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IS YOUR CAR KEY STUCK IN THE IGNITION? DON’T PANIC. HERE’S WHAT TO DO!

Elgin key stuck in ignition

If your car key ever gets stuck in the ignition, it’s definitely infuriating. If your key won’t come out of the ignition, and it’s just not budging, then you aren’t going anywhere. Nevertheless, don’t let it get to you!

Consider these common reasons why you’ve found yourself in this predicament:

  • Your car might not be in park. Even if your gearshift lever looks like it’s in park, your car’s shift lock solenoid, or another vital mechanism, may need to be replaced.
  • It’s possible you put the wrong key into the ignition cylinder. You may have thought it was the right one, but now you can’t get the key out.
  • The transmission may be malfunctioning, which means you can’t put your vehicle into park. Perhaps cycling the transmission a few times will make it possible to pull the key out.
  • Your battery might have died. With most cars these days, if your battery dies, your car key will get stuck in the ignition.
  • The car key itself may have gotten bent or otherwise damaged.
  • There may just be a bit of something on the key, which is catching on the inside of the ignition.
  • If your key broke off inside the lock cylinder, then it’s not coming out.
  • There may be internal damage. A tumbler may bind inside the ignition cylinder, so the springs won’t push it back out.
  • There could be a cable loose, either inside the dash or behind the ignition, and it will likely need to be replaced.
  • Did you force the key into the lock? It may be sitting inside the mechanism at a slightly wrong angle, preventing your key’s removal.
  • Your wheel lock cylinder might be too worn, so you’ll need to install a new one.
  • The column lock mechanism (an anti-theft device) could be failing. If so, you won’t be able to remove the key.
  • Maybe a sensor in the transmission is failing, not sending the right signal to the column lock, which makes the car key stick inside.

Don’t lose hope! This is a list of likely possibilities, but there are still things you can do yourself to get out of trouble.

Before trying any of these things below, be sure your parking brake is on! Of course, you don’t want to roll away while you're attempting to pull out your car key!

Solutions you can try:

1. Check to see if your battery is dead.

Did your dashboard light up with your transponder key in the “on” position? Depending on the model and make of your car, a dead battery will stop you from removing a transponder key, because its chip cannot presently be accurately identified by your vehicle’s built-in computerized theft-deterrent system.

2. Test the park position.

Your shifter must be locked into the park position if you want to remove the car key. Sometimes, your automobile just won’t lock into the park position properly. If you can still move the gearshift lever out of park after turning off the motor, then it means that your linkage may be out of adjustment, or it could be worn out.

3. Take a look at the steering wheel.

Sometimes your steering wheel will lock. When this occurs, the ignition switch will keep your key locked in one place until the steering system is unlocked. Don’t pull too hard on your car key! Be very gentle. Concentrate first on getting some movement from the steering wheel. Place your left hand on the steering wheel as you try to gently rotate the key forward. Move the wheel very gently to one side, and listen for a click. If you don't hear it, try turning the wheel, gently now, in the other direction. As soon as you hear that click, you can try removing the key. If you’re successful, then you’ll know that the issue involves pressure coming from the steering wheel.

4. Check the car key’s position.

On the ignition switch, make sure that your car key is in the locked position. As cylinders get worn, you may find it easier to turn them beyond the correct point. This is especially the case if your key has been attached to a variety of heavy objects on your key chain, which will gradually put more pressure on the cylinder, causing excessive wear. Try pushing your key in, and rotate it forward, ever so slightly. In some cases, this will lock your ignition into place, and you will be able to pull out the key.

5. Lubricate the key.

You can try spraying a tiny amount of electrical cleaner between the ignition and the key. Then add a quick spray of silicone, or a drop or two of liquid graphite. Be careful. Keep the car doors open so you won’t suffer from the fumes. Avoid sparks and open flames. Don’t drip on the upholstery. You may need to lubricate twice. Now, try turning the key just a fraction of an inch, exerting only minimal pressure, and you may indeed be able to pull it out.

After all this, is your car key still stuck?

If so, then don’t waste another minute feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to hire an expert who possesses the knowledge and experience necessary to thoroughly inspect your vehicle’s ignition switch, battery, gearshift lever, and so on. A consummate professional automotive locksmith will determine the actual cause and bring you the right solution.

If you’re stranded anywhere in Elgin, Illinois, you may want to choose Ames Locksmith Service, whose mobile automotive locksmith specialists on staff work around the clock 24/7, always ready to come to your rescue.

While you’re waiting for help to arrive:

  • If possible, put your key at least in the lock position. That way, you’ll avoid running down the battery.
  • Keep your vehicle secure. Use a spare key to manually lock your car.