7 Reasons Your Car Key is Stuck in the Ignition (and How to Remove It!)

“Argh! My key won’t come out of the ignition!” If that’s every happened to you, you know how stressful it can be to have your car key get stuck in the ignition of your vehicle.

You may panic while you try to figure out how to get it out since you can’t just leave it in the ignition with the doors unlocked. But, whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to use brute force.

Here are the most common reasons why a key gets stuck in the ignition. And more importantly, how to get it UN-STUCK.

car keys in ignition

Causes of a Car Key That Gets Stuck in the Ignition

There are a variety of reasons as to why your car key won’t come out. Some of these reasons may pertain to a unique problem in a specific make and model vehicle. However, most causes of key sticking are universal and can happen in any make and model vehicle.

You just need to understand these causes so that you can figure out the solution to the problem. Below are the top 7 causes of a key getting stuck in the ignition.

#1 – Parking Gear Not Set

set gear to park

The gear of the transmission must always be set to “Park” before attempting to remove a car key from the ignition. In an automatic transmission, if the gear is set to drive, neutral, or any other available gear, then the key will not come out. In a manual transmission, make sure the gear shifter is set to “Neutral” and not in any other gear.

Sometimes people may attempt to change the gear to park, but the gear doesn’t get set all the way over to it. If your vehicle has a digital screen which displays the gear settings, check that to ensure the “P” is highlighted.

#2 – Steering Wheel Lock

steering wheel hard to turn at low speeds

If you turn off your vehicle while moving the steering wheel just a little bit, the steering wheel lock will activate. Not only will this prevent you from turning the steering wheel, you won’t be able to pull out the key from the ignition either.

This is due to the ignition cylinder locking at the same time as the steering wheel lock. To release both locks at the same time, try turning the key while wiggling the steering wheel around. You should be able to take the key out now or start the engine.

#3 – Debris on Key

Some people like to open boxes and packages with their car key. While this might be effective at tearing through the box tape, it could also cause pieces of the tape to stick to the key.

If you were to then place the key into the ignition of your vehicle while the tape is still stuck to it, then it will be harder for the key to engage the ignition cylinder’s pins.

#4 – Dead Battery

battery voltage

The ignition system depends on power from the battery to function properly. If the battery dies, it will likely cause the ignition system to lock up. Then you won’t be able to get the key out of the ignition.

The best thing you can do here is to wait for a jump start or new battery to be installed. Either that or use a tack hammer and gently tap the cylinder with it.

#5 – Worn or Damaged Key

worn or damaged car key

Car keys can take a lot of abuse over the years. Each time you put the key in the ignition and turn, it wears the key just a little bit. When aren’t not using your car key, you may keep it in your pocket or toss it onto a hard-surfaced desk. This kind of abuse will slowly damage your car key.

If it ever bends or forms a small crack somewhere, then it will be tougher to remove it from the ignition. Replace the key immediately if you start noticing this damage.

#6 – Damaged Ignition Cylinder

ignition switch replacement cost

If you have an ignition lock cylinder that’s on the verge of failing, it can prevent your key from coming out. This is because there are several rows of spring-loaded pins inside the ignition lock which match up with the shape of your key when inserted.

If these pins are slightly out of alignment, it can prevent you from removing the key (or even inserting it in the first place).

#7 – Manufacturer Recall or TSB

vehicle recall TSB

While rare, there is the possibility that your particular year, make, and model of car or truck is subject to a recall or technical service bulletin (TSB) directly related to the ignition lock cylinder.

You can check to see if your vehicle is affected by entering your VIN number in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. Even if it’s not, it’s a good idea to check to get the status of any other outstanding recalls or TSBs.

How to Get a Stuck Key Out of the Ignition

Getting your car key unstuck from your ignition is dependent on the situation. Is this the first time it won’t come out? Does the key keep getting stuck in the ignition? Did you already try to get the key out and ended up breaking the key? Here’s what you should do in each situation.

Key Stuck in the Ignition (1st time)

#1 – Set Parking Gear

The most common reason for not being able to get the key out is that your car’s parking gear is not set. Confirm your gear selector is set to “P” or “Park” on an automatic transmission or the shifter is set to “Neutral” in a manual transmission.

#2 – Unlock the Steering Wheel

Your key might be stuck in the ignition due to the steering wheel lock. Sometimes when the steering column locks (a safety and anti-theft feature in most cars), it puts additional pressure on the ignition lock mechanism and prevents the key from coming out.

