Car keys can get stuck in your car’s ignition because of a number of factors, thus leading you to get stuck, and unable to use your car, which can be a real hassle. To determine what is causing the problem in order to resolve it, here are the top 7 reasons why a key gets stuck in the ignition.

Parking Gear Isn’t Ready

Most of the time, the reason behind a stuck car key is that the gear is not in “Park”, mostly because when you try to shift into ‘park’, the gear did not move all the way over. Before attempting to remove the key, make sure that the “P” is highlighted on your car’s digital display if it displays gear settings. If you drive a manual car, ensure that the gear switch is set to “Neutral”.

Locked steering wheel

The majority of cars have a built-in steering wheel lock, which automatically gets triggered if you switch off your automobile while turning the steering. With the lock enabled, it will be impossible or you to turn the steering wheel or take the key out of the ignition.

On the Key: Debris

Are you habitual of opening packages and shipments using your automobile keys? While this approach assists you in pulling the box tape through, it can also cause the tape to stick to the key. If this happens, you will have a harder time contacting the pins of the ignition cylinder with your key if you place it in the ignition while the tape is still stuck to it.

Dead Battery

The battery provides electricity to the ignition system, which allows it to work correctly. Therefore, the key withdrawal will be impossible if the battery is dead.

Worn out or damaged key

Car keys get degraded due to the effects of wear and tear after some time. The key wears down a little bit every time you insert it in the ignition.

Moreover, when the key is not in use, it is tossed around on hard surfaces or kept in pockets and purses with various other objects that further cause it to degrade.

A worn-out key is more likely to get stuck in the ignition, so be sure to get it replaced when you see signs of damage on it.

Ignition Cylinder Damage

Ignition Cylinder Damage

Ignition Cylinder Damage

Your car keys are more likely to get stuck in the ignition lock cylinder if it is already damaged and is on the verge of failing, your key will more likely be stuck in it. The many rows of spring-loaded pins inside your ignition lock that are supposed to match the teeth of your key, fail to work properly, causing the key to getting stuck inside.

TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) or Manufacturer Recall

Although it’s highly unlikely, vehicles of a specific year, type, and model are sometimes subjected to a recall by the manufacturer (Technical service bulletin TSB) which can be concerning the ignition lock cylinder of your vehicle.

Removing a Stuck Key from the ignition

Here are some tips and tricks that can help you remove a stuck key from the ignition.

  1. Confirm that for an automatic vehicle, the gear stick is set to Park (P), or in the case of a manual vehicle, the gear should be set to “Neutral.”
  2. Try rotating the steering wheel back and forth while gently turning the key.
  3. Ensure that the battery is not dead.

If you are still unable to remove the key from the ignition, then it’s time to employ some advanced tricks.

  1. Spray small amounts of WD-40 in the ignition lock beside the stuck key. A tiny straw that comes with the can of WD-40 should be sufficient to lubricate your key and the ignition lock easily. This extra lubrication will allow you to extract the key by wiggling it gently.
  2. If you see some dirt or crud accumulation on your key, clean it thoroughly using rubbing alcohol or an adhesive remover.

Remember to always be gentle. Wrestling with a stuck key will have you end up breaking the key altogether, making the removal process all the more difficult. If you somehow end up breaking your key, never attempt to get the bottom half of the key out by reinserting the broken top half of the key.

You’ll just make the removal process harder by pushing the broken-off section deeper into the lock. Here’s how you can Extract a Broken Key Without Damaging Your Ignition Lock:

Key extraction tool

This is a tool that a professional locksmith normally uses to extract the broken part of the key, and it’s generally a lot less expensive to use.
Blade for Jigsaw

Key extraction tool

Key extraction tool

A jigsaw blade is thin enough to fit alongside the ignition key. After entering the blade, spin it slightly to allow the blade’s notches to grip the broken key, and then carefully draw it out.

Needle-nose Pliers / Tweezers

Tweezers or needle-nose pliers can be used to remove any parts of the key that are still protruding from the ignition. However, if the damaged key is totally stuck in the ignition lock, these tools will most likely be too thick to help.


Call a locksmith if all else fails or if you just want to be sure it’s done correctly.