What to Do When Your Ignition Key Gets Stuck
There are a number of reasons as to why you can no longer remove your key from the ignition slot. … Continued
There are a number of reasons as to why you can no longer remove your key from the ignition slot. This can range from a simple oversight to something more sinister such as an issue in the ignition cylinder. For some drivers, they may resort to panic that they start calling their trusted mechanic or locksmith at once. What they do not know is that a key that gets stuck is relatively easy to solve. Here are the things you need to do:
Make Sure that Your Car is in the “Park” or “Neutral” Position
Automatic transmission vehicles come with a safety feature wherein the ignition mechanism of the car “locks” the car key in place. This happens if the driver did not place the shifter into either “Park” or “Neutral”. It serves as a reminder to the driver that he needs to place the shifter into the P or N first before he can take out the key. Without this “safety” mechanism, the car will drive itself off.
As such, you should make sure that your shift lever is in the correct position. It should be in either Park or Neutral. Once you’ve placed the shifter into either of these positions, then you should be able to get the key unstuck.
Check If You “Turned Off” Your Car in the Correct Way
If you look at your car’s ignition, you will see several “sections” with labels. Notice that there’s no “Off” position. This is because the “Lock” section replaces the “Off”. The “Lock” section is almost always towards the bottom of the ignition circle. Whenever you turn off your engine, you’re supposed to turn the key all the way towards the bottom in the “Lock” section. Any other position will make the car “think” that it is still “on”. As such, it will never allow you to remove the key.
You might think that this is a very lame reason for getting the key stuck but it does happen. You’ll never know how many drivers get into a “key stuck” situation only because they forgot to rotate the key all the way towards the “Lock” position. So, before you start panicking, make sure that the key is in the “Lock” position. Now pull it straight out.
Check the Lock Status of Your Steering Wheel
You checked your shift lever and it is in either the P or N position. You also checked the position of the key in the ignition circle and it’s in the “Lock” position. But how come you still cannot get your key unstuck? If that’s the case, then try turning your steering wheel left and right. If it doesn’t move the first time you do it, then you’ve engaged your steering wheel lock.
This is a safety mechanism that prevents vehicle motion unless there is a key in the keyway or the ignition. The same system also prevents the operation of the car if you insert the wrong key. You may insert the key, but you may not be able to “unlock” the steering wheel. And the only way you can “unlock” the steering wheel is by inserting the right key.
Now here’s the thing. It is always possible that the stuck key is the result of the steering wheel locking itself. This prevents you from ever removing the key from the ignition. Slowly rotate the steering wheel left and right. At the same time, apply a little pressure on the key while turning it. This should help you “unlock” the steering wheel and remove the key from the keyway.
Check the Keyway for Any Obstruction
The proper functioning of your ignition hinges on the integrity of the keyway. Unfortunately, this is an often-neglected part of the car. Dust, dirt, and other particles can accumulate in the keyway. When you insert your car key, there might not be a problem. But once you try to take it out, then it will already be difficult because the debris in the keyway gets stuck in the ignition mechanism.
Getting your key unstuck means you will need to gently turn it several times. What you’re trying to accomplish is to dislodge whatever is blocking the keyway. If this doesn’t work, then you may want to spray WD40 or any other equivalent lubricant through the hole. If you have a can of compressed air, it should be able to remove the blockage. If these don’t work, then getting the assistance of a locksmith may be necessary.
Check If You Have a Broken Key in the Ignition
In the most unfortunate of cases, you may already have a broken car key. This is especially true for those of us who prefer using duplicates instead of the original key. Some of the materials used in the making of duplicates are not that tough. They are quite easy to break or get damaged. Original car keys are also subject to wear. Over time they can get deformed and lose their integrity.
If you notice that your car key is already broken or damaged, this can be a reason why you cannot get it out of your ignition. Try to check if you can remove it yourself. You can purchase a broken key extractor tool. If not, then you will need a locksmith to remove it for you.
Check If the Battery is Dead
Modern cars have a safety feature that allows it to lock the key if the computer is not receiving the required power. This is to make sure that no “unauthorized” use of the vehicle will ever proceed. Hence, it is always best to check if your battery is still working or not. If you have a voltmeter, then you can check the energy of your battery. You can also try turning on the headlights of your car. If they don’t turn on, then you’ve got a dead battery.
The best recourse is to wait for a Good Samaritan to jumpstart your vehicle. You may need to replace your battery at once.
If you’ve gone through all these steps and you still cannot remove your key from the ignition, then the problem may already be in the ignition cylinder. This requires a more professional approach. Only your mechanic can fix it.
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