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A woman wiggling the car wheel to turn in the ignition

In our everyday life, we are often in a rush. It is frustrating when your car key won’t turn in the ignition while you are in a hurry. In such cases, it would be best if you try to avoid going to the automotive repairs shop and solve the issues by yourselves. But to do that, you need to have ideas about the problems related to the ignition keys. For your convenience, we have gathered all issues and fixes related to the ignition cylinder and keys.

To fix the car key ignition issues, first, you need to figure out the main reason behind the problem. There might be an issue with the steering wheel, blocking the ignition key to start the vehicle. Other than that, the cause can also be a wrong gear selection. Also, there might be a problem with the keys and ignition cylinder. Whatever the reason is, we have addressed simple fixes to all related issues.

Fixing a car by yourself is simple if you know the right methods. You must follow the safety feature while fixing the ignition of the key and the cylinder. By the end of this article, you will get the solutions to all the related questions regarding the faulty ignition key.

Reasons Behind Ignition Key Won’t Turn In.

The car parts are connected, which is why an ignition key might not turn in if there is a problem with the components connected. Components like the steering wheel, car gear, and ignition cylinder are usually the main reasons behind a non-working key. Here are some of the reasons that create the ignition lock problems-

A Locked Steering Wheel

The reason might be a steering wheel lock when you see that your car key won’t turn in. It is common for a steering wheel to get locked when pressure is applied to it while turning the car off. If the steering wheel gets locked, you cannot move the wheel. You cannot move the key once you face trouble moving the wheel.


A woman wiggling the car wheel to turn in the ignition

When you figure out that you cannot turn in the ignition key due to the lock issue of the steering wheel, don’t panic. Instead, move the wheel up and down by inserting the ignition key. Apply less pressure when wiggling the steering wheel and inserting the key simultaneously.

Keep wiggling the wheel until it gets unlocked and turns in the ignition. The problem is another component if the key is still not turning in after the steering wheel is unlocked.

Car Gear Not In The Parking Mode

The automated vehicles won’t turn in the ignition for safety reasons until the gear is set in park mode. So, before starting the car, check whether the gear is in park or neutral mode. If it is not in either of the modes, then the key won’t turn in the ignition.

Put your gear in ‘P’ or ‘N’ and then try to start the car. However, this method does not work for manual cars or older vehicles. If you own an automatic transmission car, always check the gear and turn the ignition.

Using worn-out, bent, or incorrect keys won’t turn the ignition. Also, suppose any metal debris is stuck inside the key. In that case, it will not allow the pins to properly engage in the ignition cylinder.

[Notes: It is important to note that you must replace a key if damaged. There is no way you can repair a damaged key. Also, while replacing, mention the owner’s manual to check the required programming of your car.]

Worn Out Key: It is a common issue for older vehicles. In the case of newer cars, you will have a new key, so you will not face such problems. When the keys become too old, it is hard for the pins to drop properly inside the cylinder. The car keys become worn out when there are broken or damaged teeth. If you face this issue, use a spare key to start the vehicle.

  • If You do not have a spare key, search for your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to ask for a new key from your dealership.
  • Sometimes luck does not favor you, and you will face worn-out key issues in your new car. In such a case, you will find keycodes attached with the key. You can get a new key by showing that code to your dealership.

Bent Keys: If your car key is not flattened, it won’t turn in the ignition. A bent key cannot function properly as it cannot align with the ignition switch. Put the key into a flat surface to flatten a bent car key. Then softly strike the key with a non-metal hammer. It is best to use something made of wood or rubber to straighten a car key.

Using a light key ring for car ignition key
  • Keep sticking the hammer until the key gets flattened.
  • Do not use pliers to flatten a bent key because too much pressure can bend the car key in the opposite direction.
  • Stop using a heavy key ring because the weight of the keyring can bend the car key.

Keys With Debris: If there is any metal debris inside a car key, it won’t turn in the ignition. A key cannot engage appropriately inside an ignition cylinder if debris is stuck inside the key teeth. Sometimes, people use their car keys to open a package, which lets the tape be attached to the teeth. Such activities also prevent the key from turning in the ignition.

  • First, clean the debris stuck inside the key and then re-insert the key to start the car.

Inserting Incorrect Key: You must insert the right key to start your vehicle, or else you will face trouble with the car’s ignition. The key cylinder only works under its appropriate key. So, if you insert the wrong key inside the key cylinder, it won’t turn on.

Issues With Ignition Lock Cylinder

The issue must lie within the ignition cylinders if you find no problem with your car’s steering wheel or keys. The ignition lock cylinder problems are common, and you can fix those without replacing the whole ignition system.

Debris Stuck Inside The Ignition Cylinder

Whether a new ignition cylinder or an old one, your car won’t start if there is metal debris inside the cylinder. Sometimes when you insert a key with the debris inside a cylinder, the debris gets stuck with the cylinder. This debris prevents the ignition cylinder from aligning with the ignition key.

  • To fix this problem, use compressed air to clean the debris.
  • Insert the straw of the air bottle inside the keyhole and spray to clean the debris.
  • Spray a minimum amount of air inside the keyhole because extreme cold air can damage the ignition lock cylinder.
  • You can also use an electrical cleaner in the keyhole to turn in the ignition. A two-three puff of sprays is sufficient enough to let the key turn.
  • Wear safety glasses while spraying to protect your eyes.

If none of the car repair methods work, replacing the ignition lock cylinder is best. You will require a new ignition key to replace a new ignition cylinder.


What does it mean when your ignition locks up?

The ignition locks up means the key will get stuck and not come out from the ignition cylinder. Sometimes, removing the key from the ignition is impossible without a mechanics’ help. The misalignment of the pins is one of the reasons that locks up the key with the ignition cylinder.

Can your ignition freeze?

Yes, the ignition can freeze due to the moisture inside your car. Leaving your car outside in cold or snowy weather will store moisture and freeze the ignition. Also, leaving wet cold inside your vehicle at night can freeze the ignition.


No one likes to encounter a situation where their car key won’t turn in the ignition while in a rush. Unfortunately, many vehicle owners often face this situation and can’t find a simple fix to their problems. However, there is nothing to worry about as we have discussed the ignition key problems and the solution.

You can rely on Fast Locksmith for your car repair service near Seatle, WA. For any emergency locksmith service, call us at 206-201-1081 and find us at your doorstep. You can also visit us at 3400 W Barrett St Seattle, WA 98199.

Elmer Harrison
Article Written By Elmer Harrison
I'm Elmer Harrison, and I'm the owner of Fast Locksmith in Seattle. My company is a family business that provides locksmith services to residential, commercial, and automotive customers. Since 1990, I've worked as a locksmith. Before establishing my own company, I worked for another locksmith company for a few years. My father eventually became a partner in this business, which made him happy to assist his son in succeeding at anything he loved doing!
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