Reasons For A Car Key Stuck In Ignition And How To Remove It

Do you own a Chevy Ride and find your car key stuck in the ignition, a Chevy Colorado, or a car model and make your own? I guess that’s why you’re reading this piece of article.

It can be very frightening to find yourself in such a situation. Do not panic, so you don’t end up breaking the key in the ignition, which could result in an expensive fix.

This article has provided sufficient information on what causes the car key stuck in the ignition and how to remove it. Let’s be concise and go straight to the point!

Common Reasons A Car Key Gets Stuck In The Ignition

Some problems are as confusing as having a stuck car key in the ignition. You’re likely asking ‘why is my car key stuck in the ignition if you cannot pull it out.

The common cause is always the easiest to fix. The common causes include a locked steering wheel, a car not in the park position, or the car computer thinking the key is still in the ON position while off. Other reasons include debris on the key, defective lock cylinder, worn-out key, dead battery,  or wrong key stuck in the ignition.

Car Key Stuck In Ignition

The car is not in the parking position.

Vehicles are designed with several safety features. In your automatic transmission, for example, if your vehicle is not in the park position, the car key won’t come out. Similarly, manual transmissions involve shifting the gear lever to neutral before pulling out the key. If you own a vehicle, manual or automatic transmission, you should know this by now.

On older vehicles, there are chances that the plastic or rubber shifter track has bounced up. There may be dirt or debris on the sidewall, hindering the shifter from getting to the park position.

The car is in accessory mode.

Most vehicles that use regular keys also have an accessory position in cars. The accessory mode is a single click after the off mode. It allows a driver to use some car features without having to start the car engine. These features include a power lock window and radio.

Probably you didn’t notice you left the key in the accessory mode because you were in a hurry. When next you are unable to pull out your key, try turning on the car and switching it off all the way to the off position.

Locked steering wheel

Here comes another safety feat in a car that may prompt a car key stuck in the ignition but won’t turn off or start – the wheel lock. This feature automatically activates when you apply some force to the steering wheel, especially when turning off the car.

Wheel locks are equipped in cars to prevent steering wheel movement when there’s no key present in the ignition. Unfortunately, it engages sometimes while the key is still in the ignition.

Faulty ignition cylinder

As with most electrical and mechanical components in a car, the ignition lock cylinder fails over time. But what happens if it fails when the car key is inserted? You’ll have a key stuck in the ignition ON position or any key position it was in before the ignition cylinder fails.

One of the ways to ensure your ignition cylinder lasts long is to reduce the number of items on your key holder. Many things on the keyring will cause them to be swaying back and forth, which increases the chances of aging and premature wear. Aging and premature wear can also result in the key stuck in the ignition, and the car won’t start or turn off.

Debris on the key

Car keys are sensitive to any form of imperfection. Debris or dirt on the car key can prevent it from switching on or off the ignition.

Most of us use our car keys as penknifes on several occasions. To dig out things, open boxes or mail, scratch things, to name just but a few. Any of these activities can leave debris on the car key.

Dead battery

The car ignition system works with electrical voltage. If your car battery is discharged, it can prevent you from getting the key. A good indication of a key stuck in the ignition due to a dead battery is a repeated clicking sound when you try to start the vehicle.

While a dead battery can prevent you from removing the ignition key, it rarely happens. Ordinarily, a repeated clicking sound when turning the ignition indicates a dead battery or corroded battery terminals. It could also result from a defective starter motor.

Worn-out ignition key

The last reason could be that you have a damaged or worn-out key. As stated above, many of us use our car keys for a couple of things that don’t involve starting the car. These will cause accelerated wear on the key. Car keys are specifically designed for locking and opening doors and starting the vehicle. Refrain from using your car keys on other things.

Step By Step On How To Get Key Out Of Ignition

As there are several reasons a car key gets stuck in the ignition, there are also a series of instructions on how to get the key out of the ignition. Let’s explore the guides below.

car key stuck in ignition dead battery

Recharge your car battery.

As a dead battery can cause a car key to get stuck in the ignition, recharging the battery will free the key.

If you suspect a low-voltage battery or notice a repeated clicking when turning the key, recharge the battery to see if it is a low-voltage problem.  You can jump-start the car with another battery or another vehicle.

Shift the gear lever to park

A common problem for a stuck key in the ignition is removing the car key without properly shifting the gear lever to the Park position.

If this is the case, ensure the shifter is in Park by wiggling it between Park and neutral position while stepping on the brake pedal, switching the ignition key backward, and pulling out the key.

