Having your key stuck in the car door is not rare, and you are not alone. When the key gets stuck in the car door, you feel someone threw a wrench in your day.
Luckily, there are certain steps you can do to get the key out of the car door immediately. The most important thing to keep in mind is being gentle when trying to get your key out of the door as you don’t want to break it inside and make the process much more complicated.
In this article, we will explain the reasons behind the key stuck in car doors. Furthermore, we will provide you with a detailed step by step on how to get your key out of the car door. Also, we highlight the best DIYs when your stuck car key break inside the lock along with the expected locksmith repair price. Locksmith's price depends on whether you have a spare copy of your car key or not.
Lastly, we provide additional information about your car key's importance and its different roles besides starting your vehicle.
Why does the car key stick in the door?
Your car’s key can get stuck in the door either due to issues with the key itself or problems with the lock mechanism.
Issues with the key itself
If the key is dirty or does not shape the right way, the key will not sit correctly against the lock pins. Thus, it's not surprising to have a key stuck in the car door.
Issues with the lock mechanism
When the key lock is not lubricated enough, the key is expected to stick inside it. Therefore, experts suggest lubricating the lock with WD-40 before pulling out the stuck key.
How to get a stuck key out of the car door?
When dealing with a key stuck in a car door, there are simple steps you can follow to get it out while being super gentle doing the process. This is because the last thing you would need to happen is getting a broken key stuck in the car door. If this is the case, things get more complicated.
Here are the steps you need to follow to get out a key stuck in the car door:
Turning and jiggling
The first thing you need to try is to turn the key to the left and the right while jiggling it. Then, give it a try and pull it gently out of the keyhole.
Try pushing the plug
The keyhole tumbler lock is placed inside a larger cylinder. If this tumbler lock is a little loose, it might move and affect the proper alignment between the key and the lock pins.
Try pushing the plug inside to the correct position. To do so, follow the following steps:
- Push the key inside to where you first inserted it
- To confirm that this is the farthest the key can go, try turning the key to the left or the right.
- Once the key is fully inside, use your other hand and push the plug as firm as possible to place it back in the right position and have the key aligned properly with the lock pins.
- Now try pulling the key out
Use some oil
If you could not get the key out by jiggling, try using some oil or grease to lubricate the keyhole with the key inside. Lubricating the area might help make it easier for you to get the key out.
Experts recommend not to use any type of Lithium grease due to its harmful effect on key locks.
Apply more grease or oil with the key out
If you could get the key out using lubrication, it is important to apply the grease to the key and the keyhole again. Usually, grease lubrication should be enough to lubricate the keyhole up to a couple of months.
If you still can't get the key out, give it five minutes to cool down
Assume that you still can not get the key out, even using lubrication. Do not overtrying and let the key settle for a couple of minutes to cool down.
As you know, temperature allows the key to expanding as you tried, and you applied the grease. Therefore, when leaving the key for a couple of minutes to cool down, it might shrink and make it easier for you to get it out.
Try jiggling the steering wheel
If you shut off the car while pushing the steering wheel down, the key can get stuck in the door.
When the car is shut off while you are holding down the steering wheel, too much pressure is put on the key, making it hard to get it out. In this case, you can jiggle the steering wheel itself to get the key out.
What if the key broke?!
Sometimes things get worse when it comes to getting a stuck key out of the car door. Luckily, you still have a couple of options to try before contacting a professional mechanic.
Try the following steps:
- Use a pair of pliers with a needle nose to pull any visible part of the key after lubricating the part
- If there is no enough metal part visible to grab it from, you can always use a broken key extractor. The broken key extractor is a tool under $10 and is made purposely for these situations
- The broken key extractor kit comes in different sizes and shapes. It would help if you spent a little time finding the one that matches your keyhole
- Insert the broken key extractor as far as possible inside the keyhole
- The key extractor is designed so you can twist it to grab the key and pull it out of the keyhole.
If none of the mentioned steps worked for you, unfortunately, your only option is to bring a professional mechanic to do the job and extract your stuck key.
