Last Updated on November 18, 2022
Why Is it Hard to Turn My Key in the Ignition?
If you’ve found this article consider yourself lucky!
When your car ignition is hard to turn, or when any car lock is hard to turn, this is the first sign that something is wrong with either you ignition or your car key. But is not yet bad enough that your key won’t turn the ignition, so you’re not stranded someplace.
This is the time to visit your local locksmith and setup an appointment to test your keys and/or your ignition or door locks to have them repaired or replaced.
Ignitions that are hard to turn are caused by one of these three issues. First, your car key is worn our. Second, the ignition is damaged, or third, the ignition has just been gunk’d up with dirt or debris over time.
If your hard to turn ignition is caused by either of the first two issues, you want to get that taken care of right away, or you WILL eventually find yourself stranded.
Ignition Is Hard to Turn Due to Gunk or Debris
ACME Locksmith is in Arizona. We are a dry, dirty, dusty town and this gets everywhere, including in your car’s ignition. The only way to handle this, is to try and flood the ignition with a silicon based lubricant spray to get the dirt and gunk out (see why silicon based lubricants are best).
Do NOT use a non-silicon based spray. If gunk is the problem, non-silicon based sprays will actually attract more gunk over time, and you’ll find yourself back a square one.
If this is the cause of the ignition being hard to turn, the drips coming out from the spray will be VERY dark and dirty.
If this fixes the problem for only a short while, but it comes back fairly quickly, then the cause is likely one of the other two issues.
Key is Hard to Turn in Ignition Due to a Bad Key
Car keys, over time, will wear out. New car keys have sharp ridges and valleys that lift the wafers inside of a car lock to their proper position. As the key wears out, these ridges and values start to smooth over and they don’t do their job properly so the ignition becomes hard to turn or starts to stick.The best way to determine if it is the key is to try a new key or a key that isn’t often used. So if you have a spare key sitting in a drawer of your home, try that key.
Did the problem go away? If so, take that key to your local locksmith and get a duplicate of that key made and toss the key that was causing issues.
Note, most new vehicles have chipped keys. These keys will require that they be programmed to the car so the car will run. You can buy car keys online from ACME Locksmith, and we also program them if you happen to be in Arizona.
Check out our article on How Much Do Duplicate Car Keys Cost to get an idea on pricing.
If you don’t have a spare key, take your car to a locksmith shop. The locksmith can cut you a factory original car key by decoding your worn key. That key will have the cuts just as if it were made by the factory.
This is good to try for two reasons when your ignition starts to get hard to turn.
- You should always have a spare key. If you lose your last car key, it is very expensive to make one from scratch.
- It cost less money than pulling the ignition and repairing it. So when any car door lock or ignition becomes hard to turn, start with a key by code, the least expensive thing to try.
The Car Lock or Ignition is Hard to Turn Because it Is Worn Out
Car locks don’t use cylindrical pins like house locks. They use wafers. Sometimes single wafers and sometimes split wafers.Over time these wafers can become damaged. Our Tempe Locksmith Service sees this a lot because it’s a college town with a lot of older vehicles.
Why do ignition wafers wear out and ignitions become hard to turn?
Do you have a huge key ring?
Hanging a heavy key ring from the ignition will cause damage. While you drive and hit bumps in the road it jostles the car, and in doing so that heavy key ring is pulling and pushing on the ignition wafers consistently. This will damage the wafers.
Once a car locks wafers are bent or split, the lock starts to stick and become hard to turn. The next step after this is the ignition will stop turning. Here is our article on what to do try when your car key won’t turn the ignition.
The Ignition is Just Wore Out
You can’t stop time. Over the tens of thousands of miles on you car that ignition has been turned on and off thousands of times. This simply wears out the ignition and makes it hard to turn. It’s the first sign that it needs to be fixed, don’t ignore this sign! Hondas are famous for this!
What to Do When Your Ignition is Worn Out and Hard to Turn
If the lubricant didn’t work (or only worked for a short while) and the new key didn’t work, then the ignition is going to have to be repaired or replaced. When you can still turn the ignition, this is a relatively easy process. A locksmith, a mechanic, or yourself if you are handy, can pull the ignition from the car and then take it to a locksmith that does ignition repair.
Your local locksmith will remove and replace the wafers in your existing lock for well under $100 bucks (at the time of this writing we charge $55). None of your car keys have to replaced and this is the easiest way to get the problem fixed.
You could also buy a new ignition, but that ignition won’t have keys for it that are programmed to your car. So, to save money, if you go with a new ignition, take it to your local automotive locksmith and have the wafers replaced so that your current keys work the locks.
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Robert has been the Owner of ACME Locksmith, Arizona’s #1 Rated Locksmith, since 2007. Robert’s company has provided locksmith service to over 160,000 Phoenix houses and businesses.