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How A Key Gets Stuck In The Ignition and What This Means for You

How A Key Gets Stuck In The Ignition and What This Means for You

Key stress

Cars  are our main mode of transportation, which makes it that much more stressful when something is wrong with our precious vehicles. This is particularly true when you run into a problem, such as your key getting stuck in the ignition, and don’t know who to call, let alone how to fix it yourself.

key stress phone call

Turn Your Car Off Properly

Oftentimes, especially when you’re in a hurry, it’s very easy to miss crucial steps to turn your car off. Many automatic transmission vehicles come with a safety feature that prevents the driver from removing the key from the ignition when the car is not in park or neutral. Before trying anything else, make sure to check that your shifter  is in one of these two positions.

Another reason your key might be stuck in the ignition is because you did not properly turn the car itself off. In order to turn the vehicle off, the key must be turned all the way into the lock position (in most cars, this means all the way down). If your key is not coming out of the ignition, try turning the car on again and turning it off properly before attempting to forcefully yank the key out.

stuck key in ignition

Keyhole Obstructions

Once you have ascertained that your car is in the proper gear, it’s time to move onto the next reason why your key may be stuck: dirt, dust, or other particles blocking your key from being removed from the keyhole. It is very possible that debris has gotten into the keyhole, but it is not something to worry about. To get your key out, you have 3 options:

  • Spray WD40 into the keyhole to loosen up the dirt that may be obstructing the hole.
  • Gently wiggle the key back and forth, which should also loosen up any debris that may be blocking the keyway.
  • Call a locksmith for professional help if neither of the above options are possible or working.
cleaning your dashboard

Steering Wheel Locked

If your key is stuck in the ignition and you find that your car’s steering wheel is also locked in place, it is possible that you  have inserted the wrong key. Locking the steering wheel is a safety feature on most vehicles that is present in case the incorrect key is inserted. Fixing this is the simple process of turning the steering wheel slowly to the left and then to the right while applying slight pressure to the key. Once you have enough pressure, you should be able to unlock the steering wheel and remove the key from the slot.

A Broken Key

The worst case scenario in a situation like this is that your key has broken, causing it to be stuck in the ignition. This may happen more often with duplicate keys, as they are weaker than the originals. You have two options when it comes to a broken key:

  •  Use a key extractor tool and attempt to remove the piece of broken key that is stuck in the keyway. If this tool is not available to you in the moment, or if this solution is not working, your best option is to:
  • Call a locksmith. Having an experienced, professional set of hands on the job will be the best bet for you if the key breaks off inside the ignition.

Additionally,  it is always important to pay attention to the general state of your car key before putting it into the ignition. If the key already looks damaged, prone to damage, or is flimsy in any way, it has a higher chance of breaking off inside of the ignition.

A Dead Car Battery

A final reason why you may not be able to remove the key from the ignition is a dead car battery. The fix for this is fairly simple: to check if your battery is in fact dead, try turning on your headlights or turn signals. If these are not working, your car battery is most likely dead. Once you have ascertained that this is the case, simply jump-starting your car will allow you to remove the key from the ignition keyway.


Though having a key lodged in the ignition is not an ideal situation, it is important to remember that there is always someone or something out there that can help you. Whether it be a friend jump-starting your car for you, a key extractor tool, or WD40, you will find a way out of this situation. And if you find yourself needing extra help, Pop-A-Lock’s trusted, certified locksmiths are here for you and ready to do so.

My Key Is Stuck In The Lock, What Do I Do Now?

For almost all of us, keys are vital to our everyday lives. They are essential instruments that allow us to gain or prevent entrance to our homes and offices, how we operate our vehicles, and how we keep our possessions secure. What happens then, when the keys you depend on so much fail to let you in, or get stuck in a lock? It happens more than you think, and it can happen in your car, home, or office.

Key Stuck in Lock

Fortunately, Pop-A-Lock is there for you when it happens. You can give us a call, and we can help you avoid damaging your door lock or vehicle ignition when trying to retrieve your key.

To better help you understand how keys get stuck and what you should do when it happens, we’ve included some helpful information below.

Key stuck in Car Lock

How Keys Get Stuck in the Ignition

There are a few main reasons a key may get stuck in a car ignition: problems with related components of the vehicle, issues with the key itself, or issues with the ignition lock cylinder.

1. Transmission gear selector is not in park. An automatic transmission is designed so that you cannot remove your key unless the car is in park. If your key gets stuck in your ignition, there may be a chance that you didn’t shift entirely into park when you turned off the car. If this is the case, there’s an easy fix. Shift into park and remove your key!

2. Dead battery. If there is no power running through the electronic ignition system in your vehicle, it may fail to release your key. A quick way to determine if you have a battery problem is to open your car door and see if your inside lights come on. If they don’t, a battery issue may be to blame, and your local Pop-A-Lock will be able to diagnose, andl likely even fix.

3. If you don’t have a transmission gear selector or battery issue, the issue may be with the key itself. Over time, keys can get dirty, bent, and worn down from daily use. You can also bend your key out of shape if you’ve used it as a tool to open things or for any other reason than it’s designed use.

Gently wiggling the key can sometimes free it, but you don’t want to use excessive force as this can cause much bigger problems.

4. The car’s lock cylinder not operating correctly. Just as the key can get dirty, the inside of the lock mechanism can, too. Debris in the lock mechanism may be prohibiting the key from being released. In this situation, it is best to call an experienced locksmith as wiggling the key too much may further push debris into the lock mechanism, worsening your problem.

Key Stuck in Lock

How Keys Get Stuck in Door Locks

Keys can get stuck in door locks for similar reasons as vehicle ignitions, such as the key being dirty, or the lock mechanism needing lubrication.

Dirty or misshapen keys and lock mechanisms are also common causes of keys getting stuck in door locks. Debris or worn grooves can prohibit the lock pins from sitting properly against the key, which can cause it to get stuck inside the lock. A lack of lubrication can worsen this issue. Lightly jiggling your key while spraying a pump of WD-40 into the keyhole may release it, but if not, don’t resort to breaking windows when experienced locksmiths are available to help you get the key out of the lock without doing any damage.

Call Pop-A-Lock For Key Extraction

There are a multitude of reasons that a key may get stuck in a door lock or an ignition. Fortunately, Pop-A-Lock is there for you, and you don’t have to worry. Our technicians are certified and skilled in key extraction and ignition repair, so you can rest assured that your property is safe in our hands. Visit our website to find the Pop-A-Lock that is closest to you so that you can get your key back as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Pop-A-Lock Fixing Key Stuck in Locks