By slightly moving the steering wheel, the pressure on the lock is removed and the key should slide out. Here’s how to unlock the steering wheel:

  1. Gently turn the steering wheel left and right while simultaneously trying to turn the key.
  2. If the steering wheel remains locked, try turning the key to the Accessory mode.
  3. Continue to wiggle the steering wheel while turning the key until it releases.

#3 – Check for a Dead Battery

A dead car battery can be the culprit for a stuck key in the ignition. To see if you have a drained battery:

  1. Turn your headlights on to see if they’re dim or not working.
  2. If your headlights are dim or not working, try jump-starting the car.
  3. If the car starts, the key might be able to come out of the ignition.

Key KEEPS Getting Stuck in the Ignition

If you’ve noticed that it’s been slightly more difficult to get your key in and out of the ignition over time or the key keeps getting stuck in the ignition, here are a couple things to try.

#1 – Lubrication

Try spraying a little bit of WD-40 into the ignition lock. The can should come with a thin straw that should fit (or almost fit) into the space between your key and the ignition lock.

Sometimes, this additional lubrication will be enough to allow the key to be removed by gently wiggling it. Once the key is out, inspect it for damage or any sign of being bent. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have the key replaced.

#2 – Rubbing Alcohol / Adhesive Remover

If the key is not damaged but you notice some dirt or gunk on the key, take some rubbing alcohol or adhesive remover (ie: Goo Gone) and thoroughly clean the key.

If using WD-40 to remove the key doesn’t work and you’ve already tried the two fixes in the section above, you may have a problem with the ignition lock itself. You’ll want to contact a locksmith or mechanic to confirm this but an ignition lock cylinder replacement may be in your future.

Key Broke Off in the Ignition

remove broken car key from ignition

Hopefully, this hasn’t happened to you but if it did, you’re not the first person. Usually this happens when too much force is used to try to remove a stuck key. Here’s what you can do.

NOTE: DO NOT try to reinsert the broken top half of the key to get the bottom half out. All you’ll do is push the broken off part further into the lock and make your job of removal more difficult.

#3 – Key Extractor

Use a key extraction tool to remove the broken key. This is often something a professional locksmith would use and usually much cheaper than calling one. There are a few different types but this one does the best job of removing a key that’s broken off in a lock (any type of lock).

#4 – Jigsaw Blade

Because a jigsaw blade is so thin, it can often fit right alongside the key within the ignition pathway. After inserting the blade, turn it ever so slightly so the notches in the blade grab on to the broken key, and then slowly pull it out.

#5 – Tweezers / Needle Nose Pliers

If any part of the key is still protruding from the ignition, tweezers or needle nose pliers are an easy solution to get it out. But, if the broken key is completely in the ignition lock, these tools are probably too thick to do much good.

Professional Help

Contact a Locksmith

When all else fails or you simply want to make sure it’s done right, call a locksmith. It may cost a bit more upfront but they’ll get the job done.

In some cases, they can even repair or replace the worn or damaged key that’s causing the problem. Remember, you’re not the first person who’s gotten their key stuck in the ignition. Locksmiths deal with this issue all the time.

Manufacturer Recall

It’s worth checking if there has been a manufacturer recall related to your ignition issue. Vehicle recalls occur when a manufacturer identifies a safety-related problem or non-compliance with federal safety standards.

If such a recall exists, you may be able to get the issue fixed at no cost to you. As already mentioned above, visit the NHTSA website or check with your local dealership to see if a recall exists for your vehicle.

Technical Service Bulletin

A Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) may also provide information on how to fix key stuck in ignition issues.

TSBs are guidelines issued by automotive manufacturers to help dealerships and mechanics diagnose and repair specific problems. While a TSB isn’t a recall, it shows the manufacturer acknowledges the issue and may be able to provide guidance on how to resolve it.

Preventing a Stuck Key

You might wonder how to prevent a key from getting stuck in the ignition in the first place. Well, there are a few things you can do to lessen the odds of it happening.

