Car tips

How To Remove Stuck Car Key From Ignition

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Nothing sucks like having your key stuck in the ignition, especially on days when you are in a hurry to have your car packed so that you can get busy. It’s quite perplexing to have your key stuck, knowing that you have inserted and removed it seamlessly 1000 times. So, why isn’t your car key coming out? 

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It’s tempting to try to yank your keys out, but then this could lead to more serious damage. So what should you do when your key is stuck in the ignition?

Put Your Car In ‘Neutral’ Or ‘Park’ Mode

If your vehicle uses an automatic transmission, it’s is most likely designed to ‘lock’ your key in when it’s not in neutral or park mode. This is actually a protective mechanism for you and your car, as not putting your car in either of these modes can easily make it veer off the road and cause accidents. So, rather than remain infuriated at your stuck key, simply check your gear lever and put it in the park or neutral.


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Properly Turn Off Your Car

For most vehicles, the ignition is usually in layers. These layers are captured in labels beside the vehicle. The lowest layer is often where the ignition must be to fully turn off your car. If you are not sure, simply check the labels on the ignition to know where to set your key to properly turn off the car.

Unless you turn off your car properly, you might not be able to get it out of the ignition. Sometimes, because you are in a hurry, you assume you have turned off the car, whereas, you only put it in sleeping mode (but the car is still working). To get your stuck key out, just properly turn off your car.

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Unlock The Steering Wheel

Have you done one and two above, and your key is still stuck in the ignition? It could be that you accidentally turned on the steering lock.

In modern cars, a steering lock is a safety feature that prevents your car from moving when there is no key in the ignition or the wrong key is inserted. This way, car stealers can’t easily drive off with your car.

You will know your steering wheel is locked when it is stiff when you try to move it. To unlock the steering wheel,  gently turn the wheel sideways and simultaneously apply mild force on the key. Do this continuously until the steering is unlocked. Once that is out of the way, turn the key all the way down for a complete lock, and remove it gently.

Check For Dirts In The Keyway

If you have done all the above, and your key is stuck, then it’s possible there’s an obstruction in the keyway. Debris and other dirt are the most likely hindrances not allowing you to come out freely. The way out of this is to continuously turn your key gently until it comes out. Or you apply lubricant to soften the keyway. WD-40 spray is a recommended lubricant to clean this out. Just give 2-3 quick sprays to wash out all debris.

Check For Broken Keys

In the process of forcefully getting your keys out at first, the inner parts of the key could have broken in the ignition. This is a likely occurrence if you are using a duplicate key as this is not as strong as the original key. To avoid further damages, don’t try to force the key out. Apply gentle pressure at first to remove it, if it doesn’t work, use a key extractor device. If these proved abortive too, then get a locksmith to help you with it.

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Check If Your Battery Is Dead

Most modern cars are designed to keep the keys locked in if it’s not getting power from the battery. In this case, the ignition system needs the battery running before it works. So, when your battery is weak and your key is in the ignition, it could get stuck. To confirm if your battery is functional, turn on the headlights, if this does not come up, then your battery is dead. Quickly jumpstart your battery and get it running. Once it’s back up, then properly turn off your car and safely remove your keys.


Having your car key stuck in the ignition is not an uncommon scenario. Whenever it happens, don’t panic. Simply engage the remedies listed above, and soon enough, your key is out!

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