In our previous article on keys stuck in locks, we discussed the basics of getting your keys stuck, what usually causes them, and what you need to do if that unfortunate event ever happens to you. If you just want a general overview of the topic, you may opt to read that article. Now, we’ll talk specifically about getting your keys stuck in car ignition. As there’s so many variables that come into play and things that you can do, we decided it deserved its own article.
First things first, what actually causes this issue. We found six common reasons why keys sometimes get stuck in your car ignition.
Issues with the Car
- Parking Gear Set Incorrectly – Almost all modern cars with automatic transmissions lock the key in the ignition if the gear is not set to “Park” or “Neutral”. This is a safety feature included to prevent an accident if the car is left unattended on a slope or a ramp. Similarly, the same is true for some cars with manual transmissions wherein they will lock the key if it’s not on “Neutral”.
- Steering Wheel Lock – Another feature that locks the key in place is the automatic steering wheel lock. This happens when the vehicle is once again parked in order to prevent theft. However, it also prevents the key from moving in the ignition switch. When both the steering wheel and the ignition locks at the same time, they key becomes stuck inside.
- Dead Battery – Much like most parts of the car, the ignition system relies on the battery to keep working. If the battery dies, then it will most likely cause the ignition to lock up, trapping your key inside.
- Damaged Ignition Cylinder – Your car’s ignition is made out of wafers. If the wafers within the cylinder have become stuck or bent, or if the pins inside become misaligned, then it will cause the key to be stuck.
Issues with the Key
- Debris on Key – Sometimes, certain debris could stick onto your key. This is especially true if you use your car key as a makeshift tool to cut through tape. The debris stuck on the key could make it harder for it to engage the ignition cylinder’s pins.
- Worn or Damaged Key – Car keys can receive wear and tear over time. Inserting into or pulling it out of the ignition scrapes the key just a little bit each time. Touching hard surfaces or simply putting it in your pocket also damages it just a bit each time. When this damage builds up in the key, it could cause it to bend or to chip off which might cause it to get stuck in the ignition.
Ways to Remove Keys Stuck in Ignition
So then, how do you actually remove it? Luckily, there is a list of things that you can exhaust before having to call out a locksmith.
1. Never Force It Out
First and foremost, never force the key out. This is one surefire way to damage not just your keys but also your ignition system. Doing so will most likely require additional repair to your vehicle that is more expensive than time-consuming.
2. Check Battery
The simplest thing you should do is first check if your battery is dead. Try turning on your headlights or your windshield wiper to see if it is. In the unlikely case that the battery is indeed dead, the best thing you can do is to wait for a jump start or to have a new one installed.
3. Set Parking Gear Properly
Ensure that when you park your car, the gear is set to “Park” or “Neutral”. It’s a basic part of driving that’s ingrained in every driver’s mind, but it’s not impossible to miss. If your vehicle has a screen which displays your gear settings, make sure that “P” is on. If everything is set correctly, then you can try shaking your gear selector in the park position to see if it will release your key. Otherwise, that may not be the issue.
4. Jiggle Your Key
If none of the previous methods work to unlock the key, then you may need to pull it out yourself. However, as we previously said, do not force it out. Instead, push down on the cylinder with one finger while jiggling the key free with your other hand. Doing so helps loosen the grasp of the springs and pins inside the cylinder, allowing you to pull the key out.
5. Lubricate the Ignition Lock Cylinder
You can try to use a lubricant like WD-40 on the ignition lock cylinder. Use the thin straw to fit in the space in between the key and the cylinder. Then, slowly wiggle it out. Sometimes, the lubrication is enough to free keys stuck in the ignition.
6. Use a Key Extractor
Now if your key already broke in the ignition, you have a massive problem. However, you can use a broken key extraction tool to remove the bit that was left inside. If you don’t have one, you can use tweezers or needle nose pliers if there’s still a part of the key that protrudes out.
7. Call a Locksmith
If all else fails, you may have to call a professional locksmith to remove your key for you. Unfortunately, this process may take up to an hour to finish and cost £90 or more. However, it’s the best option you’ve got to prevent further damage to your key and to your car.
If you don’t already have one, you may look into our directory for local locksmiths in your area. We have listings for locksmiths, cobblers, and watch repairers all across the United Kingdom.