Why won't my car key turn in the door lock?
February 19, 2010 11:19 AM   Subscribe

The car key goes into the door lock, but it won't turn. What's wrong and how can I fix it?

I can put the key in the lock on the driver's side, but it won't turn to unlock the lock. The lock on the passenger side works fine. I'm tired of unlocking it there and then walking back around the car to get in. For what it's worth, we've had some terrible winter weather recently. Is there a quick and easy way to fix this?
posted by Faint of Butt to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Frozen. Squirt some lock de-icer (or WD-40) into the keyhole.

Alternately, find a warm place to park it for a couple of hours.
posted by unixrat at 11:20 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Yup. Frozen. Definitely get a de-icer spray. Alternately, heating-up the tip of the key with a lighter before you stick it in has, on occasion, worked. Not sure if that's recommended for today's micro-chipped and sensored electronic keys, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2010

In case it turns out not to be frozen, they can sometimes get jammed. My last car had a jammed lock on one side (so I didn't lock it). I wasn't able to resolve it and the locksmith wanted to charge too much. WD-40 might work even if it's jammed though.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:51 AM on February 19, 2010

Also, a blowdryer if you have a long enough extension cord.
posted by kestrel251 at 12:01 PM on February 19, 2010

If it's not frozen, pop open the keyhole cover with something small and pointy and take a peek. Last time this happened to me it turned out that the keyhole cover had broken off and a small piece of it was jammed in the lock. I was able to pull it out with tweezers.
posted by COD at 12:11 PM on February 19, 2010

We had a stuck door lock. Went to a small locally owned locksmith and they sprayed something, think it was a graphite spray. It definitely was not a de-icer. (It was summer in South Carolina.)
It was incredible how quickly it made it work like new.
posted by srbrunson at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2010

Rub the business end of the key with a soft pencil, then insert.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: I have some graphite spray here. Assuming the lock is frozen, will it help? Could it make things worse?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:55 PM on February 19, 2010

Graphite spray shouldn't hurt but I'd try WD-40 first. If you can hold back the sprung cover with a small flat screwdriver, get the nozzle of the spray right in. This will clear out any debris that may be lodged in the keyway. The more likely explanation for your problem is that the wafers/pins are bound together. This technique will kill two birds with one squirt.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2010

Graphite won't help for frozen things, but it won't hurt either. You don't have WD-40? Good lord, get thee a can immediately. :) 1000 uses.

Does the door work from the inside? Have you tried working the inside lock/unlock? Bring the window up and down?
posted by unixrat at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2010

NO - Do not try WD40 first - WD40 is a recipe to get nasty gunk and crap stuck in your lock. Graphite and only graphite first. If that doesn't work, I would venture to guess that the wafers in your door lock have worn down to the extent that you need the lock replaced. I worked as a locksmith for many years and saw many people who would come in with this exact problem. Either their key was incredibly worn down (almost smooth) or the inside wafers on their door lock were worn down thus giving the impression that the lock is seized up. I would have to re key their door lock an cut them a new key that would also turn their ignition switch.
posted by yoyoceramic at 2:17 PM on February 19, 2010

I had this exact thing happen to me this over the past few months. It worked better in warmer weather but still stuck sometimes. I tried it all and nothing worked. Finally just had the dealership look at it whilst getting an oil change and they fixed it right up for free. They said it just needed some lubrication but they didnt specify what it was. I that an option for you?
posted by elendil71 at 2:28 PM on February 19, 2010

Go to Autozone and buy a can of CRC brand Freeze-Off Spray. It makes WD-40 look like water.
Take a good look at your key and make sure it's not bent or developing a hairline fracture, too.
posted by Jon-o at 3:44 PM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: I never got around to doing anything about it, and after a few days of warmish weather, the problem went away by itself. Looks like the lock was just frozen after all. How anticlimactic. Thanks for all your help.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:04 PM on February 22, 2010

Response by poster: As an update to the update, the lock seized up again last night. I sprayed some graphite spray in there, and now it works.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:05 AM on March 3, 2010

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