Key Won’t Turn In Ignition – Simple Solutions to Fix It
It can be frustrating when you have an important meeting or event to attend, you head on to your car, insert the key into the ignition, and the key refuses to turn. You begin to wonder what might be the problem. Before you start asking people, “my key won’t turn in ignition, how do I fix it?” You need to know that this is a common issue that happens to people all the time. Not only are key ignition issues common, but they are also quick to fix. So relax and let’s see how you can get yourself back on the road in no time.
There are many reasons your key won’t turn in the ignition. And for you to be able to fix the issue, you need to first troubleshoot what the cause might be. In this article, I will be showing you some likely causes of key ignition issues and some quick fix to help resolve the problem. So you don’t need to panic when your key refuses to turn, this article has got you covered.
Why Won’t My Ignition Turn?
- Your wafers are damages
Auto-lock ignitions use a wafer-based system and not round, cylindrical pins as it is in standard locks. The wafer is typically split down the center in order to accommodate the key when it slides in. These wafers can either be one or two pieces, as it is in split wafers. Over time, either of the wafers has the tendency to get damaged and got jammed in the cylinder.
So if you are the type that carries a large, heavy key ring around, you might not be helping matters. The weight of that keyring will constantly be pulling on the wafers in the ignition when you drive and so may shorten the lives of the wafers.
- Battery is dead
This is another reason you can also experience key not turning in ignition. Some high-end vehicles operate using sophisticated electronic ignition systems. This means without enough power flowing through the electrical system due to dead battery, the key may not turn. So check to be sure your vehicle has enough power and the interior lights come on when the doors are opened. If not, your battery might be dead and that may be the reason for your key ignition issue.
- Steering is locked
Some cars today have a locking steering column that becomes activated whenever the key is taken out of the ignition at the end of each drive. Sometimes, you can have the steering column locked in a position that applies pressure to the ignition switch. When this happens, you will surely be having a situation where the key inserted into the ignition refuses to turn.
- The transmission gear selector is not in neutral or park
Automatic transmissions are designed to offer some level of safety as it only allows you to start the car when it doesn’t have a gear engagement. What this means is that your car won’t ever start unless the gear selector is in Neutral or Park. So if your key refuses to turn in ignition, check to be sure you have not forgotten to shift the gear selector into Park the last time you drove the car. Your transmission will prevent the key from turning if it was left in gear.
- Your key is worn
When your key is worn out, it can also prevent the ignition from turning. With every turn of the ignition, the edges of your car key are forced to get the wafers align correctly. This hence thins the edge over time and wear it down until one day it will no longer be able to turn the ignition.
If you are down to just one car key, you may need to get a spare now. It doesn’t matter how expensive getting a backup key may be, it will surely cost more to get a key made without the original key. And when you have a spare key, you will be reducing the wear and tear on the original key because you won’t be using it as often.
- Your key is bent
When your key is bent, it will not line up correctly with the internal mechanism of the ignition lock, and so may not turn. So take a close look at your key to see if it is perfectly flat. Bent keys are usually one of the reasons key won’t turn in ignition.
What To Do When Key Won’t Turn Ignition?
Now that we know what the likely causes of the issue are, let’s see some quick fix to the problem. Remember, key ignition issues are pretty common, so it is not something you should panic over when it happens. Just calm down and try one or two of the tips below to find the one that best works for you. However, don’t forget to first troubleshoot what the cause might be before trying to fix it. Knowing the cause will help you have a better understanding of how to combat the problem.
#1: Turn the Steering Wheel
One of the most common reasons for a car key being unable to turn is because the steering wheel is locked. This is a situation that often happens when you move the wheel after you already removed the key from the ignition cylinder. How do you fix this:
- Turn the steering wheel to the left and then to the right
- Take note of the side the wheel finds difficult to turn to and the side that gives in easily
- Turn the wheel in that direction that seems to have given in and hold it there
- While gently turning the wheel, turn the key toward the accessory position
- If nothing happens after doing this, hold the steering wheel and rock it as you turn the key
- If it still won’t work, jiggle the key in the ignition while also rocking the steering wheel.
- Immediately the key turns, the steering wheel will unlock and your vehicle will start. If the key still won’t turn, it means you are having a greater issue in your hands.
