How to Remove a Broken Car Key From the Ignition

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After many years of use, your car key may break off in the lock. When this happens, it renders the lock unusable until you can get the broken piece out. If your car was already locked when the key broke, you will not be able to open it, and you’ll need a new key as well.

The good news is that technology is rendering this particular question moot; over the last decade, automakers have begun to increasingly equip newer-model cars and vehicles with “smart keys” which contain a micro-chip to start your engine with a simple push of a button. The bad news is that if you lose your smart key and don’t have a spare, you’ll long for the aggravating antiquity of extracting that broken key out of your ignition lock.

Here are four methods to safely and effectively remove a broken key from the cylinder.

Method 1 of 4: Use a broken key extractor tool

Materials Needed

Step 1: Turn off engine and park your car. Immediately after breaking the key, you should make sure the car engine is off, the emergency brake is on, and the car is in park.

Step 2: Lubricate the lock. Spray some lock lubricant into the lock cylinder.

person using key extraction tool into lock

Step 2: Slide the key extractor tool into the lock. Slide the broken key extractor tool into the cylinder of the lock, with the hook end pointed up.

Step 4: Turn the extractor tool. When you feel the extractor tool stop, you’ve reached the end of the lock cylinder.

Gently turn the extractor tool toward the teeth of the broken key.

pulling extractor tool out

Step 5: Pull the extractor tool out. Slowly pull the extractor tool toward you and attempt to catch the hook of the extractor tool on a key tooth.

Once you’ve hooked it, keep pulling until a small part of the broken key has come out of the cylinder. If you weren’t successful the first time, keep trying to pull out the broken bits.

using pliers to pull key out of lock

Step 6: Pull out the broken key. Once part of the broken key has come out of the cylinder, you can use needle head pliers to pull the whole key out.

Method 2 of 4: Use a jigsaw blade

Materials Needed

Step 1: Lubricate the lock. Spray some lock lubricant into the lock cylinder.

Step 2: Slide the blade into the lock. Take your hand jigsaw blade and carefully slide it into the lock cylinder.

hand jigsaw

Step 2: Pull the blade out of the lock. When the hand jigsaw blade stops sliding, you’ve reached the end of the lock cylinder.

Carefully turn the jigsaw blade towards the key and try to catch the blades on a tooth (or several teeth) of the key. Slowly pull the jigsaw blade out of the lock.

Step 4: Pull out the broken key. Once a small portion of the broken key emerges from the key cylinder, use your needle-nose pliers to pull the broken key out completely.

Method 2 of 4: Use thin wire

If you don’t have a broken key extractor tool or a jigsaw blade, you can use wire as long as it’s thin enough to slide into the lock cylinder, while being strong enough to maintain it’s shape both going into and coming out of the lock cylinder.

Materials Needed

  • Lubricant
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Strong/thin wire

Step 1: Lubricate the lock. Spray lock lubricant into the lock cylinder.

peron using needle nose pliers

Step 2: Make a small hook. Use your needle-nose pliers to make a small hook at one end of the wire.

Step 2: Insert the hook into the lock. Insert the wire into the cylinder, hook end first with the hook pointing toward the top of the lock cylinder.

When you feel the wire stop moving forward, you’ve reached the end of the cylinder.

Step 4: Pull the wire out. Turn the wire toward the teeth of the key.

Slowly try to catch a tooth in the bent wire and pull the wire out of the lock with the key.

Step 5: Pull the broken key out with pliers. Once a small part of the broken key comes out of the cylinder, use your needle-nose pliers to pull it out completely.

Method 4 of 4: Call a locksmith

Step 1: Call a locksmith. If you don’t have the right tools on hand, the best thing to do is to call for a locksmith.

They’ll be able to extract your broken key and make a duplicate key for you on-the-spot.

A broken key in a lock can feel like a total disaster but you can save some cash and solve the problem yourself in most cases with just a few simple tools. Once you get the broken part out of the lock cylinder, a locksmith can make a duplicate even if the key is in two pieces. If you have any issues with your key’s ability to turn in your ignition, have one of YourMechanic’s mobile mechanics perform an inspection.


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Joshua

25 years of experience
709 reviews
Joshua
25 years of experience
Pontiac Sunbird - Ignition key does not turn - Oakland, California
Joshua was great. He arrived early which was a plus. He quickly resolved the problem and ordered the parts. I would recommend him to everyone. As a matter of fact while he was there attending my Mom's car, I had him to look at my car as well. He was wonderful and very professional.
Ford Explorer - Ignition key does not turn - Antioch, California
Job and explanation well done. Thank You

Choeun

13 years of experience
181 reviews
Choeun
13 years of experience
Honda Pilot - Ignition key does not turn - Manteca, California
Choeun was very specific in his diagnosis. We had received several suggestions from Honda dealers in the past which were very vague and estimated to be very costly so we never had the issue taken care of; we just left the key in the ignition all the time so it would work (not a good choice). Choeun recommended a locksmith who could rebuild the locking cylinder and when that is complete he will come back and fix the other issues that need to be taken care of on the car. He is very personable and trustworthy.

Brandon

16 years of experience
318 reviews
Brandon
16 years of experience
Dodge Grand Caravan - Ignition key does not turn - Raleigh, North Carolina
I've had Brandon before and have nothing but great things to say. He is very knowledgeable about all types of problems, does quick and efficient work, and makes suggestions on possible work that might also need attention. Keep up the great work!

Terrell

39 years of experience
48 reviews
Terrell
39 years of experience
Toyota Tundra - Ignition key does not turn - Austin, Texas
Terre was on time and very knowledgeable about the problem I could be facing. He diagnosed the possibilities and arrived at at a solution that made good sense. I will be calling him back for service on other vehicles as then comes around.

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