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Key Won’t Turn in Ignition Steering Wheel Not Locked: What’s Wrong?

Key Won’t Turn in Ignition Steering Wheel Not Locked: What’s Wrong?

When you stick your car key into your ignition, you expect for it to turn so that you can start your car right up. But every now and then, you might find that your key won’t turn when you put it into your ignition. At that point, you might not know what in the world you’re supposed to do to get your key to work again. It’ll often lead to people Googling things like “key won't turn in ignition steering wheel not locked.” If you find yourself in this position at the moment, you should try to take some different steps to get your car key to work. Continue reading to learn about what you can do to fix the issue.

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Key Won’t Turn in Ignition Steering Wheel Not Locked: What Should I Do?

When you first notice that you’re dealing with a key that won't turn in the ignition and a steering wheel not locked, you might be tempted to panic. But you should know that this particular problem isn’t all that uncommon. There are a lot of people who have cars, especially cars that are on the older side, with ignition issues. So you don’t need to get too worked up about it.


You should, however, spring into action and try to figure out why you can’t get your car key to turn in your ignition. It might be because of a very simple problem, like your steering wheel locking up on you, or it might be because of a more complex problem, like a bad ignition cylinder. Either way, you can get to the bottom of what’s going on and get your car key to start working like normal again.

How to Get a Car Key to Turn in Your Ignition

So, how can you remedy the situation when you have a key that won’t turn in your ignition and a steering wheel not locked? There are a handful of things that you can try. Some of them might give you some hope, while others might not work at all. But you should be able to find something that’ll get your car key to work like it should as long as you’re willing to work hard enough at it. Here are some suggestions on what you should do when your car key won’t turn in your ignition.

1. Begin by Attempting to Turn Your Steering Wheel While Turning Your Car Key

If your steering wheel is ever moved after you’ve taken your car key out of your ignition, it’s going to lock up on you. A lot of people do this inadvertently when getting out of their cars and then wonder why they can’t get their car keys to turn. So the first thing you should do when you notice your car key not turning in your ignition is try to move your steering wheel so that you can get your car key to work.


To do this, you’ll need to start by turning your steering wheel to the left and right to see which side has a little bit of give to it. Then, you’ll want to turn your steering wheel in that direction and hold it there while trying to turn your car key. With a little lock, this should get your car key to turn, though you may have to jiggle your steering wheel just a bit to get it to go. Just make sure that you don’t try to force the key to turn since that could potentially cause bigger problems for you.


With a little luck, this will get your car key to turn for you and get you on your way. It’s not always going to be that easy to fix a key that won’t turn in an ignition, but it does sometimes work wonders for those trying to turn their car keys.

2. See If the Ignition Cylinder Needs to Be Lubricated

Over time, it’s not all that out of the ordinary for dirt, dust, and other gunk to get into your ignition cylinder. When it does, it can gradually make it more and more difficult for you to turn your car key. It could eventually lock up your ignition and stop it from working in the way that it should. You may need to lubricate it to clear it up. This is a major cause for your key won't turn in the ignition steering wheel when it's not locked.


You’re going to need to be very careful whenever you add any lubrication to an ignition cylinder. If you use the wrong lubricant, you could make the situation worse. You could even force yourself to have to replace your ignition cylinder. But if you suspect that your ignition cylinder could be on its last legs anyway, it wouldn't hurt to try lubricating it to see if that helps you to turn your car key in it.

3. Try Rapping Your Car Key to Get It to Work

If you’re not able to turn your car key in your ignition right now, it could be because some of the internal components in your ignition cylinder aren’t lined up right. You might be able to get them to line up again by rapping your car key while you’re in the process of turning it. Rapping a car key involves taking a hammer or another tool and gently tapping on the car key while attempting to turn it. This might be enough to line up all the components inside of an ignition cylinder again.


You are going to want to steer clear of hitting your car key too hard while rapping it. You could damage your car key or your ignition cylinder if you’re too rough with either of them. But you might be able to get your car key to turn again by rapping it lightly. It could be a great short-term fix for an issue with a car’s ignition cylinder. If your key won't turn in ignition steering wheel when it's not locked, this is an important method to test.

