You sit in the car, all ready to go. You may have a job interview that you have prepared for. Maybe you need to go somewhere urgently, or even want to park your car, but suddenly you can’t. This happened because your key got stuck in the ignition, and while it doesn’t let you start the car, neither will it come back out. While many drivers panic about not starting the car or even taking the keys out, rushing may lead to breakage.
A car key easily slides out of the ignition once you rotate it anticlockwise. If the key doesn’t come out, try understanding the main cause of this issue. Then, continue reading the article below to explore the causes and solutions for car keys stuck in the ignition.
What are the Common Causes of Your Car Key Stuck in Ignition?
While car keys stuck in the ignition is a common issue many drivers face, there can be multiple reasons for this. Some may occur due to a specific issue in a particular vehicle model. However, most reasons for your key being stuck in the ignition are common and can occur in any model vehicle. Let’s discuss these causes below.
Locked Steering Wheel
Vehicles have this built-in function: if you move your steering wheel while turning off your vehicle, the steering will lock. A locked steering wheel prevents you from moving the wheel and pulling out the key from the ignition. This is because the ignition cylinder gets locked at the same time the steering does, making the key stuck in the ignition.
Unset Parking Gear
Automobiles with automatic transmissions are expected to account for about one-fourth of the market by 2025. However, given the built-in feature in automatic transmissions that locks your key when the gear is set to drive or other gears other than park, it becomes another common reason your car key is stuck in the ignition.
Debris on the Key
Sometimes the reason your car key is stuck in the ignition can be as simple as having dust or debris on the key that might cause the key or ignition to get stuck. For example, think about when you used your car key to open a package wrapped in tape. Cutting through the tape can leave stickiness on your keys which might cause them to stick inside the ignition.
Dead Battery of Your Vehicle
The car ignition system depends on the electrical voltage and power gained through the car battery. If, somehow, your car battery gets discharged, it will make the ignition system get locked. This, in turn, can get the car key stuck in the ignition and prevent you from removing the key. A repeated clicking sound while trying to start the vehicle indicates that your key is stuck in the ignition due to a dead battery.
Busted Ignition Cylinder
Your car’s ignition cylinder might get damaged over time as other electrical and mechanical components fail. For example, if your ignition lock cylinder is likely to get damaged, it may cause your car key to be stuck.
While this is very rare, there are chances that your specific make or model of the car is subjected to a TSB or recall that is related directly to the ignition cylinder. You may check the status of your vehicle on the NHTSA website by entering your VIN. However, even if it’s not affected, it’s always better to check the status of other recalls or Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs).
How Can You Remove Your Car Key Stuck in Ignition?
Before we head towards the solution to common causes of your car key being stuck in the ignition, you must always remember to apply parking brakes once your car is in the parking position.
Now that you have applied the handbrake, you can check for other things. Depending on varied situations, you can get your car key unstuck from the ignition following different methods. This section will present solutions to unstuck your car key from the ignition depending on different scenarios.
Key Stuck in the Ignition for the First Time
If this is the first time your key has stuck in the ignition, try doing the following.
Set the Gear to Parking
As mentioned earlier, one of the common causes of keys stuck in the ignition is that the car’s gear is not set to the parking position. Set your car gear to “P” in an automatic vehicle or the shifter to Neutral in a manual vehicle.
Try Jiggling the Steering Wheel
Once you have confirmed that the gear is set to parking and the keys still didn’t come out, jiggle the steering wheel slowly while trying to gently pull the key from the ignition. If the key were stuck due to a locked steering wheel, it would come out after jiggling it.
Car Keys Keep Getting Stuck in the Ignition
You may have noticed that it gets slightly hard to get car keys out of the ignition or get stuck in the ignition repeatedly. If you notice this, try the following.
Try WD-40 Spray
Try WD-40 rust-resistant spray into the ignition. This lubrication lets you gently remove the key by wiggling it a little. After removing the key, examine it for any further damage.
Rub Alcohol or Adhesive Remover on the Key
If you didn’t find any damage on the key, try removing the dirt or debris by using an adhesive remover or rubbing alcohol on it.
Key Broke Off in the Ignition
I hope this didn’t happen to you, but if it did, you are not alone in experiencing this. I experienced this when my car key got stuck in the ignition, and while trying to remove the key, I broke it. Thankfully my mechanic came to save the day. Nevertheless, if it happens to you, you can do the following.
Use a Key Extractor
You can use a key extractor to remove the key’s broken part from the ignition. Usually, locksmiths and mechanics use it to do so. However, if you want to do it cheaper, you can do it yourself.
Call a Locksmith or Mechanic
When everything else has fallen apart, and nothing works for you anymore, it’s time to call an automotive locksmith or your mechanic. It might cost you a bit more, but they’ll surely complete the task.