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Your Car Key is Stuck in the Ignition; What to do?

A stuck ignition key happens from time to time. Trying to deal with this issue can be frustrating, expensive and very time consuming. Before you start calling all over Tyler, TX for an automotive locksmith there are a few things that you can do first on your own. Here at Locksmith Tyler we always advise our customers to stay calm and not panic. We know that it’s easier said than done but anytime you involve a heavy metallic, moving object like a car you need to keep control of your wits if possible. A key stuck in the ignition makes the vehicle inoperable. This is the part that scares most folks; they feel helpless, stranded and confused. Is your car still running with the key stuck? You most likely will not be able to drive it or even turn it off. Is your car turned off and the key is stuck in the ignition? You can forget going anywhere until this problem is fixed.


If you are dealing with a stuck ignition key simply start this simple troubleshooting process.

  1. Put on your parking brake. No, that won’t get your ignition key out but it will prevent you from rolling away while you work at removing it!
  2. Next, try turning the key back and forth while applying gentle pressure on it. Your goal is to find a free spot and gently unlock the steering wheel. Don’t force it! You don’t need your problem compounded by also having to deal with a broken off key! Many times wiggling the ignition key like this can unlock your steering wheel and put an end to your problem.
  3. If you are still locked up, check to make sure that your car is in PARK and not DRIVE or NEUTRAL. Automatic transmissions will not allow you to turn the ignition on when in these positions and often tired or distracted drivers can find themselves in the wrong gear.
  4. Try cleaning the ignition lock cylinder. If the key won’t go in or will not turn, the switch itself might be clogged or dirty. Spray some electrical contact cleaner to clear out the dirt and then follow with a spritz of silicone to lubricate the lock. Do this with the car window(s) open so that you are not exposed to an accumulation of fumes. Now try the key and see if it goes in and turns.
  5. Is your car turned off? Try moving the steering wheel back and forth to unlock it. At the same time try and remove the ignition key.
  6. Check for a dead battery. Does your dashboard light up? Can you turn your headlights or the radio on? If not, your battery may have died and your car’s computer won’t be able to read the chip in the ignition key.


If you’ve tried the above with no success then it’s time to call for an automotive locksmith shop like Locksmith Tyler. We offer responsive 24-hour mobile service to local Tyler, TX residents at affordable rates and with guaranteed results. If you already have locksmith that you work with, give him a call. While you are waiting make sure that the key is kept in the locked position to avoid draining your battery. If you have a spare key you can lock the vehicle if you would rather wait nearby in an air conditioned building or if you need to get a drink or use the restroom.

No matter which locksmith shop you work with be sure to keep our/their number stored in your smart phone for quick and stress free access anytime, day or night. Locksmith problems always seem to happen when we least expect them or at the wrong time. Be one-up on your locksmith issue by having quick access to your favorite local lock technician (or one of ours here at Locksmith Tyler) by using your mobile device contact list.


You may have loose cables inside the dashboard or behind the ignition. If so, they’ll need replacement if too badly worn.

You may have a dead battery as previously mentioned. In newer/modern cars, a dead battery means your key will remain in the ignition

Your wheel lock cylinder is worn. Every time you start your car or insert the ignition key it reduces the life cycle of your vehicle’s wheel lock mechanism.

One common problem with stuck ignition keys is that a wrong key was used in the first place. This is fairly easy to do. Many auto keys look alike and are only slightly different. The wrong key can sometimes “almost” fit going in but it won’t turn and can sometimes become stuck. Many online sources recommend that you lightly hammer the top of the key to loosen it in order to remove it. Here at Locksmith Tyler we discourage this idea as it is so easy to not only break your key off but it can also result in damage to the ignition itself.

Do you have a worn out key? This too is a common problem as keys are often used to open sealed boxes, puncture surfaces and even open cans! Use and wear can slightly alter a key to the point that it is ineffective when inserted into your ignition. The cylinder’s interior pins will not drop correctly allowing the key to work as it should. If your transponder key is damaged like this you will likely need a new one made and programmed. You can spend a tidy fortune by having your car towed to your dealership and serviced there, or you can do the smart thing and call a licensed, bonded and insured automotive locksmith like Locksmith Tyler and have us conveniently and affordably service your keys and ignition system right there while you wait. A good vehicle locksmith will offer 24/7 coverage so make sure that yours does!