Skip to main content

Why Won’t My Car Key Turn?

Your car key is in the hole and the car won’t let you turn it to start the car – Here’s the simple fix. Plus some other starting tips in case you need them.

Join us...    

If your car still uses a key to start, and the key won’t turn, we can help. This usually occurs when you insert the key and attempt to turn it, but the car seems to be stopping the key. It won’t turn. Before we go any further, do not force the key. Turning harder is not the solution.

Reason 1 Your Car Key Will Not Turn – Steering Wheel Lock
The most common reason that a car key will not turn easily and start the car is that the steering wheel lock is engaged and the wheel is in tension. This happens sometimes when the wheel lock come on and the tires and the steering mechanism are left in a state of tension. To help your car key turn normally, simply move the wheel an inch in the direction it will move and turn the key. If that doesn’t do it, read on.

Reason 2 Your Car Key Will Not Turn – Your Car Is Not In Park
Sometimes we accidentally turn our vehicles off without first engaging Park. For example, if you are the driver and your passenger is going to hop out and run into a store. You turn the key and the car is now off, but not in Park. You are in another gear selector position such as N, R, or D. Shift to P with your foot on the brake and then retry starting as normal.

Reason 3 – Your Standard Transmission Vehicle Is Not Ready (Clutch)
If you are one of the 3% of Americans with a manual transmission, you need to remember that if your car is modern, it will not start unless the clutch is depressed. So, depress the clutch.

One Last Tip-Step On The Brake
We have one last tip. If you are trying to start a car you borrowed and turning the key is not working, or hitting the start button with the fob in the car is not doing the trick, step moderately on the brake and retry the sequence. If you own a car that does not require the brake to be depressed, perhaps you are not in that habit.
If you know of a similar tip, please feel free to share it in the comments below.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on the Torque News Facebook Page, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Images by John Goreham. Re-use with permission only.

Join us...