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It is very likely that you have encountered the situation where, before setting out on a trip, you believe that the key will not turn on the ignition/start switch. Occasionally, it happens that you finally manage to turn it, but after the trip, it cannot be removed from the switch. In this article, we are going to discuss the reasons why the device sticks and look at the simplest methods to solve this problem.

10 reasons why the ignition key does not come out of the ignition switch

The steering wheel is locked

Most modern cars are equipped with an anti-theft protection system. In certain cases, this locks the steering wheel and ignition switch to prevent intruders from being able to drive your car. The lock is activated when you turn the steering wheel without having the key inserted in the ignition switch or when you try to use an incorrect or badly worn key.

Sometimes, the problem is caused by an attempt to turn a key that is not fully inserted into the cylinder.

In addition, the protection system may be activated when the car’s wheels are turned all the way to one side, such as when parking on a steep slope, or if the front wheels are resting against a curb or other obstacle. In general, when the lock function is activated, a characteristic clicking sound can be heard and it is not possible to remove the key from the ignition/start switch.

What to do: Gently turn the steering wheel from left to right, while trying to turn the key in the switch. This will help unlock the steering wheel. Do not squeeze the key too hard so as not to break it

The key is deformed

If you carry it in your pocket or purse or use it for other purposes, it may become bent. Because of this, sometimes the key will not turn and cannot get out of the ignition, or cannot even be inserted into the switch.

What to do: Have you noticed that your key is bent? Do not attempt to use it so as not to damage the switch cylinder. Start the car using a spare ignition key. If you don’t have one, contact an auto service center. The experts will promptly restore the shape of the old device or make a copy of the key. If you have still inserted a bent key into the ignition switch and it is stuck in the switch, enlist the help of a professional to remove it.

The door lock is frozen

This can happen if it is cold outside and water has accumulated in the lock cylinder.

If your car has been parked for a long time outdoors in freezing cold or in an unheated room, and you suspect that the lock may have frozen, try thawing it.

What to do: Heat the key with a lighter or candle and then insert it into the lock. Repeat this step several times. You can also use a special lock defroster. To avoid problems later, make sure that the ventilation system is working stably. Before storing your car in a long-term parking place, ventilate the passenger compartment to reduce its temperature and prevent condensation from forming.

The car battery is discharged

In some cars, when the battery is discharged, the key is locked in the ignition switch.

What to do: Turn on the headlights. If the headlights do not turn on, the problem may be in the battery. Using a voltmeter, measure the voltage at the car battery terminals. If it is below 11.7 V, then the battery is completely discharged. You will probably need to replace or restore it. If you don’t have a multimeter, try jump-starting the car. If this works, the problem is in the battery. But if it doesn’t, then the fault is of another type.

The teeth of the wrench are worn down

Low-quality products that have been manufactured from non-durable materials suffer abrasive wear fairly quickly. The key becomes loose in the switch and cannot interact properly with the moving parts of the ignition/start switch cylinder.

What to do: Compare the key you are using with the replacement key. If you notice signs of wear, replace it. If the old key is stuck in the ignition switch, try turning it gently from left to right and also move it back and forth. You will probably be able to find the movement capable of activating the mechanism.

Switch cylinder failure

This also wears out over time. This can occur more quickly due to the habit of many drivers to attach heavy key rings or other decorations to the keys. When the car is in motion, it creates an additional load on the parts of the mechanism.

What to do: If you manage to remove the key from the ignition switch, use the spare key. If the problem remains and the key sticks, then it is the switch cylinder that is worn. Contact a repair shop to have it replaced.

The switch cylinder and key have become dirty

The use of improper grease results in the accumulation of dirt inside the mechanism and, over time, it may stick. Typically, the key notches become dirty if the key is used in a manner other than that for which it is intended, such as removing packing tape when opening packages.

What to do: To clean the switch, use WD-40 or other penetrating oil and spray it directly into the keyhole. If possible, using compressed air, blow through the cylinder. After blowing and cleaning the switch, lubricate it. Wipe the key with a lint-free cloth dampened with WD-40, alcohol, or solvent.

Incorrect gear selection

In cars with automatic transmission, the key will be locked in the ignition switch until you move the selector lever to the Park position. To unlock the switch on vehicles with a manual gearbox, the shift lever must be in the neutral position.

What to do: After triggering, make sure the automatic transmission selector lever is in the Park position. If this is not the case, but you have already stopped the car and turned off the engine, depress the brake pedal, and place the selector lever in the park position. Next, try to remove the key carefully. If this is not possible, check whether the selector lever can be locked in this position. If it can be moved, even after the engine has been switched off, take your car to a garage to have the torque converter, cable and automatic transmission lever checked, as well as the brake pedal locking mechanism.

If your car has a manual transmission, depress the clutch pedal, put the shift lever in neutral, and remove the key from the ignition switch, moving it slightly at the same time.

The key has not been placed in a proper lock

Occasionally, drivers forget to turn the key to the locked position. The key has not been placed in a proper position.

What to do: Look at the ignition switch. It has several markings that correspond to the different modes: “ignition”, “engine start”, “lock” (or “park”). Make sure the key is in the “lock” or “0” position. Change its position if necessary.

The component is broken

Applying too much force when trying to turn the key in the ignition switch may result in the ignition switch breaking. It is difficult to remove the key fragment remaining inside the mechanism.

What to do: Try to remove the fragment using a special extractor. If you do not have such a tool, seek professional help. Do not use improvised means to remove the broken tip, as this may cause damage to the cylinder.


Despite the simplicity of its design, the ignition key is an element of great importance, which requires proper attention from the driver. A car can only be started if this component is in good working order. If your key is stuck in the ignition switch, put our advice into practice.

How to fix a key stuck in the ignition? - Video

Max Welder (rvneeded)

Max Welder (rvneeded)

Max Welder is a mechanic enthusiast. Currently, working at a small company. Experienced in electronics, car tools, and security systems. In his spare time, he writes articles for various blogs.

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