  1. Always make sure to use the right key for your car. Using the wrong key can quickly cause the lock to jam and the key to get stuck. So, double-check your keyring and ensure you’re inserting the correct one.
  2. Avoid putting too much pressure on the key when turning it. Gently turning the key should be enough to start the engine. Applying excessive force may not only jam the key but also damage the ignition cylinder.
  3. Keep your car key and ignition clean. Occasionally, debris and grime buildup inside the ignition can lead to your key getting stuck. An easy way to get rid of the gunk is to spray some WD-40 on the key and insert it into the ignition cylinder. Turn the key on and off a few times to clean and loosen any stuck debris.
  4. Maintain proper alignment of your steering wheel and lock. Misaligned steering wheels can make it tougher to turn the key or even remove it from the ignition.
  5. Ensure your gear selector is always in the “Park” position when trying to remove the key.
Mark Stevens


  1. I had keys made at the Home Store and ever since then my ignition sticks for all my keys even the original. Took it back and the guy made a key using the correct machine (hmm) then went and jammed it hard back and forth with brute force and it worked at that time. I had to stop him for fear of him ripping off the steering column. I have auto windows do now two days later I sit in my car in my apt pkg lot praying it will work soon so I don’t have to spend the night here:(

    The key has/had sharp shiny edges and so does the ignition now:(:(:(

    Home store brute said it will work itself in after some time meaning it takes some time before it will operate smoothly.
    I’m not so sure that is a true statement after reading “stuck key” articles and pray I didn’t screw it up by using continued force these past few days. )&&7$?($&!

    1. Sounds like there may be some bits of metal in the ignition after the initial key copies were made. You can try wiggling the original key in the ignition and see if that clears it up over time. You could also try pulling and cleaning out the ignition switch. Worst case, you may need a new ignition switch if it’s really bad though.

  2. I’m Having The Same Problems Now This Is The 1st Time I’ve Had This Problem Since I’ve Had My Truck..😮‍💨 I Can’t Get It Out I Can Drive But When I Put It In Park Then Turn It Off It Goes Half Way The Truck Turns Off It’s Just The Key Won’t Turn All The Way For Me Too Take It Out What Can I Do? Please Help!😭

  3. Pushing the key further into the ignition solves the issues in some new Toyota Camrys (2020 and newer)

  4. Desperately wanted to share this article but it does not have an email share option? Odd. I know. Some may also find it odd that a person may not have FB, or twitter, or Pinterest. Pinterest? Really? An option over email? OK. Whats happened to this world?

  5. I’m not sure if you all still read the comments since this was posted a few years ago. But thanks so much! You got straight to the point. Come to find out when I put my car in park, it doesn’t register in park so I had to jiggle the gear stick and it worked! Thanks!

    1. Jalen, we do still read the comments. Appreciate the feedback, happy to hear it helped you out!

      I would get that checked out by a mechanic just to make sure the problem doesn’t get any worse. You wouldn’t want that trick to stop working one day.

  6. I have a 2017 Chevrolet Spark with a the key getting stuck in the ignition. I’m pretty sure it’s the parking brake lock not getting fully switched because the only way I can get the key out is to turn the car back on, change gears to another gear, set back to park, and then it’ll come out (this may take a few tries).

    Is there a specific part associated with the parking brake that lets the car know it’s safe to take the key out? If so, what part is that or where can I find it?

    Thank you.

  7. I’m having the same problem with my 2006 Jeep liberty I went to turn the car off and oops think he wouldn’t come out I tried putting the Gears in Park to reverse drove it a little when around the building came back turn the car off at the same thing happened🤷‍♀️ Has anybody else had this problem with the 2000 Jeep liberty? WHAT SHOULD I DO 🤔

  8. My key gets stuck in my automatic Honda Accord and I have to jiggle the gear shifter in park to get my key out

    1. There’s a switch that is supposed to prevent you from taking out the key while you’re not in park. I would guess that switch is going bad.

  9. I have a 2000 Camaro SS. The key got stuck in the ignition in the on position . We replaced the ignition. Have new keys made with the PATS system. Still the car won’t start the battery turns over and she tries it’s like she’s not getting any gas to her and she goes Poopoo Poopoo poop and won’t start ever since we replaced the ignition. And prior to being towed home and getting the key stuck . Any ideas ?? All of the fuses check out in all three places. No broken wires that we can see. No leaks.??? Thank you!!

    1. It sounds like it may be an issue with the ignition wiring. Make sure the ignition is grounded properly and I would test the new unit if you can.

  10. Sylvia

    Just wanted to say – snap . I am having exactly the same problem. I am getting really fed up with it. I will never buy another vauxhall.

  11. I just got this 06 chevy trailblazer I put the key in and turned it to start it and it went dead and the key is stuck now.what do I have to do

    1. In some vehicles I have to wiggle the steering wheel back and forth a bit to get the key back.

      Make sure the vehicle is in park.

