Why My Car Key Stuck in Ignition? | How to remove Stuck Key Ignition?

A car key stuck in the ignition or when your car key doesn’t turn is a common problem that is usually easy to resolve. A stuck key is not the same as a broken key. If your key doesn’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.

What is key ignition?

The key ignition used in a motor vehicle to turn the ignition switch that connects the battery to the ignition system and other electrical devices.

Key Ignition

As the key slides into the slot, it pushes a set of tumblers in the ignition into a precise pattern to allow the key to be rotated to close the ignition circuit. That circuit then delivers power to the starter motor, which turns the engine so the spark plugs can fire and the engine operates.

Reasons a Car Key Gets Stuck in the Ignition

Some problems are as confusing as having a stuck car key in the ignition. You’re likely asking why my car key is stuck in the ignition if you cannot pull it out.

Key Stuck in The Ignition

The common cause is always the easiest to fix. The most common causes of a key stuck in the ignition are given below:

  1. Damaged ignition cylinder
  2. Worn or damaged key
  3. Dead battery
  4. Debris on key
  5. Steering wheel lock
  6. Parking gear not set
  7. Car is in accessory mode

1) Damaged Ignition Cylinder

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.

If these pins are slightly out of alignment, it can prevent you from removing the key (or even inserting it in the first place).

2) Damaged or Worn Key

Car keys can take a lot of abuse over the years. Each time you put the key in the ignition and turn, it wears the key just a little bit. When you 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.

3) Dead Battery

The ignition system depends on the 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. Either that or use a tack hammer and gently tap the cylinder with it.

4) Debris on Key

Car keys are sensitive to any form of imperfection. Debris or dirt on the car key can prevent it from switching on or off the ignition.

Most of us use our car keys as penknife on several occasions. To dig out things, open boxes or mail, scratch things, to name just but a few. Any of these activities can leave debris on the car key.

5) 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, but you also won’t be able to pull out the key from the ignition.

This is due to the ignition cylinder locking simultaneously when the steering wheel lock.

Try turning the key while wiggling the steering wheel to release both locks simultaneously. You should be able to take the key out now or start the engine.

6) Parking Gear Not Set

The transmission gear must always be set to “Park” before attempting to remove a car key from the ignition. In an automatic transmission, the key will not come out if the gear is set to drive, neutral, or any other available gear. 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.

7) Car is in accessory mode 

Most vehicles that use regular keys also have an accessory position in cars. The accessory mode is a single click after the off mode. It allows a driver to use some car features without having to start the car engine. These features include a power lock window and radio.

Probably you didn’t notice you left the key in the accessory mode because you were in a hurry. When next you are unable to pull out your key, try turning on the car and switching it off all the way to the off position.

How to Get a Stuck Key Out of the Ignition

Follow the below-given steps to get a stuck key out of the Ignition:

1) Recharge Car Battery

As a dead battery can cause a car key to get stuck in the ignition, recharging the battery will free the key.

If you suspect a low voltage battery or notice a repeated clicking when turning the key, recharge the battery to see if it is a low voltage problem. You can jump-start the car with another battery or another vehicle.

2) Unlock the steering wheel

As alluded to above, a wheel lock is a safety feature that prevents the steering wheel from moving when the key is removed. If the steering wheel locks with the key in the ignition, Try wiggling it back and forth while gently pulling out the ignition key.

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.

4) Read Fault Codes

Get an OBD2 scanner to pull out all the trouble codes (such as P0011, P0017, or P0016) from related units to see if you have a fuse or shifter problem. If you have a more advanced scanner, you can read trouble codes from the ignition switch and immobilizer.

5) Check the safety key

Many Japanese and American cars Are equipped with an ignition extra lock switch where you have to insert the key and press a button to turn the key freely and remove it. Consult your owner’s booklet to ensure you’re not missing anything.

6) Jiggle the ignition 

A proven method that has saved many folks is pushing the key into the lock cylinder with your left hand while jiggling the steering wheel with your right hand.

Jiggle the key and the steering wheel back and forth while depressing the brake pedal. This will likely pull out the key.

7) Set Parking Gear

The most common reason for not being able to get the key out is that your car’s parking gear is not set. Confirm your gear selector is set to “P” or “Park” on an automatic transmission, or the shifter is set to “Neutral” in a manual transmission.

8) Spray lubricant in the ignition cylinder

If the key is stuck due to debris, oil the lock with any spray lubricant. This can be challenging because the key is blocking the lock. You will need a spray lubricant straw to achieve this. An excellent example of such lubricant is WD-40.

9) Consult the mechanic

If you have tried the above steps and none works, it’s time to consult your mechanic. You don’t have many options left. Let your mechanic take a professional look.

You likely have a failing ignition lock that needs replacement, or your immobilizer has integrated with the ignition switch and requires a reprogram after replacing the unit.

FAQ Section

What to do if my key breaks in the ignition?

A broken key in the ignition is the worst-case scenario. If your key breaks, you have two options: use a key extractor tool or hire a professional locksmith.

You can use a key extractor tool to remove the piece of broken key stuck in the ignition. Comparatively, working with a professional locksmith ensures your broken key is properly removed.

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.

How much does it cost to get the key out of the ignition?

Getting a broken regular key out of ignition will cost $100 to $150, depending on how challenging the task is. Sometimes, it’ll be slightly more or less.

However, if the key in question is a transponder key, it will cost more because it is a more complex key that sends and receives signals from the vehicle security system.

They are designed with microchips that send signals to the car’s anti-theft sensors whenever they detect anything wrong. Of course, these types of keys will attract more complex work and cost in getting them out of the ignition. Removing broken transponder keys will cost $250.

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

Like most electrical and mechanical components in a car, a failing ignition lock cylinder (also known as ignition lock assembly) will give some signs to notify the driver that something is wrong with it. The symptoms are as follows;

  • Challenge in starting the vehicle
  • Car not starting condition
  • Issues in inserting and removing the ignition key
  • No noise from the starter motor
  • Flickering dashboard lights.

How much does it cost to fix a key stuck in the ignition?

The repair cost of the ignition key depends on the type of your car, labor cost, and the area where you live. The parts to fix an ignition switch will cost anywhere from around $75 to over $200

How long does it take to replace an ignition switch?

Usually, an ignition switch replacement will only take about 20 minutes. However, it could take much longer depending on your car’s make and model and the complexity of the ignition covers. The best way to know for sure how long your service will take is to talk to the mechanic directly.

What are Causes of a Car Key Gets Stuck in the Ignition?

  1. Car is in accessory mode 
  2. Parking gear not set
  3. Damaged ignition cylinder
  4. Steering wheel lock
  5. Worn or damaged key
  6. Debris on key
  7. Dead battery

What is the function of Ignition switch key?

The main function of the key ignition is to turn the switch that connects the battery to the starter motor and other electrical devices. When the starter motor turns, it further turns the engine which generates power.

What is the function of Ignition switch?

The ignition switch is party of an assembly, or system, that includes the ignition lock cylinder. The entire mechanism is responsible for starting your car as well as providing power to specific areas of the vehicle, such as the electronic accessories, the ignition, and the engine.

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