder may cause a key stuck in the ignition.
If the spring-loaded ignition pins fail to align, they may not match your key’s shape, meaning that you won’t be able to insert the key in the ignition.
If you succeed in inserting the key in such a scenario, there is a high possibility that it will get stuck.
7. Manufacturers Recall
If NHTSA receives constant complaints regarding your car model’s ignition system from several people, they could investigate the safety-related defect.
If the findings suggest that the vehicle creates a safety risk or does not meet the minimum safety standards, the manufacturer must recall the models and fix the problem.
You can use the VIN to check if your model is affected by the NHTSA’s website.
How To Remove Your Key Stuck In Ignition
When the car key gets stuck in the ignition, there is no need to panic because you can follow the following simple steps to remove the key from the ignition safely:
1. Set The Gear To Parking
Automatic cars come with a safety feature that locks the steering wheel when they are not in parking.
Manual cars lock the steering wheel when the gear is not set to neutral to prevent accidents when the car drives on its own.
Check whether the gear is set to neutral for manual cars and parking for automatic vehicles.
To get stuck keys out of the ignition, jiggle the steering wheel back and forth as you try to remove the key gently.
Your car’s steering wheel could lock due to the anti-theft mechanism that puts additional pressure on the ignition, preventing the key from coming out.
Jiggling the steering wheel eases the pressure on the ignition and causes the key to coming out.
2. Lubricate The Ignition Lock Cylinder
The ignition cylinder needs to be adequately lubricated for it to function correctly.
The pins could wear out or scratch the key if the cylinder becomes too dry. You can apply graphite lube to lubricate the cylinder and get the key out.
3. Clean Out Debris
Dust and dirt particles can accumulate on the ignition cylinder, which could cause abrasion and tear.
You can clean the ignition cylinder using WD-40 spray by inserting the straw at the keyhole’s opening and giving 2-3 quick splashes to flush out any unwanted debris.
WD-40 spray also has lubricating properties, which could prevent metallic surfaces from rusting and corrosion. You can also spray WD-40 directly on the keyhole and try to wiggle the key out.
4. Check For Dead Battery
The ignition system highly depends on battery power. A low voltage or dead battery might get the key stuck in the ignition.
You can jump-start your vehicle or completely replace the dead battery. Tapping the battery slightly with a hammer may help get the stuck key from the ignition.
5. Broken Key
If your key accidentally breaks when trying to remove it from the ignition, do not attempt to insert the other half because you may make the situation worse.
Use the following methods to remove a broken key from ignition safely:
5-1. Use A Key Extractor
Most locksmiths recommend the use of a key extractor to remove a broken key from the ignition.
5-2. Use A Hacksaw Blade
A hacksaw blade is thin and will easily slide into the ignition. Once it’s in, turn the edge slowly to unlock it. Remove the blade to get the broken key out of the ignition.
5-3. Using Pliers
If a part of the broken key is visible on the surface, you can use a needle nose plier to grasp the key and remove it from the ignition. You can give the plier additional grip using superglue or melted wax.
5-4. Using A Wire Coat Hanger
Use a pair of pliers to shape a wire coat hanger into a hook and insert it in the ignition. Hook the broken key on the wire and pull it slowly away from the ignition.
5-5. Contact A Locksmith
If you have tried the above methods with no success, it’s about time you looked for a locksmith. You can get one online or get referrals from friends or relatives.
A key stuck in the ignition can wreak havoc and cause panic, especially when you are in a rush and can’t figure out how to remove it. There are universal reasons which could cause a key stuck in the ignition.
Once you figure out why your key is stuck in the ignition, you can follow simple steps to remove it, park your car and continue to where you were going. If you try removing the stuck key with no success, you can always hire the services of a locksmith.