Why Your Keys Get Stuck In The Ignition

If you’ve ever gotten your car keys stuck in the ignition, you know how frustrating it can be. How do you get out of the car with your keys dangling there in plan sight? Well, the first step is to stay calm. Tugging roughly at the keys to force them out could damage the key, and then where would you be? Here are a few reasons your key gets stuck and ways to fix the problem.

Steering Wheel Locked

The steering wheel will automatically lock if you turn off the ignition while moving the wheel (even a tiny bit). Not only will a locked wheel prevent it from turning, but it won’t release the key from the ignition. This dual hassle happens because the ignition cylinder locks simultaneously with the wheel. To get both unlocked, try wiggling the wheel back and forth while you turn the key. With any luck, this trick will allow you to remove the key, or at the very least start the engine.

Dirty Key

If you’re one who uses the car key to open boxes or packages, you might have a compromised key (tape and glue can stick to the key when you use it for nefarious purposes). Try to start the ignition with it in this state, and the key will struggle to engage the cylinder’s pins.

Engaged Parking Gear

By far the most fixable error, you won’t be able to get the key out of the ignition if the transmission isn’t in Park. In a manual transmission, the gear shift must be set to neutral. In either case, a quick glance in that direction will tell you if that’s your trouble.

Damaged Key

Believe it or not, your car keys take a beating. In fact, each time you use it to turn on your car, it wears a little. When not in use, keys often jumble around in purses, drawers, pockets or various hard surfaces, and if it ever gets bent in a crack, forget about it. Over time, your key’s grooves wear down no matter what.

Dead Battery

All things lead back to the batter, yes? As the power source for every function, a dead battery can cause the ignition system to lock out. When this happens, your best option is try a jump start or install a new battery.

Getting a Key Un-Stuck

If it’s not the gear and you need to get your key unstuck, you have a few options.

– Rubbing Alcohol – If a dirty key is to blame, cleaning the key with alcohol or adhesive remover should do the trick.
– WD-40 – There aren’t many problems a little WD-40 can’t fix. Try spraying some into the ignition (the thin straw should fit into the space), and the key should come out after a little coaxing (gently wiggle it).