Before getting into what to do when the keys get stuck in the ignition, the causes for such an incident to occur in the first place must be discussed.
This is what causes the key lock:
All cars come with an additional safety feature of a steering lock. The lock when activated prevents the steering wheel from turning. The most common cause of keys getting stuck is the unfavorable positioning of the steering wheel when locked. In order to release the keys, assuming that the steering lock is the culprit, unlock the steering to free the keys.
In cases when the steering wheel is turning, the keys may get jammed in the ignition when there is high dirt accumulation. When debris and lint block the ignition cylinder, the car will not start.
There is a third possibility which could cause the keys to get stuck in the ignition. It is the case of a bent key. Should this be the cause, the keys can be released with relative ease. If you’re having a hard time getting the keys out, hire a locksmith.
The last cause of a key lock is a malfunctioning lock cylinder of the ignition. The longevity of most ignition lock cylinders is up to 60,000 miles, beyond which they need replacement.
What to do when the keys get stuck in the ignition?
When the keys get stuck, try and figure out what is causing the keys to jam in the first place. A bent key or steering lock can be easily rectified. Here are the steps that you must take when the keys get stuck:
- Firstly, ensure that the keys are in the “off position”. This is a very important step that is often overlooked. There are times when the keys get stuck because the car isn’t completely off. If the ignition is off but the radio is still playing, the keys will not come out. Also, most automatic cars do not release the keys till the car is on park mode.
- Move the steering wheel left and right while trying to retrieve the keys. If the culprit is a locked steering, the keys will be released when the lock is opened.
- In a few cars, the keys getting stuck in an indication of a dead battery. So have the battery checked if the first two steps do not work.
- You can always try retrieving the keys by force, but ensure that you do not damage the locking system while trying to do so.
- If all your efforts of retrieving the keys are futile, call a locksmith.