What does the car key do?
The car key is responsible for making sure that no one can start your car except you and activating all electrical and mechanical components of your vehicle. In some newer cars, the key can also open the trunk or certain type of glove boxes.
Although most modern cars use keyless ignition, many vehicles still use car keys to get their vehicles started.
There is a big difference between car keys and regular house or door keys. The car key is designed to be symmetrical, allowing the driver to insert it in any way for easier function.
As you insert the keyhole key, you push certain tumblers with a certain pattern to close the ignition circuit. Once the circuit is closed, electrical power flows to fire the engine and get the vehicle going.
In more modern vehicles, the key fob is used to start the ignition instead of inserting the ignition's metal key.
How much does it cost to have a professional mechanic unlock my car with a key stuck in the door?
Locksmith is the most common service to deal with keys issues in general. Using a locksmith service, expect to pay between $50 and $250 depending on the requested job.
If you got locked out with a key stuck in the car door, the service price depends on whether you have a spare key or not. When having a spare key, the process is much easier as locksmith doesn’t have to create a new key and vice versa.
Locksmith recommends that you never try a lot with a broken key to avoid damaging the lock itself and, therefore, dealing with more complicated problems.
What are the different types of car keys?
There are different types of car keys in the automotive world. It is important to understand each key type's functionality and limitation to prevent dealing with car key issues.
These are the most common type of keys that doesn’t have any encoding and, therefore, only start the ignition without any additional features. The price of these keys ranges from $3 to $10. They are made of cut metal, usually using die punch.
Older vehicles used to come with a master key to replace the actual car key. The master key is usually not cheap and comes in a couple of hundred dollars to be replaced. You cannot even replace the master key in some situations unless you replace the engine management system for thousands of dollars.
Luckily, most newer vehicles do not have a master key to make life easier; however, you might find that they have a master key when purchasing older cars. The best way to confirm whether your used car has a master key or not is by looking in the user’s owner’s manual.
If you don’t have a copy of your car’s user’s owner’s manual, you can always download a soft copy from the web or request a hard copy from your professional mechanic. The manual should have a section on a list of provided keys to look for.
The transponder key was introduced in 1995 to provide more security and prevent thefts. This key is equipped with a microchip that sends some codes to the ignition system to get it started. To create a copy of the transponder key, you need to pay between $40 and $100.
In 1999, another type of transponder key was introduced to provide additional security. This key provides some coded signals to the ignition; it also produces a new code every time you use it to start the ignition, which allows for more security. Replacing this type of key requires at least $500.
As the name suggests, the switchblade key folds within itself exactly like a switchblade knife. To replace this key, expect to pay between $200 and $300 unless you want only to replace the shank, costing you about $75.
There are some types of keys made purposely for valets. This key allows the valet to start the car and park it without performing additional functions like opening the trunk or the glove box.
Lastly, the smart keys are just a fob that can start the car without being inserted in the ignition. To replace a smart key, you must do the job at the dealership and pay between $200 and $400.
The car will not run without a car key as your key is responsible for starting the ignition switch and getting your vehicle started.
It is very common to deal with a car key stuck in the car door due to issues with a dirty key or unlubricated keyhole.
When dealing with such a situation, there are several steps you can follow to get the key out of the keyhole, including jiggling the key, lubricating the keyhole, pushing the plug, allowing the key to cool down and shrink, jiggling the steering wheel, and using a broken key extractor kit.
If no one of the mentioned methods works for you, unfortunately, you must get a professional mechanic to remove the key for you.
The most common service to deal with key lock issues is the locksmith. Depending on whether you have a spare key or not, a locksmith can cost you between $50 and $250. Therefore, experts recommend keeping an additional key copy in hand or at home, especially for situations like a key stuck in a car door or broken keys.
If the key breaks inside the door in some modern vehicles, you might need to replace the entire door or locking system, costing you thousands of dollars for parts and labor. Always start contacting a professional locksmith to get some feedback about what best needs to be done in such a situation, case by case.