How to Remove a Key Stuck in an Auto Ignition

by Elizabeth Sobiski
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car key #5 image by Adam Borkowski from

Having a key get stuck in the ignition switch of a car is not an uncommon problem. There are a few ways to try to correct the problem before having to head to a repair shop and what will most likely be a costly repair bill. Most fixes also make use of tools that are commonly owned or are easy to acquire.

Step 1

Wiggle the steering wheel back and forth while trying to pull out the key. Be gentle, otherwise the key could break off in the ignition. If this does not work, try the next option.

Step 2

Jack up the front of the car until the wheels just leave the ground. This takes the weight off the front wheels and gives the steering column a little more room to move. Wiggle the steering wheel and try to pull the key out. If the key remains stuck, try the next idea while the car is jacked up.

Step 3

Spray some Teflon dry lube into the ignition switch around the key. Just a couple of quick squirts will do the trick. Use the dental pick to actuate the pins in the ignition cylinder. This will hopefully lube the pins and lock enough so that the key can be wiggled out. If the key is still good and stuck, there are two last things to try before having to call a repair shop or locksmith. Lower the car back to the ground before moving on to the next idea.

Step 4

Fill a zip-type sandwich bag half full with ice. If the cubes are large, crush them to make the bag easier to handle. Wrap the ice bag around the head of the key. The idea here is to get the metal of the key to contract because of the cold, so this may take up to fifteen minutes before it is effective. Try to wiggle the key out. If the key is still stuck, it is time to add heat.

Turn on a hair dryer and direct the air toward the ignition cylinder, while keeping the ice on the key itself. Heat will expand the cylinder, while the ice works on the key. Do this for fifteen minutes and try wiggling the key out.

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