9 Easy Steps To Follow When Key won’t Turn In Ignition

Elmer Harrison
7 min readMar 13, 2022


You are all suited up, ready to pick your girl for the prom. It’s the day you have been waiting for all year. You put on an expensive watch, get in the car, and take out your key. That’s when you realize the key won’t turn in the ignition. There goes your prom for the year and probably your girl too!

Its moments like this, you come to realize the importance of checking on your ride now and then. Nevertheless, all hope is not lost for today. You are about to get treated with 9 easy steps you can follow to fix the car’s ignition lock cylinder problems in no time.

Top Reasons Why Your Vehicle Key Isn’t Turning On Ignition

Before figuring out the solution to any problem, you need to find out its cause. Below are some of the common reasons behind your vehicle ignition not turning on despite using the key.

A Locked Steering Wheel

A locked steering wheel is a common practice put in place by most vehicle manufacturers. This feature locks the steering wheel upon rotation to either side without the ignition key in place. Thus if, in any case, a thief manages to start up the vehicle without the key, will be going in circles making the robbery.

This safety feature is significant and allows you to park the ride with peace of mind. A little drawback here is that the feature doesn’t allow you to fire up the ignition. You have to unlock the steering wheel for the ignition to work like usual.

Dirty Ignition Lock Cylinder

Chances are you have had a long run with your ride across deserts, forests, and mountains. While driving off-road is fun, there is lots of dirt involved in the adventure. Your ignition cylinder might get jammed due to all the dirt stuck inside. This also happens to older vehicles as everything needs to be cleaned and repaired with time. So the next time your car key won’t turn, you better look for dirt in the key cylinder.

Damaged OR Bent Key

It would help if you had a good key to go into the keyhole. Sound cringy, right? Well, your key needs to hit the right spots to turn on the ignition switch. One of the main reasons the ignition key won’t turn may be the key itself.

Keys, with time, wear out the loose, their sharp edges. This decreases the functionality of the key and, ultimately, the ignition cylinders. You can’t resist your key from aging, but you can prepare a spare key while there is still time. A new key will perform much better than an old one and offer you ignition at the first go. Besides, having an extra key is always a safe bet. So make one before the current one wears out.

Damaged Wafers

Wafers are components inside the ignition lock cylinder that the key goes into. Depending on the model, your vehicle can come with single-piece or two-piece wafers. Just like the key, these wafers, with time, can jam or wear out as well.

This leads to ignition lock cylinder problems where your key won’t turn or get jammed inside. One of the common reasons your wafers might get damaged is a heavy key ring. Your fancy and the heavy key ring may look nice but constantly stress the wafers. Thus unless you are looking to purchase a new ignition cylinder now and then, stick to a lighter key ring.

9 Easy Procedures To Turn On The Ignition System With The Ignition Key

Now that you have come to know why your key might be unable to wake up the ignition system, let’s find out the solution. To your delight, most of the solutions don’t even require a mechanic. Below are 9 effective procedures you can follow to get your up and roaring in no time.

1. Re Insert The Key

Sometimes the toughest problems require the simplest solution, and we fail to realize that. It’s not unusual to be in a rush to pick up your child or get the grocery and thus forget the basics. So you have failed to get the ignition started on the first try, turn the key multiple time to see if it works.

2. Adjust The Steering Wheel

In many cases, the steering wheel lock prevents the ignition key from functioning properly. This can be fixed by wiggling the steering wheel to either side. As mentioned before, place the key inside and gently turn it to either side while wiggling the steering wheel. If luck is on your side, you might get away with no issues at all.

3. Check The Car Battery

Many newer cars come with advanced features that turn off the ignition system upon any complication within the vehicle. This includes the health of the battery too. Your vehicle might not start in case you have a faulty or dead battery powering it up. For a quick check of the battery, you can use a voltmeter or the car lights as an indication.

