Subaru Key Stuck in Ignition Fixing – 6 Easy Steps

The age-old problem of a key getting stuck in the ignition! A common issue that we have all faced at one point or another.

Now, imagine you’re in a hurry, and your key decides to play hard to get. Frustrating, right? That’s why it’s crucial to know how to tackle this problem swiftly and efficiently.

This article is your go-to guide, offering step-by-step instructions to get that stubborn key out without breaking a sweat.

But first, do you know how the key system works? Finding out and expanding your knowledge might help you solve this problem.

Identify the Problem

Why does this happen? The most common culprit is a malfunctioning shift lock mechanism. This mechanism ensures that the key can only be removed when the car is in park. If it malfunctions, it can mistakenly think the car is still in gear, even if it’s not, leading to a stuck key.

Safety Precautions

Safety Precautions

Safety first, always! Before you even think about attempting any fixes, ensure you’re taking all necessary precautions.

First and foremost, make sure your vehicle is in park. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this simple step is overlooked.

Next, engage the parking brake. This ensures your car stays put while you work on the ignition.

And if you’re planning to fiddle with any electrical components, it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery.

Interesting fact: The parking brake isn’t just for parking on hills. Engaging it regularly, even on flat surfaces, keeps it in good working condition.

Gather Necessary Tools

Alright, before we dive deep (oops, I mean before we get into the thick of things), let’s ensure we have all the tools at hand. You’ll need:

  • Pliers: Handy for gripping the key if it’s really stuck.
  • Lubricant: This can help ease it out.
  • A small screwdriver: Useful for poking around and potentially releasing any obstructions.

Remember, always use the right tool for the job. Using makeshift tools or forcing it can cause more harm than good.

Step 1: Turn Off the Engine

Turn Off the Engine

Before you even think about extracting that key, ensure the engine is off. It’s not just about safety; it’s also about ensuring that the car’s systems aren’t actively working against you.

To turn off the engine, ensure your gear shift is in the ‘Park’ position (or ‘Neutral’ for manual transmissions). Then, turn the key to the ‘Off’ position. If it doesn’t turn off immediately, don’t panic. Sometimes, it might need a gentle jiggle to find its way to the off position.

Step 2: Check the Gear Shift

This might sound basic, but it’s a common oversight. Your car must be set in ‘Park’ (for automatic transmissions) or ‘Neutral’ (for manual transmissions) before you can remove the key.

If the gear shift isn’t in the correct position, the car’s safety mechanisms will prevent the key from being removed. If you find it’s not in the right position, gently shift it to ‘Park’ or ‘Neutral’. Once done, try removing the key.

Step 3: Wiggle the Steering Wheel

Wiggle the Steering Wheel

If you’ve ever turned off your car and found the steering wheel locked, you’ve encountered the steering wheel lock mechanism. It’s a safety feature that prevents the wheel from turning when the key is removed.

Sometimes, this mechanism can trap the key. To release it, turn the steering wheel slightly to the left or right while gently turning the key. You’ll know it’s released when the key turns freely.

Did you know? The steering wheel lock mechanism is an anti-theft feature. It makes it harder for thieves to steer the car if they manage to hotwire it.

Step 4: Apply Lubricant

Sometimes, the key gets stuck due to friction or a little rust inside the ignition cylinder. A little lubricant can work wonders in such situations.

Use a graphite-based lubricant (available at most auto stores) and spray a small amount into the ignition. Wait for a few minutes, then try turning and removing the key. Remember, a little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it!

Step 5: Gentle Key Extraction

Gentle Key Extraction

If you’ve tried the above steps and the key still won’t budge, it’s time for a more hands-on approach. But remember, always be gentle. Forcefully pulling can break the key, leading to a more complicated problem.

Using a pair of needle-nose pliers can help. Grip the key gently and try to wiggle it out. If you have a small flat-head screwdriver, you can also insert it (gently!) alongside the key to give it a nudge. But always be cautious to avoid damaging the ignition cylinder.

Step 6: Test and Reassemble

Once you’ve successfully extracted the key, it’s not time to celebrate just yet. First, you need to ensure that the problem is truly fixed. Insert the key back into the ignition and turn it to various positions.

It should move smoothly without any hitches. If you had to disassemble any parts (like removing panels to access the ignition), now’s the time to put them back together. Ensure everything fits snugly and is in its proper place.


Even after following all the steps, there’s a chance the key might still get stuck. If so, here are some things to consider:

  • Battery Issues: A dead battery can sometimes prevent the key from turning or being removed. Check your battery and replace it if necessary.
  • Debris on the Key: Over time, keys can accumulate dirt or wear down, causing them to not fit perfectly. Clean your key and check for any visible damage.
  • Defective Ignition Cylinder: If the ignition cylinder is worn out or damaged, it might be time for a replacement.

If you’ve tried everything and the issue persists, it might be time to call in the professionals. A locksmith or your car’s service center can provide expert assistance.

Preventative Measures

Prevention is always better than cure. To avoid facing a stuck key in the future:

  • Regular Maintenance: Periodically lubricate the ignition cylinder to ensure smooth operation.
  • Use the Right Key: It sounds obvious, but always ensure you’re using the correct key for your car.
  • Avoid Heavy Keychains: A heavy keychain can put strain on the ignition, leading to wear and tear.

Remember, taking care of your car’s ignition system and key can save you from unexpected troubles down the road.


Can a worn-out key be the reason for ignition problems?

Yes, old and worn-out keys are among the most common causes of ignition problems. Over time, the grooves on keys can wear down, making them less effective. Additionally, if keys are bent or have been subjected to excessive force, they might not fit properly in the ignition. In such cases, it’s advisable to get the key replaced or straightened by a professional to avoid further issues.

How can I ensure my ignition chamber remains in good condition?

Regular maintenance is key. Periodically lubricating the ignition chamber can prevent it from jamming. When lubricating, it’s essential to choose the right lubricant that doesn’t solidify over time, collect dust, or conduct electricity.

Avoid using products like WD40 in the ignition, as they can lead to further complications. If you’re unsure about which lubricant to use, consult with a professional or your car’s service center.

What should I do if my key breaks inside the ignition?

A broken key inside the ignition is a challenging situation. If this happens, you have two primary options: use a key extractor tool or hire a professional locksmith.

While a key extractor tool can help remove the broken piece from the ignition, working with a professional locksmith ensures the broken key is removed correctly without causing additional damage. It’s essential to avoid using makeshift tools or attempting to extract the key forcefully, as this can worsen the situation.


The challenge of a stuck key in the ignition can be daunting, but with the right knowledge and approach, it’s a hurdle you can easily overcome. Always prioritize safety and follow the steps methodically.

Remember, sometimes the simplest solutions, like checking the gear shift or wiggling the steering wheel, can save the day. However, if you ever find yourself in doubt, seeking professional help is always a wise choice.

Drive safe and take care of your Subaru!

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