Key Stuck in Ignition? (7 Easy Steps to Remove It)

A car key stuck in the ignition is a scary situation because you don’t want it to break off.

You have to be careful with the steps you take to remove it, but you’re also stressed because you need to get on with your day. If your car is running and you can’t take out the key, you don’t want to leave your car alone.

These seven easy steps will tell you how to remove a key stuck in the ignition.

7 Steps to Remove a Key Stuck in the Ignition

Normally, it’s easy to pull out the key when you park your car, but sometimes it gets stuck. If you’ve turned the key properly, pushed a key release button if your car model has one, and still can’t remove the key, try these steps.

1. Jiggle the Key

Let’s be honest — this is probably the first thing you tried without realizing it was a viable solution. When your key gets stuck, it’s only natural to try and jiggle it around until the lock gives and you can pull out the key. But you need to be careful with this solution because you don’t want the key to break off.

Press the brake pedal while you’re jiggling the key around. Sometimes you get lucky and it will pop out. In cases like that, it’s usually a fluke that the key got stuck.

Something with your ignition lock didn’t disengage when you needed it to, or the ignition had gunk that adhered to the key.

Overall, there’s probably nothing wrong with your vehicle in this case.

2. Charge the Battery

A dead car battery doesn’t have the voltage necessary to release the ignition lock. It stays on instead of turning off to let you remove the key. You can charge a dead or low battery by using jumper cables and getting a friend to connect their car battery to yours.

After a jump, your battery will have enough power to release the ignition lock. But don’t turn off your car yet!

At that point, you’ll want to go to a mechanic to get a new battery for your vehicle. If your battery isn’t too old, they might troubleshoot the problem. The connections might have loosened enough to prevent the battery from providing power to the rest of the car.

3. Put the Car in Park

This sounds like too simple of a solution, but sometimes you try to turn off the car without putting it in Park.

You’ve stopped driving and are ready to leave the vehicle, but it’s still in drive. Maybe you didn’t move the shifter enough and put it into another gear instead of Park.

Cars won’t turn off if they’re still in Drive or Reverse.

Check your shifter’s position and make sure it’s in Park. Try to remove the key again. If it still doesn’t work, you can troubleshoot this yourself. Put your foot on the brake so the car doesn’t move and then shift into Drive or Reverse, then back to Park. Try to take out the key.

If it’s still stuck and you know you’re in Park, you might have a faulty shifter switch. This error causes the shifter to think it’s in a different position than it is. Keep your foot on the brake, move the shifter from Park to Neutral, and try to remove the key while you’re doing so.

4. Unlock the Steering Wheel

Most cars have a steering lock as a security feature. If the wheel turns too far to one side with no key in the ignition, the steering wheel locks. It can also lock while you’re driving if your car runs out of power steering fluid.

This lock automatically causes the ignition to lock as well. When the steering wheel locks, you can’t remove the key, but you can release both locks at once.

You can unlock the steering wheel by moving it back and forth while also turning the key. If your steering wheel locks too far to one side, try to move it in the opposite direction while you work to release your key.

5. Lubricate the Lock

Sometimes your key gets stuck because dirt or debris has built up in the ignition and has a hold on the key. You can use lubricant down into the ignition to loosen up what’s inside.

Since your key is stuck, you might have trouble getting the oil inside, but any spray lubricant with a pipe will allow you to focus the oil into the ignition.

Be careful with your keys to prevent this type of mishap. Don’t use your keys to open packages because the tape’s stickiness remains on the key and attracts dirt. That can make it harder for the key to work with the ignition pins. You can clean dirty keys with rubbing alcohol to ensure this won’t happen again.

6. Check the Safety Switch

Many cars have an extra safety switch. If you’ve ever had to push the key into the steering wheel while you turn it, then your vehicle has this feature. You might not be pushing in hard enough to fully rotate the key and remove it.

Check the owner’s manual to make sure you’re pushing it in properly and turning it in the correct direction to get the key out.

7. Call a Mechanic

If none of the above solutions work, or if your key breaks off in the ignition, your best bet is to call a mechanic.

While a locksmith could possibly get a broken key out with their tools, a mechanic can check out the whole car. They’ll find out if a hidden problem was causing the key to stick in the ignition.

They also have the capabilities to replace the ignition lock itself.

Wrapping Up…

Getting the key stuck in the ignition is a stressful situation, but it doesn’t have to be. Try these seven easy steps to remove it.

Remember to be careful so you don’t break the key or further damage your car.

If you handle it just right, you’ll have your car back on the road in no time.


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Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

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