Car key stuck in the ignition; what to do about it!
It’s a scary feeling. You get in your car with the full intention of just starting it and going to your destination. But that doesn’t happen; instead, your key gets stuck in the ignition. It won’t turn; it won’t even come back out! Locksmith in San Bernardino gets calls for this type of problem on a regular basis and our locksmiths have some suggestions about what you should do if this happens to you.
It can get confusing. Sometimes your ignition key is so stuck that it won’t turn or come back out. Other times, your ignition will work and the engine will start but later, the key won’t come out. It’s easy to lump all key related issues to a faulty ignition system but is it really? Most of us are not automotive locksmiths or experienced auto mechanics so we often guess what they problem might be. Many worried thoughts can run through your head at this time. Do you have to call for help or can you fix the problem yourself? How are you going to get to work or get the kids to school? Will this repair be expensive and leave you with no car for a while? Does your auto insurance cover auto rentals? Are you behind in maintenance, making this your fault? Will you need a tow truck? Is this covered by AAA?
What can you do about this?
Sure, you can call our automotive locksmiths but you may not need to! Read on and see how you might just save yourself a service call. This works whether you live here in San Bernardino, CA or anywhere else! Start by calming yourself. Seriously; a calm mind can respond instead of just react. When you react, you often overspend due to stress and the strong urge to make the unpleasant situation go away. For example, let’s say you panic and call a tow truck to take you to an auto repair shop. You have two charges now, plus a service area wait and lack of car use to top it off. On the other hand a calmer head would know to check a few things first and see if those actions were enough to restore your car’s ignition system to normal. Remember; take deep breathes and relax first before you call towing or repair service!
Relax first; safety second!
Now that you’ve calmed yourself somewhat, take a moment and apply your parking brake. You don’t want to risk your safety or that of your loved ones due to your car rolling forward or backward while you are momentarily distracted. It only takes a moment and it really is a good habit to learn. Put the parking brake on and let’s move on to some stuck key solutions.
The easy stuff!
Is the brake on? Good. Now apply some pressure to the key. Be careful not to go ‘hog wild’ and force it! Keys are sturdy and made of metal but they do break and the last thing you want now is to have to have a new transponder key programmed and duplicated and pay for broken key extraction! Now that you’ve done that, do this; check your parking gear. It HAS to be in PARK; nothing else! Your car has a built-in safety feature that prevents you from starting your car in the wrong gear. There’s no ‘almost’ here; you need to be in PARK.
Locked steering wheel
Is your steering wheel locked too? A little too much pressure on your steering wheel can cause it to lock. This action also includes your ignition. It won’t let you turn on the car or even remove the key. This can frighten drivers to the point that they call repair service, roadside assistance or even a tow truck. It is often assumed that the entire ignition system and/or steering is now ruined and must be replaced. This is far from true. Just apply some firm pressure on the steering wheel and it will unlock and even release the ignition key. It literally takes seconds to do this and this action alone can save you lots of money and stress.
A drained battery can also cause your ignition key to lock up. Here’s how it can affect your ignition key. Your transponder key has a computer chip embedded inside the head. When you turn the ignition key, this chip sends a signal to your car’s on board computer telling it to start the engine. If your vehicle’s battery is too low, this signal can be so weak that it can’t transmit correctly and your ignition won’t be able to start. Remember the battery test we did earlier where you checked your headlights, windshield wipers and radio? If your battery is low, it can and often will lock up your ignition key.
It is not that common but wrong key insertions do happen. Just because a transponder key goes into the ignition key slot, there’s no guarantee that it will come back out easily or at all. You may be wondering just how anyone could get their hands on someone else’s ignition key. It’s actually easy. Many car makers have similar looking keys and if you have multiple drivers in your household or workplace where keys can be intermingled or mistaken for one another, it is quite easy to accidentally grab the wrong one and insert it in the ignition cylinder. Of course, the car won’t start as the key’s computer chip won’t match your car’s onboard computer. The ignition may just clamp down and not release the key. So what do you do? Don’t force it or you might wind up with a broken off key (that isn’t even yours!). Try spraying some electrical contact cleaner and then some silicon lubricant on the key. Just use a light spritz of each. This should be enough to release the stuck key. After all this, if nothing worked; then call an automotive locksmith in your town for expert ignition key extraction.