#2: Lubricate the Lock
When the keyway of the ignition cylinder is a bit jammed up, it can also cause a situation where the key won’t turn the ignition. What you need to do in this case is to simply lubricate the lock – that should resolve the issue. One common lubricant that has become a go-to for most people when looking to lubricate the ignition cylinder is WD40 and it has over time proven to be just what is needed to get the job done.
It has been a classic debate among locksmiths and people who pick locks as a hobby as to which lubricant is best for locks. To avoid any issue of controversy, I simply recommend you either use graphite or silicon-based lubricant. Remember, what you are looking for is something that won’t collect grime, dust, and particulates as time goes on because those can eventually jam the locks internal even more.
The WD40 lubricant is a good option to consider here. So let’s talk about how to do this:
- Get your key, lubricant, and cloth
- Spray the lubricant in the keyway of the ignition cylinder
- Use the cloth to clean any overspray or leaks from the keyhole
- Insert your key and turn it
- If it still didn’t work, jiggle the key
- If it still didn’t work, add more lubricant and repeat the procedure again
#3: Check the Gear Shift
Remember we said one of the reasons key ignition key issues occur is when you forgot to return your gear selection switch to Neutral or Park. Whenever your key refuses to turn in the ignition, first check to make sure the gear shift is well positioned – and not in gear because your key won’t turn that way. So jiggle the gear shift to be sure it is balanced in the right position and then try to turn the key again.
#4: Check the Battery to Be Sure It Is Not Dead
Some newer cars come with more advanced ignition systems and won’t allow your car key to turn the ignition is there is no power flowing through the electrical system. So check the car’s battery with a voltmeter to see if the battery is not dead. You can also open the doors to see if the light will turn on. If the battery is dead, you might need to change the battery or get another means of powering the car.
#5: Rapping the Key
When you have tried to lubricate the lock and it seems not to be working, you might need to try a more severe option to unjam your lock. By using a vibrating mechanism or a harmer and the key that has refused to turn, you might be able to resolve the issue.
By the word “rapping”, we meant shaking the internal components of the lock to get them back into proper position. So getting any means that can create a sort of vibration to the key or cylinder (not necessarily a harmer) can help get things into position when lubrication has failed. What you simply want to achieve with rapping is to get the inside of the lock to move than you could by just shaking the key.
However, when doing this, be careful about the amount of force you apply so you won’t be damaging your key or ignition.
#6: Fix the Key or Replace It
Sometimes, the issue is not the ignition cylinder or the gear shift but with the key itself. When your key is bent or worn, your key won’t turn in ignition. If the key is broken, then you have no hope of turning the ignition at all. So for you to be able to resolve this, you will also need to detect where exactly the issue is with the key.
Carefully observe the key to know why the key is not working. If the key is bent, place the key on a block of wood and use a rubber or wooden mallet to gently flatten it. If the key has any plastic or electronic components, make sure you don’t hit those parts so you won’t be causing any damage. When the key is flat, try using ti to start the vehicle.
However, if the key is damaged beyond repairs, you might need to consider a replacement. There are many options to explore in this area:
- Find an aftermarket car key and let them cut it for you
- Buy a new key from your local hardware store
- Contact a locksmith
- Speak to your car dealership
#7: Try the Spare Key
If you have a backup key, it is time to try it. This is a quick way to know if the issue is with the ignition cylinder or with the key. If your spare key is able to turn the ignition, then chances are that your old key is worn beyond the point it can turn the ignition and start your car.
In that case, you will need to get your car to a locksmith shop and let them make a copy of the spare key for you immediately. That will allow you to again have another spare key and a working key.
#8: Call a Locksmith
When you ask yourself, “my key won’t turn in ignition – what simple solutions do I need?” You might just be saying you need a locksmith. When you have tried all methods and they seem to be working, you may need to call a locksmith for help. Ranging from making a new key for your car when you lost the original to resolving issues that have to do with key ignition, a locksmith is just the right professional to call.
Car key ignition problem is a common issue people face so when you have one in your hands, it is never the time to panic. Instead, try to diagnose what the cause of the problem is so you will be able to fix it. Check through the list again and give the quick fixes a try.
However, when all of them seem to have failed, you will need to contact a professional auto locksmith to help. Ensure you hire a more seasoned and professional technician so you won’t be incurring any more damages to your car.