Most Common Car Ignition Problems
The ignition of an automobile is something that is often overlooked in routine maintenance schedules. However, the ignition is obviously an integral aspect of running your car-without it, you aren’t going anywhere. If you are having problems with your ignition (the most common being that it will not turn), there could be several causes of the problem. Whatever you do, do not force-turn the key while it is in the ignition. Keys are made of soft metal, which means if you use tools to force the key to turning, the key can easily break off in the ignition a much more complex and expensive problem than you originally started with. You can usually fix the problem in a few minutes of less by completing a few simple steps.
Problem: Your steering column lock may be applying pressure to the ignition mechanism, prohibiting it from turning.
Solution: First, you will need to try to find a position where your key is able to turn in the ignition. Apply pressure to the key, as if you were going to start you vehicle, and gently turn the wheel from left to right until the key is able to turn.
Problem: The car is in the wrong position.
Solution: Many vehicles will not let you start the engine if the car is not in “park” or “neutral.” Check to make sure your car is in park, then try to turn the ignition.
Problem: The lock cylinder is dirty.
Solution: Dirt and grime can prohibit your lock cylinder from functioning properly. Use electrical contact cleaner to remove the dirt from the mechanism. Then add a small drop of graphite lubricant. Do not use oil on the lock cylinder. Dust and dirt are attracted to oil. As the cylinders get dirtier, the tumblers will be prevented from moving, which means they will have trouble unlocking. Acceptable lubricants include graphite and silicone. Be sure to leave your car door open when cleaning the cylinder, as the fumes from the cleaner can be hazardous.
Problem: The tumbler is locked.
Solution: Tumblers (included on some lock cylinders) can get stuck in a locked position. Try tapping the lock cylinder with a tack hammer, which can cause the springs in the tumbler to release it from the locked position. If the car doesn’t make a noise when it is started, check the battery terminal connections and then look for other loose connections in the ignition systems.
Problem: Your key is bent.
Solution: While this is not the most common problem, your key can become bent, which will prevent it from fitting correctly in the ignition, and turning. Your key may not be visibly crooked, so lay it on a flat surface to see if the key is bent. If your key is bent, use a wooden block (or similar tool) to gently tap it back into its original shape (while it is laying on a flat surface). Again, do not use a metal hammer or similar object to bend your key, as keys are made of soft metal and can break easily.