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Is Your Car Key Stuck in Ignition?

If you suddenly realize that you can’t remove your car key from the ignition, it’s absolutely unnerving. It can even be frightening, especially if you’re in a rush, or it occurs after dark. If your car key simply will not budge, then you’re certainly not going anywhere. But don’t let it upset you. There are things you can do to deal with this situation.

Typical Reasons You’ve Landed in this Mess

  • The battery might be dead. With most newer cars, if your battery ever dies, your car key can become stuck in the ignition.
  • There may be a slight amount of grime or a minute object on the key, which is catching inside the ignition.
  • Maybe your wheel lock cylinder has worn out. It’s time to install a new one.
  • Perhaps your car isn’t in park. Even if the gearshift appears to be in park, the car’s shift lock solenoid, or another mechanism, could need replacement.
  • Possibly a cable is loose (either inside the dashboard or behind the ignition) so it will likely need replacement.
  • Did you force your car key into the lock? It might be sitting inside the mechanism at a bit of a wrong angle, making it difficult to remove.
  • The transmission may be malfunctioning, which means you cannot get your vehicle into park. Maybe after you cycle the transmission several times you’ll be able to pull the key out.
  • There may be internal damage. Inside the ignition cylinder, a tumbler can get jammed up so that the springs will not push the key back out.
  • The car key itself might be slightly bent or otherwise damaged.
  • Did you put the incorrect key into the ignition cylinder? Maybe you thought it was the right one, but now it’s too late: You cannot pull it out.
  • The column lock mechanism (the anti-theft device) could be malfunctioning. If this is the case, you won’t be able to extract the key.
  • Has your key actually broken off inside the lock cylinder? Then it definitely won’t be coming out.
  • The sensor in the transmission might not be sending the right signal to the column lock, which will make your car key stick inside.

The above are the most likely possibilities. Before you attempt any of the measures listed below, first off, put the parking brake on! You don’t want your vehicle to roll away while you're trying to get the key out!

Solutions to Try

  • See if the battery’s dead. Does the dashboard light up when the transponder key is in the “on” position? Depending upon your car’s model and make, a dead battery will stop you from getting your transponder key out, because its chip cannot be identified accurately by your vehicle’s built-in computerized theft-deterrent system. Charging up or replacing your battery will be the simple solution.
  • Look at the park position. Your shifter must be locked into park so that you can remove your car key. At times, your car won’t lock into the park position properly. If you are still able to move the gearshift lever out of park after you turn the engine off, then your linkage may need adjusting; or, it may just be worn out and therefore requires replacing.
  • Lubricate the key. Spray a minute amount of electrical cleaner between the key and the ignition. Be extremely careful. Leave your car doors open while you carry out the following, so that you won’t suffer from the fumes: Add a tiny spray of silicone, or a drop or two of liquid graphite. Make sure you avoid any sparks and open flames! And, don’t drip on the upholstery. You might need to lubricate twice. Next, turn the key ever so slightly, exerting only minimum pressure. All of this should work to make it possible for you to pull out the key.
  • Check on the key’s position. On the ignition switch, see if your car key is in the locked position. As an ignition cylinder begins to wear out, you may find that it becomes easier to turn the key past the correct point. This is particularly true if your car key has been fastened to a cluster of other keys plus trinkets on your key chain, since the resulting increased pressure on the cylinder will little by little cause additional wear and tear. Push the key in, and very slightly rotate it forward. In some instances, this will finally lock your ignition into the correct position, and you’ll finally be able to pull out your key.
  • Examine the steering wheel. Sometimes, your steering wheel can lock. If this happens, the ignition switch will keep the car key locked in one position until the steering system unlocks. Please don’t pull too hard on the key! Be exceedingly gentle. First, see whether you can get any movement at all out of your steering wheel. Place your left hand on the steering wheel as you very gently rotate your key forward. Move the steering wheel, very softly, to one side, and then listen for a click. If you do not hear one, then very gently turn the wheel the other way. At the moment you finally hear a click, you can try removing your key. If you can successfully get the key out, you’ll know that the issue involves pressure coming from the steering wheel.

After All of This, Is the Car Key Still Stuck?

Then don’t waste any time going into a panic. It’s time to hire a locksmith professional with the exceptional knowhow, skill, and experience required to painstakingly inspect your vehicle’s ignition switch, gearshift lever, battery, and so forth. A reputable automotive locksmith expert will be capable of determining the actual cause behind your problem, determine the right solution, and you’ll be on your way soon.

If you are stranded any place in Birmingham, Alabama, consider hiring Birmingham Locksmith, whose staff mobile automotive locksmith specialists are ready to come to your rescue anytime around the clock.

While You Are Waiting for Help to Arrive

If you can, get your key into the lock position so that you won’t run the battery down.
Use a spare key to lock your car manually, so that your vehicle is secure.