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What do you do if a key stuck in ignition

What do you do if a key stuck in ignition?

Getting your car’s key stuck in the ignition might not comply with the traditional definition of a problem.  It is more of a nightmare, one that triggers frustration.

This may not happen every day, but when it does, you are bound to experience large bouts of anxiety. Imagine this: You have an important meeting with a client at 9.00am. You have spent the past few days extensively preparing to win over the client. You reach the office well ahead of time, elated to have such a positive start to the day. Just when you are about to get out of the car, you realize to your utmost horror that the key is stuck in ignition.  Wondering what would happen next? Utter chaos ensues, and you are left feeling unprepared for this situation.

If you want to avoid such a situation, read on to be enlightened with the reasons accounting for your car key stuck in the ignition.


Don’t lock it up

One of the most common causes for a key stuck in ignition is a steering lock. A steering lock is activated when you turn off your vehicle while moving the steering wheel a bit. This lock has a multifold effect. It not only prevents you from turning the wheel, but also leaves you stranded with the key being stuck in ignition. This is because your ignition cylinder and steering wheel lock simultaneously.

Solution: As complicated as this situation may sound, the solution is simple. Try to move the key while moving the steering wheel as well. It may be a jiggly situation, but your problem is likely to be solved.

Key Cleaner

Oftentimes, people use their car keys for different purposes.  You might have seen people using their key to scratch their phone card or to tear boxes apart. As a result, the leftover material may cling to the key and cause problems with ignition.

What to do?

Step 1: Realize that your key is not a key cleaner

Step 2:  Stop cutting your packages and phone card with your key

Step 3: Repeat Step 1 and 2 again

Goodbye battery

The ignition system of a car is primarily dependent on the car’s battery. If you experience a situation where your key is stuck in ignition, chances are your battery is at fault. For instance, if the battery malfunctions, your ignition system will automatically lock up. Resultantly, your key would be stuck and all you can do is wait until a new battery is installed.

Tip: If you happen to find yourself in such a situation, be patient. The problem can be solved quickly through a jumpstart. If that isn’t possible, then getting a new battery installed is your best shot.

Damage cannot be undone

Car keys don’t come with any specified warranty. They are likely to wear away with time. For example, you might put your car key in your pant pocket where it accumulates dust, or you may throw your key on a hard surface in anger. Whatever the reason may be, the key bears extensive damage.  As a result, it becomes tougher to remove the damaged key from the ignition. The only solution is to get a new one.

Damage is already done

Another possible reason for having your car key stuck in ignition could be a damaged ignition cylinder. Simply put, if the ignition cylinder of the car is damaged, it can cause your key to remain stuck in ignition. This is because the cylinder inside has a set of spring pins that are placed tactfully to match the shape of the key when inserted. Hence, if the internal system itself is damaged, the key would not align with the pins and you will find your key stuck in ignition mode.

Gear not set

One of the most basic problems that can cause your car key to be stuck is the improper placement of the gear.  The gear must be set to the “Parking” mode before removing the key from ignition. In the case of an automatic car, the key will not come out if the gear is set to neutral or drive. On the other hand, in the case of a manual car, the gear must be “Neutral.”

Quick Fix: This problem is not of such a high magnitude, and can be solved through vigilance and caution. Just keep a check on the gear, and you won’t face such an issue at all.

Long term solutions

A car key getting stuck in ignition is a rare occurrence. However, if you get into such a situation frequently, here are a few steps you can consider:

WD-40 spray

This spray comes with a thin straw that is designed to fit into the space between the key and the ignition lock. If the key keeps getting stuck, try spraying this spray into the ignition lock. The additional moisture would be sufficient to wiggle the key out of the lock. However, once the key is out, do a quick check to ensure that the key is intact.

Key extractor

This is a handy tool that is mostly used by locksmiths to extract a broken key from the ignition lock.  It is easy to use and cost effective. Hence, if the car key ever breaks in the lock, the key extractor will do wonders for you.

Jigsaw blade

Another tool to extract a key is a jigsaw blade. This thin blade fits exactly alongside the key in the ignition lock. Just insert the key and twist it a little so the blade points can get a hold of the broken key and then pull it out.


If all of the above-mentioned options are futile, you can call a locksmith to resolve the problem. This option is the least preferred, as it is costly. However, if all else fails, getting help from a locksmith is your best bet.

Having your key stuck in ignition can be a cause of immense stress.  If you find yourself in a grim situation like this, remember to stay calm, and follow the steps mentioned above to rectify the situation.

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