YOUR CAR KEY IS STUCK IN THE IGNITION - WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT!
It's not always the other guy; sometimes it happens to you! Stuck ignition keys are what we are talking about. You are quietly going about your business with the day's plans mapped out. You hop in the car and ready to get the day started. You turn the ignition key and it doesn't move; in fact, it won't even come out! You try a little harder to turn the key or remove it and…nothing! What now? Do you try and force it? How much stress should you apply? What if it breaks off in the lock? Then you'll need a key replacement as well as broken-off key extraction!
The scenario above takes place at home, but what if this happens and you are not home? You can't drive your car and in fact, you can't even lock it because the key is stuck in the ignition! Our Mountain Brook Locksmith techs get calls like these from time to time. But even if don't live in the general Mountain Brook, AL area, you can still follow our advice and make the situation end faster and become less stress inducing.
Take these two important steps!
No, these two steps won't release your ignition key but they will make the situation safer for you and easier to cope with. Here they are; 1) take a deep breath and 2) apply your parking brake. Did you take a deep breath to relax a bit? Good. Being panicky usually leads to mistakes and costly errors. We mentioned broken off keys but freaking out also can cause additional expense by calling the first locksmith you can find or worse; enlisting the help of anyone around; well-meaning or not! You may not need a locksmith or anyone else; for that matter. You won't know that if you rush into action just because you were stressed.
Applying the parking brake is a safety precaution. You are going to try a few different solutions and you certainly don't want the car rolling forward or backward in the process.
So far, so good!
Now that you are calmer and safely braked, try and move the ignition key back and forth, gently. Your goal is to loosen it enough to remove it - not force it! Sometimes, this is all that takes to get your ignition key to come out in one piece. Your next step is to check your gear. You need to be in the PARK gear and not in anything else. It's a good thing you applied the parking brake (you did; didn't you?).
There is a built-in safety feature that will not allow you to remove the key if you are not actually in the PARK gear. You cannot be in DRIVE or NEUTRAL or in-between. The engineers who designed this were trying to prevent an accidental (or deliberate) removal of the ignition key while driving. The effects of that would be disastrous! See if that works.
Try moving the steering wheel
Sometimes, when the steering wheel is leaned upon with too much pressure, it locks up and won't release the ignition key. When this action happens, people often panic and call for AAA road side repair or their local automotive locksmith to come fix their "damaged" car. In reality there was no need to call anyone. If this happens to you, simply apply pressure to your steering wheel in a back and forth motion and "unlock" it. Upon doing so, your ignition key will release and you can start your engine once more.
Your car's battery
Is your battery drained? If it is, there won't a strong enough signal sent by your transponder key to tell your car's computer that it is allowed to start. You can test your battery yourself by seeing if your dashboard or headlights turn on. You can also test to see if your radio or your windshield wipers work. Make sure that your radio volume is up enough or you may be fooled into thinking that your battery is drained, when in fact, it isn't, and you just couldn't hear the radio.
Did you use the wrong key?
We are serious. In today's busy world of hustle and bustle, it is easy to grab the wrong key and insert it into the ignition. Many transponder keys look alike and just because they go in, doesn't mean that they will easily come back out! Keep in mind that in today's households there may be more than one car. That means multiple transponder keys and unless you are paying attention, you might grab a key that does not match your vehicle's ignition requirements. If this happens, try tapping the top of the key lightly with a flat surface. The goal is to loosen it enough to allow it to be pulled out. What you don't want to do is lodge it in further.
The time for brute strength is not now!
Please resist the temptation to apply strong force. Doing so will not help as brute strength might snap your key off in the lock and ultimately, it is less hassle and expensive to have an ignition key removed professionally than to pay for both extraction and new key duplication and transponder chip programming.
Spray your key free!
Here's another little known tip. Take some electrical contact cleaner and spray some on the ignition lock. Wait a few seconds and then spray some silicon lock lubricant on it. When combined like this, the two sprays act to both clean and lubricate the ignition lock and often, this is enough to release that stuck key.
Call for help
Yes, at this point, it may be time to actually call for professional help. You need to have the shop telephone number to a full service, 24-hour locksmith in your smart phone. There are plenty of them (including us!) in the local area. Sometimes you can't always avoid a service call but if you use the right technicians, your key can be removed quickly, correctly and affordably.