What to Do If the Car Key Won’t Turn in the Ignition

Dealing with a broken, bent, jammed, or stuck car key that refuses to turn in the ignition? This is probably one of the worst-case scenarios that you could think of as a driver or car owner. Surprise, anger, discontent, despair, anxiety, embarrassment – a swirl of feelings are likely to take you over on such a dreadful occasion. Depending on your exact location and time of the day or night, the problem could be even more complicated and, why not, dangerous.

What are the first things you could try to get out of the pickle? Should you call a towing service or get in touch with a mobile car locksmith that handles emergency car key extraction services? Our pros have prepared a mini-guide to teach you how to tackle any “car won’t turn in the ignition” problem with ease.

Pick Up the Early Warning Signs

More often than not, a faulty car ignition cylinder will give you some more or less subtle warning signs, letting you know that a jamming problem is very likely to occur sometime in the near future. However, these signs will usually go unnoticed or be mistaken for mere glitches in the ignition mechanism. Ignition cylinders work with the help of wafers that are prone to cracking, bending, and even breaking because of repetitive use over time. If it is already too late as you ignored these signs and you are now looking at a completely jammed ignition that won’t turn anymore, read on.

Key Sticking in the Ignition? Try This!

An ignition cylinder that refuses to turn normally when the key is inserted will prevent you from starting the engine. It is therefore considered an emergency that requires immediate solutions. While there are a few things you could try on your own, your best bet is to call an emergency automotive locksmith service that can reach you in just a few minutes and fix the problem on the spot. Before you do that, see if the following solutions can do the trick:

  • try to carefully jiggle the steering wheel and do the same with the shifter

A lot of steering columns will automatically lock once the key is taken out of the ignition. This means that the steering wheel could easily get stuck in position and lock the ignition. By wiggling the steering wheel using back and forth motions and carefully turning the key, you could fix the problem. If this is the case, your key or ignition lock was not at fault to begin with. The problem was a locked steering wheel.

You may also look at a gear shift preventing you from turning the key when the car is not in neutral or park mode. This is a common problem for vehicles that have automatic transmission. The fix could be something as easy as jiggling the gear shift and making sure it is well into position.

  •  Try to use a spare key

You may be also dealing with a worn car key that does no longer put the ignition wafers in the correct position. Take a close look at the key and see if the edges appear to be worn or thinned out. Improperly aligned wafers represent another common reason why a key may fail to turn in the ignition. Whether you are using a key with crisp or sharp edges or your key seems to have well-rounded, soft edges, a locksmith will help you get a backup key done in just a few minutes.

  • Try spraying silicon-based spray in the ignition lock

See if squirting a silicon lubricant for locks in the ignition can fix the problem. The silicone may clean the wafers, remove all traces of dirt and prevent the key from sticking. Remember to never use products that contain oil or graphite or else you will risk adding even more to the problem.  Dirt and gunk build-up over time are common culprits for damaged ignitions.

  • Check the car battery

Newer car models feature complex lock and ignition systems that can prevent a key from turning when the battery is completely drained out. This includes failing to turn or remove a key from the ignition. Use a voltmeter to inspect the juice in the battery or check if you can turn on the headlights.

  • Try jiggling the key and tapping it using delicate motions

Try to carefully jiggle the key inside the lock and make it turn gradually. In case the wafers inside the lock only have some minor damage or in case of a stuck split wafer, the jiggling motion may move the wafers just enough for the key to turning.

Final Tips

If you are in luck, one of these solutions may give you a temporary fix and buy you just enough time to reach the nearest car locksmith for a more thorough assessment of the problem. While car dealerships and car mechanics are also valid options, we warmly recommend you opt for a locksmith service. You will benefit from better prices, faster service speeds, and specialized lock or key repair or replacement services suitable to your car make and model. Our experienced locksmiths have the right know-how, key extraction kits, and lock and key replacement options needed to help you on the spot. Plus, by hiring us, you will not have to concern yourself with having to tow your vehicle to a different location and pay thousands on towing.

We can reach you in less than 30 minutes thanks to our ultra-fast mobile crews and get back behind the wheel in the shortest time possible. We also promise you will pay the smallest service price possible. Whether you need to have your broken ignition re-keyed or installed from scratch, we can help you take care of everything without the extra hassle.


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