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Why is My Key Stuck in the Ignition – 6 Reasons

February 28, 2024 | Victor Lukasso

Is your car key stuck in the ignition, and you don’t know what to do? Well, this article is the right one for you as I will be teaching you why your keys are stuck in the ignition and how to remove the key stuck in the ignition.

Getting your car key stuck in your ignition can be very stressful. Whenever your car key is ignited, it should be easy to remove after a complete counterclockwise rotation and a push of the key release button. If it doesn’t come out, do not attempt to use force to get it out, as it could get broken in that process, thereby causing more severe problems.

Why Does My Key Get Stuck in the Ignition?

If your car key doesn’t come out of the ignition, then there are various reasons why that happened, and you need to understand the possible cause of this problem to figure out a viable solution. These are some reasons your key could get stuck in the ignition;


1. Steering wheel lock

Turning off your vehicle while moving the steering wheel could activate the steering wheel lock. This will prevent you from turning the steering wheel and removing the key from the ignition. This happened because the ignition cylinder locked simultaneously while the steering wheel locked.

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2. Not setting gear to park

The transmission gear should always be in the park before you attempt to remove a car key from the ignition. The key will not come out of the ignition if the gear is set to drive, neutral, or any other available gear in an automatic transmission.

Sometimes, the gear is not fully set to park when people attempt to change the gear to park. However, ensure that “P” is highlighted after changing the gear to park if your vehicle has a digital screen display.

3. Damaged key

Your car keys wear a little each time you turn them in the ignition. Also, you subject your key to wearing out each time you toss it around, especially on hard surfaces, slowly damaging it. The key could become challenging to remove from the ignition. Ensure the replacement of the key once you notice any damage.

4. A dead battery

The ignition system depends on the power from the battery for proper functioning; therefore, if the battery is dead, it will likely cause the ignition system to lock up. Which won’t allow you to get the key out of the ignition. The only way out is to get a new battery installed.

5. A damaged ignition cylinder

A damaged ignition lock cylinder can cause your key to be stuck. This happens because there are several rows of spring-loaded pins inside of the ignition lock, which match up with the shape of your key when inserted, and if, for any reason, these pins are slightly out of alignment, that can prevent the key from being removed.

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6. Dirt on key

Sometimes, people open boxes and packages using their car keys. This might tear through the box tape, but it could also leave pieces of the tape stuck to the key. This may cause dirt to get attached to the key, and if you place the key into your vehicle’s ignition, it will be harder for the key to engage the ignition cylinder’s pins.

What to do if the Key is Stuck in the Ignition

These are simple methods to get a stuck key out of the ignition.

1. Shake the gear selector

You cannot remove the keys if your car has an automatic transmission unless the selector is set correctly in neutral or park—a Gentle shake on the selector while in the park position could often remedy this issue.

2. Unlock the steering wheel

Most new vehicles have an activated locking mechanism whenever the steering wheel is turned too far to the right or left. Turning the wheel in the opposite direction could help release the lock and allow the key to be removed.

3. Spray Lubricant Into the Ignition Lock

You can try This alternative measure if you are not entirely convinced that your old car key is to blame. However, this step only applies to keys that are not severely worn or damaged. Lubricate the lock using a spray bottle and a pipe. If that does not work, then proceed with any of the other methods listed in this article. Also, as a preventive measure, you can spray a small amount of WD-40 or Dry Graphite lubricant inside the ignition keyhole once every six months.

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4. Jiggle the key

This is another easy method you could use to remove a stuck key. To do this, push down on the key cylinder with your left index finger while jiggling the key simultaneously with your right hand. This giggle will help to loosen the grasp of the springs and pins inside the cylinder, allowing the key to slide out.


How long does it take to replace the ignition lock cylinder?

30 to 45 minutes, provided all the necessary replacement parts are available.

Key Stuck in Ignition Battery Dead

The ignition system depends on the battery’s power for proper functioning. Therefore, if the battery is dead, then it will likely cause the ignition system to lock up, which won’t allow you to get the key out of the ignition. The only way out is to get a new battery installed.

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

A failing ignition lock cylinder, just like other electrical and mechanical components in a car, will give some noticeable signs to the driver. These signs may include;

  1. There is no noise from the starter motor
  2. Trouble starting the vehicle
  3. Challenges when inserting and removing the ignition key
  4. Flickering dashboard lights.


You have seen the reasons for a key stuck in the ignition and how to remove it. So you do not need to get worried whenever you find yourself in a situation like this. Instead, try the above steps when your car key is stuck in the ignition to remove it. However, do not forget to contact your mechanic if all the actions prove abortive. Please share and drop your questions in the comment section.

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Meet Victor Lukasso, the owner of V. Auto Basics. Through this blog, Victor Provides Insights on the latest tips, maintenance, repair, and techniques in the automotive world.