Getting your car key stuck in the ignition is no joke. You can’t start the ignition or even exit the vehicle (unless you want to leave your mess in plain sight). A fairly common issue, here are a few reasons for the jam:
The Key is Dirty
If you use your key to break into boxes or packages, beware. Tape and glue can stick to the key and create difficulty when it tries to activate the cylinder’s pins.
The Battery is Dead
A dead battery will prevent your car from fulfilling almost every function, including engaging the ignition. When your key gets stuck at this inopportune time, you’ll need to wait for a jump start or new battery.
The Steering Wheel is Locked
A steering wheel lock will activate if the wheel gets turned (even a little) while you turn off the ignition. When this happens, your steering wheel won’t turn and your key won’t release (the cylinder locks alongside the wheel). You might be able to unlock both by turning the wheel back and forth while simultaneously turning the key.
A Parking Gear is Engaged
An easy-to-fix problem, your key won’t come out of the ignition unless the car is in Park (for a manual transmission, it should be in Neutral).
The Key is Damaged
Keys wear out like everything else, especially if it spends a lot of time on hard surfaces, in purses or jumbled in a drawer. As the grooves wear down, it will struggle to do its job.
What to Do About It
There are a couple of ways to troubleshoot the issue:
- WD-40 -Try spraying WD-40 into the ignition. The thin straw should let you get into the space, and with a little gentle wiggling, the key might dislodge.
- Rubbing Alcohol – If your key is dirty, cleaning it with alcohol or adhesive remover should solve the problem (try using a Q-tip to get into the grooves).
- Key Extractor – Yes, tools exist to get stuck keys out of an ignition. While you can always call a locksmith, buying one of these handy gadgets will cost much less.
- Tweezers – If the key breaks off in the lock, you might be able to fenagle it out with tweezers.
- Locksmith – If all else fails, you can always call a locksmith. It’s what they’re there for, right?