Addressing Auto Problems: Ignition Key Refuses to Turn

Although this problem is pretty rare, if you do encounter this situation, then it’s best that you know how to address this auto issue as soon as possible. If your ignition key refuses to turn, don’t panic just yet and stop yourself from calling a tow truck right away. It’s highly probable that the problem is pretty minor.

First, are you sure you’re using the right key? If you own more than one automobile, then chances are you have a single key chain that houses all your car keys. A few years ago, my cousin called me up to tell me that her ignition won’t turn. I hurried over to her house only to find out, to my embarrassment and hers, that she was using her Chevy’s key for her Camry. While this mistake is pretty rare, it’s very much understandable, especially when you’re running late for something important.

If you have the right key but it won’t insert completely then inspect your key for signs of breakage. If you try turning your key when it’s not seated firmly, then it’s not going to turn. If you can’t insert the key fully, then chances are there is something inside your ignition switch that is obstructing your key’s movement. If you broke your key elsewhere then a missing tooth should stop it from turning as well. Locate a spare key and try using that instead.

Check if you have the right gear setting. As I mentioned in my previous post, most vehicles require your auto to be in Neutral or Park for it to start.

If your steering wheel is locked, then try to move the key into the On position and move your steering wheel to unlock it before starting your vehicle. Some ignitions and steering wheel columns lock in a precise manner that requires you to first “unlock” the wheel before you can start your car. If you can’t figure out how to unlock your steering wheel, consult your owner’s manual first.

If none of these steps work, then your auto problem may have something to do with how your auto is parked. Some ignitions lock up when your tires are turned a certain way or when they’re jammed against the curb. If you think this might be your problem, then follow these steps:

Step #1: Shift into the right gear. Park for automatic transmissions and Neutral for manual.

Step #2: Set the parking/hand brake. This would prevent your car from suddenly moving while you try to unlock your ignition.

Step #3: Once you’ve secured everything, give your steering wheel a hard yank. Not too hard though, because you might just end up damaging your auto’s steering mechanism. Give it a firm yank in the opposite direction of where your wheels are turned. This should also free up a locked steering wheel.

Step #4: Release or disengage your hand brake and try turning your steering wheel. If your steering wheel turns easily, then you’ve got the green light to try starting your car again.

Step #5: Try turning your ignition key.

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11 Responses to Addressing Auto Problems: Ignition Key Refuses to Turn

  1. Pam says:

    My ignition on my chevy s10 won’t turn. I tried ur recomedation and nothing. My boyriend had tried to start truck with key to our saturn and when he relized and tried to start with right key the steering wheel and ignition were both locked. key goes all the way in and bell dings for door but thats it. any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanx Bunches!!!

  2. autofrankie says:

    Hi Pam, tried checking your Saturn key for signs of breakage? Even if your Chevy’s key inserts completely, a small piece of metal lodged into your ignition could be the root cause behind your ignition problem. As for your locked steering wheel, there are some steering wheels that require you to give them a sharp yank to “free” them, before the vehicle can start. While others require a simple turn on both directions. Check your owner’s manual to find out how to unlock your steering wheel completely. If it still doesn’t work, check your Chevy key for the slightest damage. Even a bent tip can prevent you from turning your key completely.

    If the following tips still won’t work, then you may have to take your auto a professional. Tell me how it goes.

  3. I have a 2002 Chry Voyager 3.3 short body without any computer chip on the ignition key. 3 button remote entry.

    Been running fine for about 2 years.

    Thursday my wife could not remove the key from the ignition switch in any psoition. Neither could I.
    Also seems that when in the off/ remove key position, that the steering wheel is not locked like it used to be.

    I removed the battery ground cable – no change. reinstalled ground, still cant get the key out.

    Is this a “dealer install new ignition switch” operation, something PEP Boys can do, or something else like and adjustment?

    I build electric bicycles, so can do some work myself, but dont like working around the airbag.

    Makes it kinda prone to car theft in the interim, and takes a lot of time to lock the car since the body computer wont let me lock doors with key in ignition in off position.

    Thanks in advance

  4. [...] Source: Auto Mechanic | Auto Mechanic Repair and Maintenance Tips [...]

  5. tim says:

    l have jeep 2002 when start ignition it takes 4 to 5 time ignition to engin start working

  6. Shawn says:

    My girlfriend’s ignition in her malibu classic won’t turn. A dodge truck key was put in the ignition and then pulled out. We tried two different keys for the malibu and ignition won’t budge. We hit the brake ,turn the wheel,wiggled the gear shift. Nothing. What do you think we need to do.
    Thanks for your help.
    Shawn

  7. autofrankie says:

    Hi Shawn, I think you may have the same problem as Pam. Check your dodge key for signs of breakage. Is it possible that a part of the key or even the ignition broke off when you tried using a different key?

    Another possible scenario is that dirt or debris may have been forced into the ignition. Can you turn the Malibu key when you insert it? If you can, and still no signs of engine life, then I suggest you check your wiring or even your starter motor…

    Hope that helps. If you have any more questions, just ask. :)

  8. Roger says:

    Hi,
    Good article.,Sometimes it happens.

  9. autofrankie says:

    Yes it does Roger, and when it does, the main rule is not to panic immediately. Look for the cause of the problem and then fix it. :)

  10. Eli says:

    I have a 94 chevy s10 Blazer and the key will not disengage from the ignition… So, my truck can’t turn off…. So, I had to remove a battery terminal for it to turn off…

    Help, please…

    • autofrankie says:

      Hi Eli! I’m sorry for not replying sooner. It’s highly possible your key broke off or is jammed because there’s foreign material stuck inside your ignition… Don’t forcefully remove the key, because you might just damage the ignition further. Ask for some help from your mechanic when it comes to carefully removing your key from your ignition key lock…

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