It’s just like any other morning and you are leaving the house to head to work. You get into the car, put the key in the lock, and suddenly, the car key breaks in the ignition! There’s nothing more stressful than needing to go somewhere and an unexpected issue popping up. A broken car key stuck in the ignition is a common car key problem and can happen to anyone.
A key breaking in the ignition might be a common issue, but most people don’t know what to do when it happens. To ease the stress, we are here with this detailed guide on what to do if your car key breaks in the ignition.
Reasons Why a Key Can Break Off in the Ignition
There are several reasons why a regular key or transponder key can break off in the ignition. When you know the exact reason the key broke, you can successfully remove the key and avoid it breaking off again.
Some of these reasons may pertain due to unique problems related to a specific make and model, while others are universal.
Temperatures don’t just affect the exterior of the car; they can also affect the ignition and car key. When the temperature drops below freezing, the ignition can freeze up and the keys won’t fit. If you forcefully push the keys inside, there is a risk of the key breaking inside the lock.
Additionally, the tumblers inside the ignition cylinder might also not turn due to extreme temperatures. When you try to turn the key and start the vehicle, it can break the key.
Locked Steering Wheel
Moving the steering wheel when your vehicle is turned off can activate the steering lock. This prevents you from moving the wheel and can lock the ignition cylinder’s key.
Removing the key forcefully can break it, which happens with many drivers. Moving the steering wheel by force can also damage the ignition and break the key if you try to remove it.
Built-Up Dirt on the Car Key
If you open packages with your car keys, use them to scrape dirt, or something else, you aren’t alone. While your car key may seem like a convenient tool to use all the time, it isn’t good for the key’s health. Dust, debris, and dirt will build up on the key and can make it ineffective.
Prolonged exposure to these elements affects the lifespan of the key. This could mean your car key is already weak and any extra grime makes it weaker. Also, with the debris sticking on its surface, the car key becomes thicker, and removing it from the car’s ignition becomes more difficult.
The Vehicle Is Not in Park
If you own a car with automatic transmission, you might know that the key does not come out until you put the car in park. Trying to remove the key when the car is not in parking mode can damage it, and it may even break off inside the ignition.
Damaged Ignition Cylinder
The state of the key is not to blame every time one breaks; sometimes, the issue is caused by the ignition cylinder. If your car’s ignition is on the verge of failing, it can prevent the key from functioning properly.
Ignition cylinders have a complex mechanism with several pins inside the ignition lock. If these pins malfunction or get out of alignment, the car key can get stuck inside and may break off if you try to remove it forcefully.
Although not very common, car keys can break in the ignition due to manufacturing defects. The manufacturing defects include a defective ignition cylinder or a poorly-crafted key.
Car keys go through a lot of wear and tear and can be damaged over time. Every time you put the key into the ignition or the door lock, when you toss the key on a table or in your bag, or when you drop your key, it wears down a little bit.
This type of misuse slowly damages car keys. At some point, the key might become so fragile that it breaks off due to a minor impact. A bent or cracked key is also prone to breaking off in the ignition.
While it may look like there is no relation between the battery and the car key, one exists. If the battery dies, the ignition system locks up, and the key might get stuck inside. Trying to remove the key can cause it to break off inside the ignition.
Steps to Take After Your Car Key Breaks Off in the Ignition
Removing the broken key blade from the ignition may seem impossible, but you might be able to do it using a few tools available at home. Below are some steps you can follow to remove a broken key blade or key fragment from the ignition.
Step 1: Gather All the Right Tools
If you have decided to remove the stuck key yourself, you’ll need some tools. Any of the following tools might be needed:
- Extra long pliers
- WD-40 or other lubricating sprays
- Hacksaw blade
- Broken key extractor tool (found at auto parts stores)
Step 2: Spray the Lubricant on the Ignition Cylinder
Most likely, the biggest reason why the broken key is stuck inside the vehicle’s ignition is because of debris accumulation. Spraying a lubricant like WD-40 will help loosen the stuck ignition key, and you’ll be able to remove it easier.