4. Is The Gear Shift In the Right Position?

Many vehicles, especially those with automatic transmissions, don’t let you start the engine unless the gear shift is proper. This may be because many newer drivers may drive straight into a wall inside the parking lot. Thus always keep the gear in the park or neutral position for a faultless ignition.

5. Use A Spare Key

You can set up the ignition with a damaged key no matter how many times you try. It’s better to stop trying once you realize the key at hand is damaged. Under such a scenario, you need to pay a visit to the car dealership for a new key. This will cost you a bit more but is a safer option.

On the other hand, if you are clever enough should already own a spare key made from the original. This is usually done through an outsourced locksmith and costs less than the dealership. In case you haven’t made a spare key, it’s recommended you do it ASAP.

6. Clean Up The Key Cylinder

The key cylinder may contain metal debris, dirt, or similar substances. This will resist the proper placement of the car key inside the cylinder. To clean up the key cylinder, you can use compressed air, an electrical cleaner, or a silicon-based lock lubricant.

You need to be very careful what you use to clean up the key cylinder. For this, you take tips from your car repair gut or reach Locksmith company. Also, remember to put on safety glasses and follow other safety measures during the cleaning.

7. Jiggle The Key To Free Up The Ignition Cylinder

In case any of the above steps haven’t worked for you, it has to be said you are having a tough time. Nevertheless, there is still time for a turnaround, and you might still strike luck. For this, give a gentle jiggle to the car key, placing it inside the ignition cylinder. A little jiggle should be enough to clear any jammed wafers out of the way.

If your vehicle’s ignition starts with the jiggle of the key, don’t go rushing to the pizza store as the danger isn’t over yet. Your first destination should be a trusted locksmith who will address the defect with the key cylinder and have it fixed. Make sure to keep the car key placed inside the ignition cylinder until you reach the locksmith.

8. Use Force

It seems your car key and ignition cylinder has been very naughty with you. This is the time most owners lose control and do something foolish. You need to remember that any excess force on any car components may cost you big later on.

This being said, you might be in desperate need of the ignition to work. After all, you can’t reach for help quickly in the middle of jungle or desert trips. A hammer handle, thick end of the screwdriver, or any similar tool will be handy in such scenarios. As your last effort, you can place the key halfway into the ignition cylinder and apply some force to slide it inside. This will help your key turn the right way as any jam caused by the wafer will be dealt with force.

It has to be said that attempting this technique might permanently damage the key and ignition cylinder. Thus this sort of force should only be applied if any of the methods listed above fails. Upon success, consider the day being yours and rush to a locksmith with the key kept as it is.

9. Take Help From An Expert Automotive Locksmith

Sometimes you need to fail in life to learn. The experience of failure will make you cautious and ready for the impending danger. The same is true in this scenario. Besides, it’s never safe to travel with a broken ignition system if you can’t figure out the cause. Thus it’s finally time to bring home a locksmith to deal with the problem.

After monitoring the case, the locksmith will fix or replace the key/ignition cylinder. A locksmith’s service may cost more or less depending on the expertise. If you live in Seattle You can call Fast Locksmith, for quality locksmith services. If you need to Find a Locksmith near your location you can use Locksmiths Finder directory.


Below are short answers to a few of the related questions that might come to your mind when the vehicle key won’t turn inside the ignition cylinder.

When I put my key in the ignition, it won’t turn?

Your key or the ignition cylinder may be damaged.

What causes the ignition to lock up?

Damaged wafers or dirt causes the ignition to lock up.

Why can’t I get my key out of the ignition?

Because it’s stuck. Better reach for a locksmith or try the procedures mentioned above.

What would cause the ignition switch to lock up?

Sometimes, the safety features of the vehicles cause the ignition switch to lock up.

What does it mean if the ignition is locked?

A steering wheel lock might lead to an ignition lock.

Fast Locksmith

3400 W Barrett St Seattle, WA 98199





Elmer Harrison

Elmer Harrison, and I’m the owner of Fast Locksmith. My company is a family business that provides locksmith services in Seattle WA Metropolitan Area.