If you suddenly see that you can’t pull your car key out of the ignition, it’s definitely aggravating. It can even cause you to go into a panic, particularly if you’re in a hurry, or if it happens after hours. If your key just won’t budge, then you aren’t going anywhere. But don’t let it get you down. There are steps you can take to deal with this situation effectively.

Common Reasons You’re in this Mess

  • Maybe your vehicle isn’t in park. Even if the gearshift looks like it’s in park, the shift lock solenoid, or another mechanism, could require replacement.
  • The battery may be dead. With most modern vehicles, if your battery dies, your key can become stuck inside the ignition.
  • There could be internal damage. Inside the ignition cylinder, a tumbler can become jammed up so that the springs won’t push the key back out.
  • If your key has broken off inside the lock cylinder, then it certainly isn’t coming out.
  • The column lock mechanism (the anti-theft device) might be failing. If so, you won’t be able to get your key out.
  • It may be that the sensor in the transmission isn’t sending the right signal to the column lock, making your key stick.
  • There could be a slight bit of grime or a minute object on the key, which is catching inside the mechanism.
  • Perhaps your key is slightly bent or otherwise damaged somehow.
  • There’s a good possibility that your wheel lock cylinder is worn out, and requires replacement.
  • Possibly, there’s a cable is loose (either behind the ignition or in the dashboard) so it will probably need replacing.
  • Did you force the key into the lock? It might be difficult to remove because it’s sitting inside the mechanism at a slightly wrong angle.
  • The transmission could be failing, meaning you can’t put your car in park. You should be able to pull the key out after you cycle the transmission several times.
  • Did you put the wrong key into the ignition cylinder? Maybe you presumed it was the correct key, but now it’s too late: You can’t get it out.

These are the most probable possibilities. Before trying any of the measures we list here below, first, put your parking brake on! You don’t want your automobile to roll away while you are trying to pull the key out!

Try These Solutions

1.      Look at the key’s position. On the ignition switch, see if your car key is still in the locked position. As your ignition cylinder starts to wear out, you may observe that it becomes easier to turn the key past the right position. This is especially true if the key has been connected to a bunch of keys and trinkets on your key chain, because the increased pressure on the cylinder that results eventually causes extra wear and tear. Insert the key, and then, ever so slightly, rotate it forward. In all probability, this should lock your ignition into the correct position, and you’ll finally be able to extract the key.

2.      Inspect your steering wheel. Your steering wheel can sometimes lock. If this occurs, the ignition switch will keep the car key locked in one position until the steering system comes unlocked. Don’t yank on the key! Instead, be gentle:

  • First, see whether you can get any movement at all from the steering wheel. Place your left hand on the steering wheel as you very softly rotate the key forward.
  • Now, very gently move the steering wheel to one side, and listen for a click.
  • If you don’t hear one, then very carefully turn the wheel the other direction.
  • At the moment you hear the click, try removing the key.

If you do successfully pull your key out, you’ll know that the issue involves pressure coming from the steering wheel.

3.      Is your battery dead? Does your dashboard illuminate when your transponder key is in the “on” position? Depending on your car’s make and model, a dead battery will prevent you from getting the transponder key out, since its chip won’t be accurately identified by your automobile’s computerized theft-deterrent system. Charging or replacing the battery is the easy solution.

4.      Check the park position. Your shifter has to be locked into park for you to be able to remove your car key. Sometimes, your vehicle won’t correctly lock into the park position. If you’re still able to move the gearshift lever out of park after you shut off the engine, then your linkage may need adjustment; or, it may be simply worn out and require replacement.

5.      Lubricate your car key. Spray a small amount of electrical cleaner between the ignition and the key. Be tremendously careful. Leave your car doors open while you do the following, so you won’t suffer from the fumes: Add a very tiny spray of silicone, or a drop or two of liquid graphite. Be sure to avoid any open flame or spark! And, don’t drip onto the upholstery. You might have to lubricate a second time. Next, turn the key ever so slightly, by exerting only minimum pressure. All this should make it possible for you to pull the key out at last.

After All This, Is Your Key Still Stuck?

Don’t waste your valuable time worrying. Hire a locksmith professional with the skill, knowhow, and experience necessary to painstakingly inspect your vehicle’s ignition switch, battery, gearshift lever, and so on. A reputable expert automotive locksmith will be capable of ascertaining the cause behind the problem and finding the best solution. You’ll soon be on your way again. If you’re stranded anywhere in Chino, California, consider the aptly named Chino Fast Locksmith, whose automotive locksmith specialists on staff are ready 24/7 to come to the rescue.

While You Wait for Help to Arrive

  • Lock your car manually with a spare key, to keep your vehicle secure.
  • If possible, put your key in the lock position so you won’t run down the battery.