Why Your Car Key Won’t Go In Ignition?

Owning a car comes with several responsibilities, especially when unexpected malfunctions occur without any sign. One such critical experience is when your car key won’t go in ignition, and you’re in a hurry to leave for work in the morning.

This can be frustrating if you don’t know what to do. If you experience this kind of challenge, don’t fret.

The causes of the problem and the corresponding solutions have been revealed in this article. Kindly take a moment to digest the information in the subsequent sections below.

key won't go in ignition

What Causes Key Won’t Go In Ignition

 There are several reasons why a car key may not go into the ignition cylinder when you try to insert it. However, the reasons are usually common with different cars. In other words, if a Honda Pilot key doesn’t go in the ignition, the challenge may be similar to that of a Toyota Corolla.

Sometimes the fault can be in the cylinder, while at other times, a defect in the key may be responsible for the challenge. These are key reasons why you may encounter car keys stuck because of not going into the ignition.

Dirt in the ignition cylinder pins

Dirt is the major reason a key won’t go into a car’s ignition cylinder as smoothly as expected. If you’re struggling to insert your car key into the ignition cylinder, there’s a tendency for some dirt to find its way into the cylinder and stick on the cylinder’s pins.

Usually, when this occurs, the key will not be able to fit into the cylinder properly. The misalignment will hinder the free movement of the key in the cylinder. Forcing the key may damage the component.

Dirt stuck on the car key.

Also, dirt or debris can stick to a car key, especially when exposed or used for any other purpose, different from starting the car or opening the doors.

For instance, if you use your car key to open a package and the tape on the carton gets stuck on the surface, it may hinder the key from entering the ignition cylinder.

Also, if there are any other forms of debris or dirt on the key, you may have a tough time sliding the key into the cylinder as well. Therefore, if your Ford Escape key doesn’t go in the ignition, kindly check out for dirt or debris on the key.

Cracked or broken car key teeth

The teeth of the car key and the ignition cylinder are two compatible parts. Again, any defect in the components will prevent their compatibility.

Therefore, if your Honda Accord key won’t go in ignition, or this is the case with cars of any other models and brands, you may have to check if there’s a crack on the key or if it has worn out excessively. In either situation, you will need to replace the car key with a new key cut to rectify the issue.

Bent car key

Lastly, if your car key is bent, it will be difficult for the component to enter the ignition cylinder easily. Even if a portion of the key manages to slide into the cylinder, you may not be able to start your car because the key is not yet fully in alignment with the cylinder.

Therefore, if your Honda Civic key won’t go in ignition or your respective car, ensure to inspect the key to ascertain whether it is bent. If this is the issue, you will have to find a way to straighten out the component. In most cases, straightening the bent key may even endanger it more.

key wont go in ignition vw

How To Fix Key Won’t Go In Ignition

Fixing a defect in a car key or the ignition cylinder can be pretty straightforward if you can identify the actual cause of the problem.

In other words, if you’re struggling with sliding your car key into the ignition cylinder, ensure to diagnose the issue first. However, one or more of the solutions below can help you resolve the problem in most cases.

Clear off dirt on the key

After thoroughly checking the cause of the issue, if you find out any dirt on the car key, ensure to clear them off completely. You may want to use an alcohol-based wipe to carefully clean up the dirt on the key before inserting it into the ignition cylinder again.

So, if you were contemplating, “What do I do if my key won’t turn in the ignition?” kindly start by implementing the method above before moving to the next option if it doesn’t work.

Flatten a bent key

If you discover that your key won’t go in ignition all the way because the component is bent, ensure to get a rubber or wooden mallet to straighten out the key. In order to do this, kindly place the key on a flat table and use the mallet to hit it carefully from the top until it becomes straight.

Please avoid using a metal object to hit the key, as you may damage it further. Also, do not use pliers to straighten out the key. You may as well bend it over beyond the limit.

Slide the key in and out gently.

