Ignition Key Won’t Turn – What to Do, Repair Options and More.

Ignition replacement

Table of Contents

Overview

Automotive locksmith replacing an old ignition
Automotive locksmith replacing an old ignition

One of the most common ignition problems is when the key won’t turn in the ignition and start the car. Here we will give the main reasons for why it happens, solutions, options and more.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not try to force the key to turn or put pressure on the key. This will not solve any problem and may only make things worse.

Main reasons why the ignition key won’t turn:

ignition cylinder replacement parts
ignition cylinder replacement parts

Pressure on the ignition switch by the steering wheel –

This usually happens when the car is parked uphill, or downhill and the steering wheel is turned in either direction. There is a lot of pressure on the steering column and therefore, the ignition switch is stuck.

Solution:

Release the pressure by turning the wheel in one direction; keep the wheel in this position while trying to turn the key. Alternatively, turn the wheel to the opposite side and try again.

Worn out ignition cylinder or wafers –

An inside look of ignition cylinder
An inside look of ignition cylinder

The ignition cylinder has a lot of parts in it e.g. springs, wafers, sidebar, pins and more. A broken or stuck (dirt, sand etc.) part will cause a malfunction of the ignition.

Solution:

Try lubricating the ignition with WD-40 or similar lubricants and then GENTLY try to jiggle the key up and down while turning the key.

Alternatively, in case you have a spare key, try using it. Sometimes a worn-out key may not work “perfectly” on the ignition wafers, but a slightly different cut key may.

IMPORTANT: This is only a temporary solution and you must call an automotive locksmith to address the issue, as it will probably happen again

Ignition cylinder housing and cover
Ignition cylinder housing and cover

Worn out key –

Rekey kit for ignition cylinder
Rekey kit for ignition cylinder

Mostly relevant for older keys and models. The key must be in a certain shape to turn the ignition and therefore worn out key may not turn the ignition.

Solution:

You will need to cut a new key by the original code. An automotive locksmith can do that or you can call the dealer for certain models. In addition, a duplicate will not be a solution.

Temporary solution: GENTLY try to jiggle the key up and down while turning the key.

IMPORTANT: This is only a temporary solution and you must call an automotive locksmith to address the issue as it will probably happen again.

Automotive locksmith changing the ignition cylinder wafers to match new key
Automotive locksmith changing the ignition cylinder wafers to match new key

Final thoughts

New wafers outside of ignition
New wafers outside of ignition

There are many types of ignition cylinders and different types of keys.

Remember that some of them require coding (like chip keys or transponder keys)

In addition, some keys, like older VATS keys mostly used for GM models, require a specific chip inside the key, which only a locksmith or dealer can get.

Make sure to ask if your locksmith, mechanic, or dealer has the relevant tools and keys to help you solve the situation before you tow the car there or when you call for service.

Provide the exact year, make and model of your car, as well as the VIN number.

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