The Key Won’t Turn! (Ignition Problems)

February 14th, 2023

You’ve just finished at the store shopping and you’re now ready to head home.  You put your key in the ignition and… oh, no! The ignition won’t turn! What do you do now?

Don’t panic.  There are some things you can try to get going again.  The first thing to do is see if you have a locking steering wheel, an anti-theft feature that was introduced around 1970.  Sometimes it sticks.  Move the steering wheel side to side while you try to turn the key and you might be able to get it to release.

Another thing to check is to see if your vehicle is in gear.  Most vehicles will only allow you to start the ignition if it’s in park or neutral.  If you have an automatic transmission vehicle and it is in park, try jiggling the shift lever and try the key again.  Sometimes the safety mechanism doesn’t properly make contact or gets a little sloppy. If you have a later model manual vehicle, you need to have the clutch pedal fully depressed to allow your vehicle to start. Sometimes if the floor mat has moved out of place it can get jammed up behind the clutch pedal, which will prevent the car from starting.

If both of these don’t work, it could be your vehicle’s battery is dead.  Some newer electronic systems require power so the key can turn. Others have alarm systems that detect if doors are open.

Other issues that can cause key problems include something jammed in the lock cylinder.  Or some of the springs or pins inside may be stuck.  Consider that it may be the key itself.  Sometimes they get bent or simply wear out from the number of times they’ve been put in and taken out of the cylinder. Also, if your key ring is quite heavy from a large number of keys this puts extra pressure on the key cylinder which can lead to it wearing out faster.

No matter what the cause, the first time this happens you should have someone check it out. That’s because if it happens once, it can happen again.  Even if you were able to get going again on your own, your ignition/key has warned you that something’s wrong.  Have it checked out by a professional so that you’re not locked into a bad situation.

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