    2. My 2016 dodge dart wouldn’t go from drive to park so i tufned the car off now my keythrob want come out the ignition

      1. Automatics prevent you from removing the key unless the vehicle is in park. Unless you’re able to get it back into park, you will probably have to bring the car to a shop to have the issue addressed.

    3. I just had this problem in my Jeep Compass 2015 and nothing worked I jiggled and wiggled and started and turned it off and made sure everything was in the right place and park and all I finally used some WD-40 on it but it took four applications but what I did right before I tried it again was I took my shifter which is an automatic shifter in the floor and I pressed it towards the steering wheel in the park position and that immediately released the key so I don’t know if it was the WD-40 or if it was the position of my shifter that released it but it popped right out of there so it was definitely not the key it was some sort of mechanism problem that was not releasing the key so it was something wrong with the lock the Locking System and it wasn’t anything to do with the steering wheel it was something to do with my parking mechanism in my transmission so from now on when I push my transmission forward I’m going to push it over to the left and see if that clears it up good luck everyone I just wanted to post this basically I know this is an old one I’m responding to but I couldn’t make a new post so and I didn’t did it just for that reason so somebody needs it they can

  12. So I have a volks wagen golf and I tried to turn my car on but the key won’t turn all the way like it stops half way it’s on park and the wheels not on lock.. anyone know what could be the problem

    1. Is the key worn? Try with a spare if you’ve made a copy.

      The ignition lock cylinder could be binding. Before replacing it, you can try spraying some graphite powder into the keyhole. This acts as a lubricant and should make it easier to turn the key. After spraying the graphite powder, insert the key and twist back and forth a bit to spread it around to see if that clears up the problem.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve had a couple vehicles that won’t let me turn the key all the way until I wiggle the steering wheel a little bit. After I turn the steering wheel slightly in one direction, the key will turn normally.

    2. I just had to replace my VW Jetta’s ignition because the car key was stuck and I couldn’t turn it off. I am seeing all kinds of VW owners with same problem. Mine cost $900 and I am looking for people to join a class action to reimburse us and recall the rest. You can reach me at [email protected] put car in the header.

      1. I am having the same issue with my VW Beetle. I can turn the car on OK, but then the key gets stuck and the I can’t get the car to turn off. There are no recalls on my car that I can find. Who did you end up taking your car to?

        1. This happened to me yesterday. It’s sitting at the VW dealer waiting for a new assembly to be ordered and put it. It appears to be a very common problem from what the service manager told me. They couldn’t get the key out of the ignition either even though they though they could do a jiggling trick.

  13. 71 charger key is stuck in the ignition it starts and drives but when you turn the ignition off it won’t turn all the way back to the spot on the ignition that the key will come out stops maybe 1/4” short looking for ideas to fix and get key out thanks

  14. For the past five wks my ignition key has been stuck in the lock of my 14plate astra elite auto. The car runs fine stops fine,it’s In park and no the steering lock isn’t on but,the key will not turn of the electrics and come out of the lock. Sometimes moving the car a little makes it come out,other times waiting 15 mins with the electrics all still on and of course running down my battery,that might work but it doing it every time I stop now. Wd40 and even copper grease hasn’t helped stop the issue. It’s spent the day at a vauxhall dealer because I cldnt get the key out at work so had to loose a days work,the dealers,despite being given a thoroughly excellent explanation of what’s happening have been unable to get the car to do it for them. I know as soon as I get home the key will once more b stuck and take half HR to remove it! Why won’t the dealer accept what I’m telling them and do something! They did the same thing when I had a.major power steering problem with.a.vectra a few yrs ago,nothing. Just free selling it and a few rd.deaths due to others cars doing the same thing I went in with article in hand and showed them saying I told you it had this fault and that could have been me and my daughter’s! Park is showing as engaged on the dash although it doesn’t always feel to me like it’s fully in. What can I do when the main dealer does nothing to help!

    1. Hi Sylvia
      I have had the same issue on a Vauxhall Astra 14 plate Auto Elite.
      I have discovered what the problem is.
      I changed the brake light switch and I still had the problem.
      No fault codes came up on the fault code reader. So I decided to change the gear stick assembly. This is very easy to do. Order a new one from Ebay. On the plate by your gear stick where is says park, drive, pull that plate up and pull off the gear stick knob. Unplug the electric socket. and reverse fit the new one. It shows you on utube how to refit it. I hope that this helps.

