My Toyota Corolla Key Is Stuck in the Ignition – What to Do?

Toyota Corolla is one of the most reliable cars ever built, however, that does not mean they are immune from problems from time to time. One possible issue with a Toyota Corolla is getting your key stuck in the ignition. You twist and turn the key, but it just doesn’t budge. You can’t leave your car that way but you aren’t sure what to do in such a situation. How do you remove the key from the ignition?

If your key is stuck in the ignition of Toyota, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that the vehicle is in park mode and is turned off.
  2. Turn the steering wheel to free the locking steering column and try to remove the key.
  3. Detach the connecting wire to the Solenoid and try to pull the key.
  4. Check your car battery.
  5. Confirm that your car’s ignition cylinder is working as expected.
  6. If none of these work, call a Tow service and see a mechanic

Commonly the steering lock will bind the key in the ignition. With the transmission in park and the car positively in the ‘off’ position, pull the wheel to the left. There should be a small bit of movement before it stops. In that small area of movement, try removing the key. This can be finicky, so try it a couple of times. This should take the pressure off of the locked wheel and should release the key. If none of these tricks work, you may need to seek out the help of a professional. If you inadvertently damage your ignition cylinder, you may be in for a hefty bill.

Steps to Take When Your Toyota Key Gets Stuck In Ignition

This is not an uncommon occurrence and there’s a good chance it simply has to do with the steering lock. The worst thing you can do is try to remove the key by force; that will only damage the cylinder.

Ensure that the vehicle is in park mode and is turned off

The steering lock acts as a means of retaining the key in the ignition while the car is running and/or in gear. Your car should be off completely. Check to see that the key is fully in the ‘off’ position and is not in ‘accessory’. Now check that your car’s shifter is completely in park mode. If you aren’t positive, turn your car back on, shift to drive and back to park, then turn the car off once more, being sure to land firmly in the ‘off’ position.

Turn the Steering Wheel to Free the Locking Steering Column and Try to Remove the Key

The steering lock also functions as a safety measure. Locking your steering wheel so that if your car were to somehow slip out of gear on a hill, for instance, it would only bump into the curb (providing your tires are turned toward the curb, as they should be). With the car fully in park mode and the engine off, take one hand and pull the wheel to one side; there will be a bit of movement before complete resistance. While in that small area of movement, pull on your key. Taking the pressure off the locked wheel should release it.

Detach the Connecting Wire to the Solenoid and Try to Pull the Key.

A Solenoid is a cylindrical coil of wire acting as a magnet when carrying electric current. It is used to hold the key in place to ensure that it is not pulled out when the car is in drove mode. However, it can become faulty and may need to be replaced. A short term solution to get your key out is to unplug the wire to it. Look for your specific model on youtube and search “Toyota Corolla XXXX Solenoid”. You should reconnect the wiring to ensure the safety feature is still intact after you have pulled your key out. You can replace the solenoid or get a mechanic to do it for you.

Check Your Car Battery

Check to see that your battery is charged. Are your dome lights coming on? If not, the battery may be an issue. All cars today rely on complicated electronics to power the ignition system. If your battery is not staying charged (possibly due to a bad alternator, wiring, or other electrical issues) this may be the cause of a key not releasing from the ignition lock cylinder. Try jumping your car to see if you can then remove the key.

Confirm That Your Car’s Ignition Cylinder is Working as Expected

Due to the obvious theft risk, the ignition lock cylinder is fairly tamper-resistant and generally not a common cause. The ignition lock cylinder, if it does need to be replaced, is something that would most likely need to be done by a professional mechanic. If this were to be the case, the ignition would need to be re-keyed, i.e. the current ignition keys would be disposed of and replaced with a new set. If your key is used to lock and unlock your doors as well, you’ll need to keep a copy of it for that.

To help mitigate issues with your cylinder, you can occasionally clean it by spraying inside with some compressed air and lubricating it with a bit of graphite (available at most big box stores and hardware stores). WD-40 can be used sparingly if graphite is not available.

Call a Tow Service and See a Mechanic

If you have tried these solutions and nothing worked, chances are there is something else wrong and a professional must take a look at it. It would be best to call a tow service and your car to a mechanic who can take care of the issue.