Rectifying the issue in a dirty port (ignition cylinder) may be slightly different. If you suspect that the reason why your 2006 BMW X5 key won’t go in the ignition is due to the dirt blocking the ignition cylinder pins, carefully slide the key into the port and slide out gently.

You may have to do this repeatedly to clear off the dirt on the pins. However, ensure to avoid forcing the key in and out in order not to damage any of the components. Once you slide the key in and out a few times and it becomes free, try to start the car.

Get a new key cut

Sometimes, the only remedy can be to get a new key cut to replace the old car key, especially when it has been damaged beyond repair. However, if you’re trying to copy a worn or damaged key, it may not start the car.

Therefore, if your Ford F150 key won’t go in the ignition due to a worn-out key, the best approach is to consult a dealership that handles your vehicle make and model to get a new key cut that will be compatible with your car’s ignition cylinder.


Q: What is the best lubricant for car ignition?

Powdered graphite or silicone spray are some of the most effective lubricants for car ignitions. So if your car key won’t slide into the ignition cylinder, as usual, don’t fret. Instead, kindly get a bottle of graphite lube and apply it to the cylinder.

After that, try to insert the key once again and start the engine. Now you’re good to go. However, if the problem persists, you may have to contact an expert auto technician to diagnose and fix the problem immediately.

Q: How much does it cost to replace the ignition cylinder?

The ignition cylinder replacement cost is estimated at around $220 – $263. Usually, parts cost about $148 – $172, while labor costs around $72 – $90. However, your vehicle makes, and model may impact the cost of replacing the ignition cylinder.

Meanwhile, the auto technician you contact for the job will also determine the labor cost. Of course, a dealership will charge more than an independent auto technician across the street in your neighborhood.

Q: Is it OK to spray WD-40 in ignition?

Yes, it is OK to use WD-40 in your car’s ignition if your key won’t go in ignition. However, there are better options than WD-40 in the market. Nevertheless, if that’s all you have, kindly use it.

Meanwhile, ensure to avoid using too much of the product. Also, get a piece of cloth to clean any run-off as you apply it to your car’s ignition.

Q: How do you lubricate car key locks?

Getting a recommended car key locks cleaner will help you lubricate the ignition if you’re battling a situation where the car key won’t slide into the locks. In order to apply the cleaner, blow out the dust from the keyhole using an air compressor.

After that, apply a spray cleaner like WD-40 or any other recommended cleaner. Ensure to get the nozzle close to the locks cylinder before spraying. You may want to use a dry lock lubricant, like 3-in-one lock dry lube, to clean up the locks. Then, slide the key into the locks and turn it to check.

Q: Does a new ignition switch require a new key?

Of course, a new ignition switch requires a new key. As a matter of fact, the ignition switch comes with a new set of keys that should be programmed with your car. However, if you’re not changing everything, you will have to keep your old key to enable you to open the car doors.

So, if you have a faulty ignition switch, kindly be sure to contact a professional auto technician to work on the replacement of the ignition switch in order to get it done perfectly without any further glitches.

Q: How do you free a sticky ignition switch?

If you have a sticky ignition switch and you’re finding it difficult to remove your car key, carefully push the ignition cylinder down with your left index finger to hold it in place and jiggle the key gently with your right hand to get it out.

Kindly be careful not to damage anything as you jiggle the key out. However, if the approach is not working, you may have to consult an expert auto mechanic as soon as possible.

Final Words

Battling a defective car key or ignition cylinder can be frustrating if you’re clueless about what to do. Therefore, if your car key won’t go in ignition, this article has unveiled the solution. Kindly figure out the exact cause of the problem.

Then, apply the corresponding solution to the problem. However, if the key is completely damaged, you may have to replace it as soon as possible.

But don’t forget that getting a copy of a worn-out or excessively damaged key may become abortive. In other words, ensure to let a dealership that specializes in fixing your car make and model get you a new key cut that will be very compatible with your ignition 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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