      1. My key is getting stuck in the ignition battery is not dead it turns off the car but not all the electronics then when the battery runs dead from the key being in the on position. the key slides out easily. So I have to wait for my battery to die before I can move on with my day. But then I have to jump it. EVERY TIME

        1. Instead of waiting for the battery to die, you could disconnect the negative terminal on the battery so you don’t have to wait.

          Have you tried wiggling the steering wheel back and forth and see if that will allow you to remove the key without messing with the battery?

  15. Once in a while, the key can’t be removed, even if the shifter is in P (Park). The car dealer suggested that the problem is related to a non recognition that the car is in park. An electric device for that matter should be replaced, plus the cost of labour (about 2 hours according to the estimate). Roughly 300$ to be able (and sure) to remove the key once the car is turned off. 39 months on the road … Does it make sense ?

    1. This is exactly what I think is wrong with my astra. It’s in park but I think,being an automatic,the cars not recognising that it’s in park and so won’t allow the key to go that final click to turn off. My local dealer has basically said they can’t do anything as it won’t show them the issue. It’s frustrating and you have.my full sympathy. Dealers need to listen to the people who own and drive the cars on a daily basis as they’re the ones that know them best and know when something isn’t right and it’s not them imagining it.

    1. Is it possible for you to put the car key in backwards? The steering wheel moves and the car starts but the key will not come out!

  16. Watched a Brand/Model specific tutorial on how to fix the shift lock and it worked. Saved up to 600$. Anyone can do it. Took 5 minutes. Our car is the 2013 Hundia Sonata.

  17. When the battery is disconnected the key comes out easy. With battery connected the key will not come out. Why?

    1. My friend has a Lexus ls400 1998 and I need to disconnect the battery to get the key out. Is this a possible relay problem?

  18. My key & Gears are LOCKED up in my 07 Sebring
    This is the 1st time this has happened…
    I was at a laundry mat, Loaded my clothes, got in Started my car but it Would NOT go into gear,
    When I went to Shut off my car to inspect things the Ignition will NOT shut off or release my key.
    I can Start my car but it Wont go into gear
    It is Totally Locked up….

  19. My car was stolen and it didn’t look like they messed with the ignition but mow my key gets stuck and in the morning my car won’t start help

    1. It’s possible the thief caused a bit of damage to the ignition cylinder. If your key is in good condition, try spraying a bit of WD-40 in the cylinder and wiggling the key around. If that doesn’t help, you may need to replace the cylinder.

      1. We have a 2017 Honda CRV, the ignition will not turn all the back to release the key. Anyone else having this issue? Remedies?

      2. I have the same problem & the Honda dealership said do not use WD-40 it will make it worst. I don’t know what he cleaned to key off with but it worked.

    2. Is it by chance a V.W? If so please contact me at mirageseekr.com. I am looking to initiate a class action for this issue.

      1. Sometimes with my VW, the key won’t turn counter clockwise when it’s running. Car is in park, wheel is not locked

      2. Hey, I just came across your post about VWs and faulty ignition. Did you ever start a suit and do you happen to know what the problem was?

  20. Did not put car in park now I can’t get the key out or put the car in park! Wahh whet the heck!

  21. The first time my key got stuck in ignition, it was only the tip of the key. The key came out, but the tip got stuck. Second time, the entire key was difficult to get out, but after wiggling it some it roughly came out. What do these situations indicate?

    1. Either the end of the key is beginning to wear out or the ignition cylinder may be worn or even damaged. You could try spraying a *little* WD-40 inside the ignition cylinder to see if that will loosen up the pins a bit inside. Then insert the key a few times to see if that helps.

      1. My key has recently been getting stuck in the ignition. Not every time, but it’s been around 5xs or so. I sprayed Pam on my key and so far that’s been working. If something is wrong, and this is a temporary fix, how much will it cost to fix it? I don’t have the $ for a costly repair.

      2. How do i get the ignition out of the lock postion? My key will not get out of the lock posistion..i have a 2004 honda pilot

        1. What have you tried so far? Sometimes you can get the key out by pushing toward the ignition and trying to wiggle or turn the key. Make sure the vehicle is in park. If the vehicle is already in park, try pulling the shift lever out of park and putting it back in park.

    2. No 1, especially for males, (who never doubt themselves being at fault ) should be: “Is it the correct key?”

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