Unlock the steering wheel.

As alluded to above, a wheel lock is a safety feature that prevents the steering wheel from moving when the key is removed. If the steering wheel locks with the key in the ignition, Try wiggling it back and forth while gently pulling out the ignition key.

Spray lubricant in the ignition cylinder.

If the key is stuck due to debris, oil the lock with any spray lubricant. This can be challenging because the key is blocking the lock. You will need a spray lubricant straw to achieve this. An excellent example of such a lubricant is WD-40.

Jiggle the ignition

A proven method that has saved many folks is pushing the key into the lock cylinder with your left hand while jiggling the steering wheel with your right hand.

Jiggle the key and the steering wheel back and forth while depressing the brake pedal. This will likely pull out the key.

Use the override function to remove the key from the ignition

Most vehicles have an override function that you can use to remove stuck keys. First, locate the override function button. The button is usually placed at the button of the steering column. Once you see the button, press and hold it.

While depressing the override button, return the key to the “off” position. The key should easily come out by now.

Read fault codes

Did all the steps above prove abortive? Get an OBD2 scanner to pull out all the trouble codes from related units to see if you have a fuse or shifter problem. If you have a more advanced scanner, you can read trouble codes from the ignition switch and immobilizer.

Check the safety key.

Many Japanese and American cars Are equipped with an ignition extra lock switch where you have to insert the key and press a button to turn the key freely and remove it. Consult your owner’s booklet to ensure you’re not missing anything.

Consult with the mechanic or professional locksmith.

If you have tried the above steps and none works, it’s time to consult your mechanic or professional locksmith. You don’t have many options left. Let your mechanic or locksmith take a professional look. You likely have a failing ignition lock that needs replacement, or your immobilizer has integrated with the ignition switch and requires a reprogram after replacing the unit.


How much does it cost to get the key out of the ignition?

Getting a broken regular key out of ignition will cost $100 to $150, depending on how challenging the task is. Sometimes, it’ll be slightly more or less.

However, if the key in question is a transponder key, it will cost more because it is a more complex key that sends and receives signals from the vehicle security system.

They are designed with microchips that send signals to the car’s anti-theft sensors whenever they detect anything wrong. Of course, these types of keys will attract more complex work and fees in getting them out of the ignition. Removing broken transponder keys will cost $250.

How do you know if your ignition lock cylinder is bad?

Like most electrical and mechanical components in a car, a failing ignition lock cylinder (also known as ignition lock assembly) will give some signs to notify the driver that something is wrong with it. The symptoms are as follows;

  • Challenge in starting the vehicle
  • Car not starting condition
  • Issues in inserting and removing the ignition key
  • No noise from the starter motor
  • Flickering dashboard lights.

How do you test an ignition lock cylinder?

Testing an ignition lock cylinder is as simple as ABC. If you notice any of the signs above, don’t conclude yet; carry out ignition lock cylinder test to confirm its working state.

Locate and open the fuse box beneath the steering wheel and pull out the starter signal fuse.

Inspect the metal strip on the fuse and ensure it’s not burnt or damaged. If burnt, replace it with a suitable fuse of the same amp.

Get your voltmeter and set the dial to volts. Connect the red probe on the positive battery terminal and the black probe to the car’s chassis or frame. The meter reading should be around 12.6 volts. If it’s less than 12 volts, charge or replace the battery.

Insert the key into the ignition and crank the engine. If it cranks, you have a working ignition lock cylinder. If it doesn’t crank, but you hear a click when you turn the key to the start position, the ignition lock switch is also good. But if it didn’t crank and did not make a click sound, you have a broken ignition switch that needs replacement.

Can a locksmith get a broken key out of the ignition?

Regardless of the type of key you have, regular or transponder key, if it breaks inside the ignition lock cylinder, a good locksmith who knows his onions will get it out.

How long does it take to replace the ignition lock cylinder?

Provided the individual or mechanic doing the replacement knows his onions and all necessary replacement parts are available, it will only take 30 to 45 minutes to install a new ignition lock switch.

Final word

Having seen the reasons for a key stuck in the ignition and how to remove it, you don’t have to panic whenever you see yourself in such a situation.

Suppose your car key is stuck in the ignition; try the above steps to remove it. The steps are as simple as ABC.

Don’t forget to contact your mechanic if all the steps prove abortive. In case of a broken key, I recommend getting a locksmith to professionally pull it out without causing more damage to the ignition lock cylinder.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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