It’s really frustrating when you’re about to start the ignition and the key won’t even turn to lock into its position. To get it to work you can try –
- Inserting the key only partially and then turning it
- Twisting the key a couple of times in the position
- Sliding the key in and out several times before turning it
These are some quick fixes that usually work, but there can be deeper underlying problems that you should look at. But first, let’s look at more detailed ways to put the quick fixes into use.
Simple Ways to Fix Ignition Key Not Turning or Locking into Position
Before diagnosing issues with the internal components of your car, you can try out these simple solutions and see if they work.
1. Clean The Key Before Using It On The Ignition
Although not always visible, your car key can accumulate a lot of dirt and grease on its grooves. The debris will form a whole new layer, which causes the pin pattern to change ever so slightly, but enough to not lock it in.
Use a wet wipe to thoroughly rub the key and dry it well. If it still looks dirty or greasy, take a toothbrush and carefully scrub the grooves with soapy water. Make sure to dry it completely right after so that there is no trace of moisture.
An important tip would be to not use your car key for anything else. We tend to open packages or poke holes in things with the car’s needs when nothing else is nearby.
This should be avoided by all means as it can cause damage to the key and render it malfunctioning afterward.
2. Slide It Out a Bit And Then Turn It
Insert the key in fully, and then pull it out ever so slightly and then try turning it to activate the ignition. Keep in mind that you should not pull it out too much, but only about 1/16th of the whole key.
So, you have to do this very carefully.
This trick usually works if your key is very old and the grooves have started to wear out already. But until you get yourself a new car key, this trick is a quick and easy solution as the ignition only required a few pins to be engaged to start up.
3. Wiggle The Key While Turning It
Instead of just smoothly inserting the key, wiggle it slightly back and forth as you put it in. Continue this motion when turning the key as well. This can help the key to hit the right pins in the ignition for the car to start.
But make sure to do this with little pressure, as doing it too hard can damage the key even more. This option usually works, but you will need to get a new key eventually as it is a clear sign that the key is very worn out.
4. Insert And Pull Out the Key Several Times
Even if your car key is squeaky clean, the keyhole itself can be dirty with a layer of dust and debris. So put in the key completely, and then slide it out. Continue this movement a couple of times, and then activate the engine.
You can also try this method by adding some lubricant to the key. Lubricating the key will also get rid of any dirt stuck in the keyhole that is preventing it from locking and turning.
Check for Problems in Other Areas
If none of the quick fixes worked, then the issue could be residing elsewhere. Here are some of the common things you should also check out to find out why your key won’t lock or turn.
1. Move The Steering Wheel
The problem might not be with the key or keyhole, but with the steering wheel being locked.
In most modern cars, the steering wheel locks itself right after the key is pulled out from the ignition. This means that the steering wheel will stay locked in that position as soon as you remove the key.
What you can do is gently turn the steering wheel from right to left while slowly turning the key in the ignition at the same time.
You can also try wiggling the key in the ignition while rocking the steering wheel gently. The steering wheel will then unlock itself after the key turns.
2. Shift into park
If your car is automatic, then the key won’t turn unless the car’s gear is shifted into park or neutral. Place your foot on the brake, and then slowly move the gear shift from left to right. Continue to do this while trying to start the engine.
3. Check the battery
The key won’t turn on the ignition if your car battery is dead or draining too fast.
This is a common issue in most modern cars as they won’t allow the key to turn the ignition if the battery is drained completely. But the solution to this is simple – you just need to replace the battery and you’re good to go.
4. Inspect for severe damage to key
If your key is bent or is cracked on the surface, then it won’t hit the necessary pins to start the ignition.
If the grooves are also too smoothed out, then that won’t be enough to lock it in position to start the car either. You will need to get a new key immediately.
What to do When the Key Won’t Even Lock into Position?
You’ve managed to insert the key into the keyhole, but it won’t lock into its position securely. The common reasons for this are issues with the shift lock cable and ignition cylinder. Let’s see how you can fix these problems.
Fix/Replace the Shift Lock Cable
Remove the shift cover and see the state of the cable. If it is loose, you can just take a screw and tighten it up. But if the cable is frayed and damaged, you need to get it replaced with the help of a skilled car mechanic.
Clean the Ignition Port
Dirt and dust can accumulate in the ignition cylinder, so get some canned air and spray it directly into the keyhole in two to three spurts. Then turn the key again after cleaning.
Check the Steering Column
If you know how to, then take apart the steering column and individually inspect its components.
If any of the separate parts seem to be worn out or damaged, you’ll need to get new ones and assemble the column back together. Otherwise, get a car mechanic to look into it and fix the problem.
Replace the Ignition Cylinder
When nothing else works, you might just have to get a new ignition cylinder altogether.
A good car technician can you help you do this. In some cases, you will be provided with a new car key to go with the replacement ignition cylinder.
If your car key won’t lock into position and turn, it is best to first try out some quick fixes, like partially inserting the key, or wiggling it while cranking the engine.
But the issue can also lie in the steering wheel, gear shift, ignition cylinder, or the state of the key itself. So, check properly, and implement the necessary steps you need to take.