How To Remove A Broken Key

If you’re unlucky enough to snap your key off in the ignition, there are a few remedies for that as well.

First, clean the ignition lock cylinder hole. You can attempt to remove the piece of key by replacing the remaining key in the slot and then inserting a thin piece of metal, like a paperclip, down either side of the key. Once both pieces are inserted, squeeze the pieces together, pinching the remaining piece of key between them and remove. If this doesn’t work, you can purchase a specially designed extractor tool that should do the job. If all else fails, it’s time to call the locksmith.

Are There Any Issues With the Key?

If you’re in the majority, your keys spend most of their downtime in either a pocket or deep within the bowels of a bag. Hence it goes without saying, the grooves of your key can become embedded with lint, dust, dirt, or whatever else may co-reside with them. Every few months or so, it’s a good idea to take some rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab or cotton ball and clean the crevices of your key. Vinegar is also a suitable option. It takes less than a minute and can save you what could end up being a bit of a headache if your cylinder gets gunked up.

It is also important that your key is not bent or warped in any way. Keys can handle a bit of a beating, but over time they can become bent if sat on, dropped, etc. If your key is bent, use a spare and have an additional copy made as well, just to be safe.

Try to lubricate the ignition lock cylinder. Aim a small stream of WD-40 into the slot; one or two short bursts are enough. If you can, spray one short burst on either side. Allow a couple of seconds for the lubricant to work its way into the cylinder and then try to manipulate the key, again being sure not to exert too much pressure on the key.

Toyota Corolla Key Replacement (Cost and Process)

The cost of replacing your key is dependent on a few different variables. It’s important to remember that different model years of the Toyota Corolla may have different requirements when it comes to key replacement. Corolla models that have the key integrated into the fob (i.e. the trunk/lock/unlock/panic buttons on the end of the key) may require the additional step of programming. This can be done by the dealer, but tutorials are available online if you’re willing to try it yourself. To replace a key, you have a few options.

Order a Key Online: With your exact model and year of production (and possibly VIN) you can order a key online. This blank will need to be taken to either an automotive locksmith or the dealer to have it cut for your car. If you choose to go to the dealer, you will need to provide proof of ownership of the vehicle.

Purchase a Replacement From the Dealer: If you’d rather skip the middleman and go right to the dealer to replace the key, be prepared to show your ID and proof of ownership of the vehicle. This proof of ownership can be the title or a copy of the insurance card. The cost for a replacement key at the Toyota dealership can range anywhere from $15 to $30 for a conventional key. Keys with transponders will cost significantly more due to hefty re-programming fees.

Frequently Asked Questions About Toyota Corolla Keys

Is it okay to hit the key to try to loosen it?

While this generally should be reserved as a last resort, sometimes on older cars or vehicles with especially dirty lock ignition lock cylinders this may be helpful. Tap the key lightly but make sure you are doing this directly on the back of the key so as not to bend it.

What could be causing issues with my key?

The best way to avoid issues with your key is to take care of it. Ensure that your key is clean by wiping it down occasionally and/or cleaning it with alcohol. If your key looks to be getting worn out, have a replacement made. It is also best to avoid heavy keychains that may pull down on the key when it is in the ignition.

My car won’t go fully into park mode and I cannot remove my key. What should I do?

If your shifter won’t go fully into park mode, you can fix this quickly by removing a small panel on your shifter console. This little cover should be right by your shift lever. Use a small screwdriver or object to pry the cover-up. Beneath the panel is a switch that you can press that will allow the car to fully shift into park.

What if I put the wrong key in my ignition?

If you accidentally insert the wrong key into the ignition, do not turn it. Gently rock the key up and down and attempt to remove the key with a light, even pull. It is also possible to insert a very thin piece of metal (something like a hacksaw blade) into the opening to feel what the key is stuck on and then release it.

Wrap Up

If your key is stuck in your ignition, it’s not the end of the world. This is most commonly due to a simple error or driver neglect— but in the event that it’s a bigger issue, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to handle that, too. These tips should help even the least car-savvy driver remove a stuck key without breaking a sweat.

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