7 Culprits Why Your Key Won’t Turn In Ignition

key won't turn in ignition
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As a car owner, few things are more frustrating than finding that your key simply won’t turn in the ignition. This is by no means a common problem; however, it is still possible for it to happen, and once it does, it can leave you feeling stuck and unsure of what to do the first time around.

Here at Expert Locksmith Aurora, we’ve listed 7 very common reasons why your key won’t turn in ignition, why exactly that happens, and a few suggestions on diagnosing and fixing the problem.

#1: The Steering Wheel Lock

One of the most, if not the most, common reasons that your key won’t turn in the ignition is due to the steering wheel lock. This tends to happen when you park your car and turn the steering wheel before shutting off the engine, causing the lock to engage. When this happens, it can prevent the key from turning in the ignition.


To fix this issue, you can try turning the steering wheel back and forth while gently jiggling the key in the ignition. This may help to disengage the steering wheel lock and allow the key to turn. It is important to note that the steering wheel lock is usually engaged when the wheels are turned to one side or the other, so you’ll need to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction of where it was locked.

key won't turn in ignition

#2: Dead Battery

Another possible cause of a key that won’t turn in the ignition is a dead battery. If the battery dies, it may not have enough power to turn the engine over, and the key won’t turn in the ignition.


You’ll need to jump-start the car or replace the battery to fix this issue. If you choose to jump-start the vehicle, make sure you have jumper cables and a second car to jump-start yours. Make sure to follow the proper steps when jump-starting your car. If the battery is the issue, you may also want to have the charging system checked to ensure that it’s working properly. If the battery is over three years old, it may be time to replace it.

key won't turn in ignition

#3: Ignition Switch Failure

If neither of the above solutions works, the problem may be with the ignition switch itself. Over time, the switch can wear out or become damaged, preventing the key from turning in the ignition.


You’ll likely need to replace the ignition switch to fix this issue. This job should be done by a professional, as it can be a complex process. The steering column cover will need to be removed and the battery disconnected before removing the old switch and installing the new one. It is important to note that if the problem persists even after replacing the ignition switch, the issue may be with the lock cylinder, which is a component of the ignition system that the key engages with to start the car.

key won't turn in ignition

#4: Damaged Key

Finally, a damaged key can also be the cause of a key that won’t turn in the ignition. Over time, keys can become worn down or damaged, preventing them from properly engaging with the ignition.


To fix this issue, you’ll need to have a new key made. A locksmith or your dealership can do this, and the work depends on the make and model of your car. If you have a key with a chip in it, in the case of modern vehicles, it will need to be programmed to work with your car, which is something that a dealership or a locksmith can only do.

key won't turn in ignition

#5: Tumbler Issues

The tumblers in the ignition cylinder may be worn down or stuck, preventing the key from turning. This is more common in older vehicles.


If you suspect that tumblers are causing the issue, you’ll need to have the ignition cylinder replaced or repaired. You can try spraying a small amount of lubricant in the ignition cylinder, which may help loosen any debris causing the problem. However, this is usually only a temporary solution. A professional locksmith can replace the tumblers or the entire ignition cylinder if needed.

#6: Dirty or Corroded Keyway

Dirt and debris can accumulate in the keyway over time, making it difficult for the key to turn. Similarly, corrosion can develop in the keyway, causing the key to get stuck.


If you suspect that dirt or debris is the issue, you can try cleaning the keyway with a small brush or compressed air. You can also try using a small amount of lubricant, such as graphite powder or silicone spray. This can help to loosen any dirt or debris and make it easier for the key to turn.

On the other hand, if corrosion is the issue, you’ll need to use a corrosion cleaner and a wire brush to clean the keyway. You can also try using a rust dissolver or a rust remover to help break up the corrosion. If the keyway is severely corroded, it may need to be replaced by a professional locksmith.

#7: Faulty Key Fob

If your car has a keyless ignition system, a faulty key fob may prevent the vehicle from recognizing the key, making it impossible to start it in the first place.


If you suspect that the key fob is the issue, you can try replacing the battery in the key fob or using a spare key fob if you have one. You can also try resetting the key fob by simultaneously pressing the lock and unlock buttons. If neither of these solutions works, you may need to have the key fob replaced by a dealership or a professional locksmith who specializes in electronic key systems. If you’re worried about prices, we have a helpful breakdown.

key won't turn in ignition

In conclusion 

If your key won’t turn in the ignition, there are several possible causes, ranging from minor issues like dirt in the keyway to more serious problems like a faulty ignition switch. By understanding the cause of the problem, you can take the appropriate steps to fix it or seek help from a professional locksmith. If you happen to go for the latter and you need professional locksmith services in Aurora, your friends at Expert Locksmith Aurora always have your back. Give us a call, and we’ll be there with the best and most reliable automotive locksmith services you’ll ever receive.

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