Step 3: Remove the Broken Key
The choice of tool you will need to remove the broken entirely depends on the situation. If the key is visible, you can use pliers or tweezers to remove it. However, if the key is deep inside the ignition, you will need a key extractor to remove it.
How to Remove the Key from an Ignition Using Tweezers
Grab the broken key using tweezers, and try to pull it out carefully. You can slightly twist the key to free it from the ignition pins. If required, spray some lubricant on the ignition cylinder.
How to Remove the Key from an Ignition Using Key Extractors
A key extractor tool is long and thin with a hook on the end. It can slip into the ignition around the key fragment and hook onto it. Try to move the broken key out using the extractor until you can pull it with a pair of tweezers or needle nose pliers.
Step 4: Call Professional Locksmiths
Is your key stuck inside your car’s ignition and you don’t have the tools or time to figure out how to resolve the issue? The best option to remove a broken key fragment from the ignition is to call a professional locksmith to help. No matter what car you drive or how deep the key is stuck inside the ignition, a locksmith technician will be able to remove it for you.
At Silver Eagle Locksmith, we are a team of mobile locksmiths that can reach any location in Las Vegas or Baltimore. Don’t stress over a broken key; call us at 702-539-9581 (NV) or 443-987-3051 (MD) to schedule a service appointment.
Helpful Tips for Removing a Broken Car Key from Ignition
Here are a handful of tips that’ll make it easier to remove the broken key. Once you have the required tools, follow these tips to get the job done quickly.
- Partially exposed keys can be easily gripped and pulled out. Use pliers to pull the key out carefully.
- The more the key slips, the farther it’ll go inside the ignition. If the key’s moving deeper inside, stop immediately and call a professional locksmith.
- Inserting anything apart from a key extractor tool can push the broken key inside the lock, so avoid it.
- If you have doubts about getting the broken key out of the ignition cylinder, call a locksmith.
Things to Avoid When Removing a Broken Car Key from Ignition
We understand the urge to remove the broken key from the ignition as quickly as possible so you can drive your vehicle. However, in a rush to remove the key, people can worsen the overall situation. Here’s what you should avoid doing to a broken car key or a frozen ignition.
Don’t Use Force to Remove the Key
The ignition is an expensive component of your vehicle and you won’t be able to claim insurance for its repairs. If you aren’t sure how to get the broken key out of the ignition, do not experiment with it. Do not forcefully remove the key, as it may damage the ignition system and make it unusable.
Don’t Use Magnets
Using magnets to remove the broken key may seem like a good idea, but in reality, it is not. When you bring a magnet close to the ignition, it can damage the electrical components, such as the transponder chip. Moreover, it may push the broken key fragments deeper inside the lock.
Don’t Use a Screwdriver
Screwdrivers aren’t thin profile tools and they aren’t made to remove broken keys from an ignition. The thicker end of the screwdriver can push the key inside or may damage the ignition.
Don’t Use Super Glue
You might have seen a video of someone removing a broken car key using super glue. However, the hack does not work every time and has additional risks. If the glue gets into the ignition, it may be impossible to remove the key, and you’ll need an ignition replacement. Do not use any super glue methods to remove the broken key blade.
Don’t Over-Lubricate the Ignition
Electrical components are attached to the ignition and over-lubrication can damage them. Spray the lubricant from a distance targeting the key and the ignition’s hole only. Use a quality lubricant, like WD-40, that’s specially designed for such purposes.
If Nothing Works, Call S.E.L. Locksmith for Expert Help
So, the broken key is still inside the ignition? Professional locksmiths at S.E.L Locksmith can fix the problem! We have a team of mobile locksmiths that operate in Las Vegas and the Baltimore region. Once we receive a service call from you, we will dispatch an experienced locksmith to the location you provide and will have the key out in no time.
We are a full-service locksmith company so we can also fabricate a new key. You’ll be back to driving your vehicle in no time!