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Ignition Locked Up: Here’s How To Fix It

L B Landry Ave New Orleans, LA, US, 70114


As a car owner, you know that it can be frustrating to have your key not turn in the ignition. The problem is easy enough to solve, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out which solution is the best one for you.

There are a few things that could cause an ignition locked up situation and cause your key to not turn in your ignition, but the main culprits are worn down or broken teeth on the key itself. In this article, Master Locksmith will discuss these issues and how you can fix them so that you can get back on the road again quickly and easily.

What causes the ignition to be locked up?

There are three main culprits that cause a car ignition to lock up including the key itself, the components such as the gear, steering wheel, and battery, as well as the ignition cylinder itself.

Car Keys

When your car key won't turn in the ignition, it can be pretty frustrating. There are a few solutions you can do in order to get back on the road as soon as possible:


  • Your car keys are bent. A bent car key will be visible enough to be noticed, and you'll have to hammer it back to its flat shape. Now keep in mind that using a metal hammer is not recommended as it can damage the key or break it entirely. Use a wooden or rubber mallet and strike it from above to flatten the car key. In addition, using a wooden block as an anvil to cushion the blows. Restart the automobile after straightening the keys.
  • When your car keys are worn down, they won't work. This is because, as all items in your household are prone to wear and tear, so are car keys. A car key that is worn down will not be able to start the car as the pins inside your ignition cylinder will not drop correctly. Normally, a car has a spare key that comes with it. Try using that key before calling a locksmith or dealership for a replacement key. If you don't have a spare, try inserting the worn-out key entirely and pulling it back 1/16th of an inch, and trying again. Sometimes this can work but it's an indication that you'll need a new car key replacement. To get a new car key replacement, make sure to jot down your vehicle's VIN—which can be found on the driver's side windshield, driver's side interior dashboard, or in front of the engine block. You can also
  • The most common issues for a car key that won't turn in the ignition are using the wrong key and the key being dirty. Car owners probably have too many keys on their key rings and used the wrong one. Though absurd, this can happen. Another is crucial soil. Wipe the car key occasionally.

Ignition locked up due to wrong keys

Car Components

The ignition system is an intricate part of your vehicle, and it's designed to be robust and reliable. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong with the ignition system, you may find that your car key is no longer able to turn in the ignition.


There are a number of different components related to the ignition system, each of which can be the source of your trouble. Fortunately, they are also some of the quickest components on your car to identify and fix.

  • A locked steering wheel will not let you turn the key in the ignition. A common problem that has haunted many car owners, even myself. The only viable solution for this is to wiggle the wheel side to side while you try to turn the key. Now be sure not to go hard when wiggling the steering wheel. If the lock disengages, you can finally turn the key and start your car.
  • Most cars will not allow a car key to turn if the vehicle is not in park or neutral. Even more for automatic transmissions. First, if you have a manual or automatic one, be sure to check your shift lever if it is in park or neutral and make sure that it stays that way. Next, insert the car key in the ignition cylinder and turn it. In addition, most vehicles will not start even after placing your car in park or neutral if you do not have your foot on the brakes.
  • If you're having trouble getting your car to start, it might be something as simple as a dead battery. If the key won't turn in the ignition and it seems like the car is completely dead, check the life of your battery. This can be done by taking a voltmeter and testing it for an electrical current. If there's no current coming from the battery, it should be replaced. It could also be that there's just not enough power left in the battery to get the car started—you may need to charge or replace it.

Ignition Locked Up due to steering wheel

The Ignition Cylinder Locked Up

Another reason why your car key won't turn in the ignition is the ignition cylinder. There are two main culprits and here's how to troubleshoot them:

  • There's a lot of metal debris in your car's ignition cylinder. It could be from the car key, but it could also be from other sources. Either way, you'll want to clean the ignition cylinder out with compressed air or an electrical cleaner. If you're using compressed air, be sure to wear protective glasses as even small metal debris can cause serious damage to your eyes. Also, be sure not to use compressed air too much as extreme cold can damage the ignition cylinder. Using an electrical cleaner must be in short spurts. This will lubricate the ignition cylinder enough for the key to be turned. Once you've got your car started, be sure to contact a locksmith for an ignition cylinder replacement immediately as this problem will get worse over time.
  • Your ignition cylinder contains springs and pins that match your car key. Over time, these components can become damaged, which means you'll be unable to turn your key in the ignition cylinder. To fix this problem, use a tack hammer to gently tap the ignition cylinder. This will loosen any stuck parts and help them work correctly again. Keep in mind that if you hit too hard, you could damage the components further! Once you've gently tapped the ignition cylinder a few times, attempt to insert your key and turn it.

If the key won’t turn in the ignition, how can you remove an ignition cylinder?

If the key won't turn in the ignition, how can you remove an ignition cylinder?

It's a question that many car owners have asked, and it's one that we're happy to answer. We'll walk you through the process of removing an ignition cylinder so that you can get your car back on the road in no time at all.

If you have an older vehicle, you're in luck. Vehicles pre-200 have ignition lock sets that are pretty much installed in the same way. The first step is by disconnecting your car's battery and removing the airbag on the steering wheel. The next step is by removing the steering wheel with a steering wheel puller as well as a lock plate remover if you have a General Motor Vehicle from 1970-2000. If you do not know, GM Vehicle brands are Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Hummer, and Cadillac.

Now after removing both of the components, you will now have access to the ignition lock. Check if you have a set screw or a button to push that will allow you to remove the lock cylinder by sliding it out of its column. Now after you've removed the ignition cylinder, be sure to follow the repair manual on how to swap the part out. If you do not have the physical copy, you can check it online here. After you've successfully installed a new ignition cylinder, try to start the car. If it works, reconnect everything you've taken out, and if it doesn't, call a locksmith for an ignition cylinder replacement.


We hope this article was helpful in answering your questions such as "why does my ignition lock up" and "what causes the ignition to be locked up". Always remember to check if your car needs to be recalled by putting your VIN number on the NHSTA website. This will ensure that your car will not be determined as a safety risk and will meet the minimum safety standards by the NHSTA. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us and we would be more than happy to help.

Car Key Won't Turn In the Ignition? Call Master Locksmith!

If you're in the New Orleans area and your ignition cylinder is locked up, be sure to call Master Locksmith! We're committed to providing top-quality lock and key products and locksmith services to customers in the area. Our mission is to be your one-stop shop for help when you get locked out, need new locks installed, or need a key replacement. So if you're having car key issues, don't hesitate to give us a call!


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