What to do when your ignition switch won’t work

Nothing can be more stressful than when your key gets stuck in your ignition and you can’t get it out.

You can’t just leave it in the ignition, but if you put too much pressure on it your key could break off, creating an even bigger problem.
Before you start to panic, there are a few things you can do to try to maneuver your key out of the ignition:

Check your key’s position in the ignition switch. If you can still play your radio but your car’s engine is off and you can’t remove your key, your key is probably not in the “off” position. Be sure your car is also in park. Many cars won’t let you remove your key if your vehicle isn’t in park.

Move your steering wheel back and forth. Sometimes the steering wheel position will lock your ignition and moving the wheel back and forth will let you unlock the ignition and get your key out. Don’t jerk the wheel too forcefully, though.

Check your car battery. Sometimes your key will get stuck in the ignition because your car battery is dead. If this is the case, your battery needs a jumpstart. When your battery is partially charged, you may be able to remove the key.

Attempt to loosen the key. Sometimes a silicone electrical lubricant can free your key from the ignition or you could try using a bobby pin to try to override the ignition lock. It’s important to be careful so you don’t break your key in the ignition.

If you’ve tried several ways to get your key out of the ignition and it’s still stuck, you can call a locksmith. A locksmith may have an idea on why your key got stuck and give you some advice on how to avoid this problem in the future. Sometimes the solution is a new key. If your key is worn it can prevent the ignition from turning. Try using a spare key and see if it works better.
Sometimes the best solution is to replace the ignition switch, especially if the problem involves the anti-theft system or a bad receiver within the ignition switch that is having trouble reading the key.

If your engine starts and seems to run well, but suddenly dies while you are driving, this could indicate a worn ignition switch. If the ignition switch loses power, the engine will misfire or die. If you have a heavy key ring it can, over time, put more stress on your ignition switch and eventually cause it to fail.

The easiest and safest way to deal with a malfunctioning ignition switch is to take it to an auto repair shop and have it replaced. Ignition switches are hard to remove, which is done on purpose to make them harder to steal. They’re also harder to access. In some cases the steering wheel may have to be removed to replace the ignition switch, requiring the airbag system to be deactivated.
Escondido Auto Tech has experienced technicians who understand electrical repairs and part replacement. To schedule an appointment, call (760) 745-4454 or visit us online at www.eatauto.com.