4. Find Out If Your Car Key Needs to Be Fixed

When you’re having trouble turning a car key in your car’s ignition, you might automatically assume that it’s because of a problem with the ignition. But you could actually have a problem with your car key on your hands that’s stopping it from working. You should remove your car key from your ignition and give it a good look to see if anything seems amiss. You could very well find that a piece of your car key has broken off.


If you happen to have a spare key for your car, you should go ahead and give that a try in the ignition. If it turns with ease, then you’ll know that you need to fix your main car key so that it also works in the ignition. You can call on a locksmith to help you out when it comes to fixing a key. They can get your key working again in no time at all in most cases.

5. Replace Your Car Key Altogether

Although repairing a broken key is usually a possibility, you might not feel 100 percent confident sticking it back into your car’s ignition. Instead, you might feel more comfortable having your car key replaced with a new one. This will ensure that you’re able to turn it in your ignition every time from now on without having to worry about it breaking again. 


There are several ways in which you can replace a car key that isn’t working. You can have a local car dealership cut a new key for your car. You can also have a local locksmith set you up with a new key. You might even be able to have a local hardware store whip you up a key. Just try to make sure that it’s your car key and not your ignition that is the problem before you go through the trouble of replacing a car key. 

6. Take Out Your Old Ignition Cylinder and Replace It With a New One

More often than not, the ignition cylinder in a car will last for as long as the car does. Ignition cylinders don’t usually fail at any point. But there is always a chance that you might have a faulty ignition cylinder in your vehicle. And that could be the cause of you not being able to turn your car key in your ignition.


Rather than worrying about repairing or replacing your car key, you’ll need to take the proper steps to replace your ignition cylinder when it’s not working. The good news is that you shouldn’t have to replace your entire ignition assembly to get your cylinder working again. But you will have to take out your old ignition cylinder and put a new one in its place, and you’ll likely need to hire either a mechanic or a locksmith to assist you with this process.

7. Contact a Locksmith to Lend a Helping Hand

If you’re pretty handy with regards to working on cars, you might be able to diagnose why your car key won’t turn in your ignition on your own. But if you don’t have the slightest clue as to why your car key won’t turn, you might want to skip trying to figure it out yourself and hire a locksmith to help you.


A locksmith can inspect everything from your steering wheel to your car key to your ignition to see what seems to be the problem. Within just a few minutes, they should be able to tell you what’s going on so what you can start trying to fix it. Contacting a locksmith is, hands down, the simplest way to solve your problem when you find yourself searching “key won't turn in ignition steering wheel not locked” online.

How Much Will Hiring a Locksmith Cost?

If you, at any point, find yourself Googling “key won't turn in ignition steering wheel not locked,” your best bet is likely going to be calling on a locksmith for help. You’ll save yourself a bunch of time by relying on a locksmith to figure out what’s happening with your ignition. But this will, of course, cost you some money.


How much is a locksmith going to charge you? It really all depends on your specific situation. You could pay anywhere from $50 for a new basic car key to several hundred dollars for a brand-new ignition cylinder and car key. You won’t know what it’s going to run you to hire a locksmith until they identify what’s happening with your car and tell you how to fix it.

Is Hiring a Locksmith Worth It?

If you’re not able to get your car key to turn, you might be able to fix the problem temporarily by lubricating your ignition cylinder, rapping your key, or doing one of the other things we just mentioned. But it’s probably not going to be a long-term fix. Only a locksmith will be able to repair your car in the right way so that your car key turns each and every time, regardless of whether your steering wheel is locked or unlocked.


This makes hiring a locksmith well worth it in the end. You won’t have to be concerned about your car key not turning at the least opportune time. Each and every time that you climb into your car and go to turn your key in the ignition, it’ll turn for you. It’ll provide you with peace of mind and ensure you’re always able to get your car up and running.

Can I Sell a Car If the Key for It Won’t Turn in the Ignition?

Is your car on the older side? If it is, then you might not see the sense in paying to have it fixed when there is something wrong with the ignition. You might spend a little bit of time looking up “key won't turn in ignition steering wheel not locked” and trying to remedy the situation on your own. But beyond that, you may not be interested in paying money to a locksmith to fix a problem on a car filled with all kinds of other problems.


In this case, you should consider selling your car, bad ignition cylinder and all, to a company like Cash Cars Buyer. Even if you can’t get your car started because the key for it won’t turn, we’ll still buy it from you and give you cash for it. Contact us today to discover how much money we might be willing to pay for your old car.