Help! My Key Is Locked In Ignition and Won’t Come Out!

Is your car key stuck in ignition? 

Do not panic. 

This is one of the easiest issues to resolve when you own a car. 

First and foremost, don’t use a lot of force to pull out your key. You might risk breaking your key, which will only complicate the process. 

A broken key removal demands specialized tools and techniques whereas removing a key that is stuck in ignition is a fairly easy job.

Let’s go through the methods of removing a key stuck in ignition.

How to remove a car key stuck in ignition?

1. Check the Gear Selector

In any automatic car, the gear should be set to ‘Park’ if you want to remove the key from ignition. 

If the gear you are on is in any of the other modes — neutral, reverse or drive, the key will not come out. This is a safety feature offered by all car manufacturers. 

If your vehicle works on a manual transmission, make sure your gear is set to neutral. You will not be able to remove the key if the car is in a different gear mode. 

2. Unlock the Steering Wheel

Some cars have a mechanism which makes your keys get stuck when the steering wheel is locked. 

To undo this, try to turn the key and the wheel simultaneously, with little pressure. If it does not work, try doing the same motion in the other direction. This action removes both the key lock and steering wheel lock at the same time and you should be able to pull your key out after doing this.

3. Wiggle the key 

Try to wiggle your key gently by pushing your key in and turning your key. You can also try to move the steering wheel clockwise or counterclockwise, whichever is possible. 

Remember, not to apply too much force. This will unlock the system if your car has been automatically locked. It is also the most common way to remove your key when it is stuck in ignition. 

You didn’t really turn off your car

This means that you might have heard the engine turn off when you turned your key counterclockwise and assumed your car was already turned off. But as we know, that clearly doesn’t mean your car has been completely turned off. 

This is an accessory mode that can cause keys to lock-in ignition. You can also call it a safety mode that allows you to operate some features like your music system, windows, etc. without fully powering your car. 

To undo this — just turn the further and there you go!

4 Reasons a key gets stuck in ignition

There are numerous reasons why a key gets stuck in ignition. 

You just need to be a little more informed to avoid such errors. Here are some of the common reasons a key gets stuck in ignition.

1. Your battery is dead

Yes, a dead battery can get your key stuck in ignition.

Ignition requires some amount of power from your car’s battery, and without that power, your ignition system won’t start. Hence, you will not be able to remove your key from the ignition. 

To know if your ignition is locked because of  a dead battery, look out for a repeated ‘click’ sound when you attempt to turn your key. 

If you are facing a dead battery, try to jump-start your car or look for ways to get your car’s battery replaced.

2. Dirt has accumulated on your car key

We’re all guilty of it. Car keys have been used to substitute letter openers and serve other purposes when we’re in a pinch. 

We use them to open Amazon parcels, dig up piles of scrap, and more. 

When we use our keys for all these tasks, dirt can easily settle down in the crevices of our keys. And if we use that same key to engage with our car’s ignition cylinder’s pin, we may not be able to get it to work. 

In addition to that, using our car keys as a swiss army knife substitute can cause our keys wear and tear in the long run. 

3. Your key is completely worn 

Due to constant use, car keys will wear out gradually. 

You’ll know when it’s time to get new car keys when your key starts to visibly crack in certain areas.

There are potential hazards when using a damaged car key. It can break off easily and even get stuck in the ignition. 

If that ever happens, you will need special tools or even a call to a locksmith to remove the broken key from the ignition. It’s better to avoid these situations by all means. 

4. You have a faulty ignition cylinder

This is another way your key could get stuck in ignition. 

There are many rows of spring-headed pins on the inner side of the ignition cylinder. These need to match with the shape of your key when you insert it in.

If your ignition cylinder is worn, it will fail to engage with the ridges of your key. This can cause your key to get stuck and not come out at all. 

To prevent this, you should make it a point to check your ignition cylinder periodically. 

One method to prevent ignition failure is to have fewer trinkets connected to your keychain of your car key. 

Too many items hanging from your car key chain will cause the objects to sway when your car is in motion. This puts more pressure on the key and might contribute to your ignition cylinder wearing out causing your key to get stuck in ignition. 

Now that you know the possible reasons for your key getting stuck in ignition and the importance of key maintenance, let’s go through what you can do to keep your keys in good condition.

Steps for easy key maintenance

  1. You should only use your car keys for its main purpose and not as a knife, mail opener, or anything else. 
  2. Be mindful of where you place your key. Consistently tossing your key on hard surfaces can impact your key structure in the long run. Use a dedicated key case when your key is not in use.
  3. Do not attach many objects to the keychain of your car key. It can cause uneven weight distribution when you are driving and affect your keys. 
  4. Look for cuts and cracks on your key on a regular basis. Replace your key immediately when it starts to wear out.
  5. If your key gets stuck in ignition often, it may be due to dirt or metallic particles being stuck to it. Use an adhesive remover to clean the key periodically and to keep it dust-free.


Knowing the reasons why your key gets stuck in ignition will help you prevent such occurrences in the future. 

And the key maintenance steps we’ve shared with you are methods you can not only use for your car keys, but for your other keys as well.

Once you’re completely sure of what you need to do, you can not only give your keys a long life but also enjoy stress-free drives.

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