You expect your key to turn in your vehicle’s ignition…but sometimes…it won’t, and that’s a problem. Whether you’re trying to start your vehicle or trying to leave it, it’s a problem.
Here are a few “key” facts of what can cause this to happen. One of the most common is that the steering column locking mechanism is stuck. Locking steering columns are an anti-theft feature introduced in the 1970’s. If yours is sticking, try moving the steering wheel a little from side to side as you turn the key; sometimes this will cause it to release.
A key may also stick if the vehicle is in gear. Most vehicles will only let you start in neutral or park. If you have an automatic transmission vehicle, make sure it’s in park. Move the shift lever through the gears and back into park to make sure. If the key still doesn’t turn, you can try jiggling the shift lever as you turn the key. Electrical and mechanical contacts sometimes don’t line up properly, and a little jiggle might nudge them into place.
Sometimes vehicles with alarms can cause a key to jam; some require the doors to either be closed or open before the key will move. Other vehicles with newer electronic ignition systems won’t allow you to turn the key if the battery is dead.
Another possibility is something jammed in your lock cylinder. The little pins and spring that figure out you are putting in the correct key can stick as well. Your key may also be the culprit. The ridges can wear down, or the shaft can get bent. Oh, and speaking of the key, are you trying to use the right one? Double check it.
If you have a key that resists turning and you’re able to get it unstuck, consider yourself warned. It probably won’t “fix” itself, and it’s time to have your qualified technician dig a little deeper to track down the root of the problem. You could be less “luc-key” the next time it happens.