Shared Knowledge


Car Ignition Key Will Not Turn


25 January 2008

Updated: 4 Dec 2010





Summary: try some Lock Ease. I know, have to have a way to go get some but at local auto parts stores.




I have a 2000 BMW X5, so it was almost 8 years old when the ignition key would not turn in the steering column lock cylinder. No real warning: just bulky one day and then the next totally frozen.





-  Jiggle steering wheel, left and right while trying to turn the ignition key. No change.


- Get some WD-40, 3-in-1 oil and rub on key and insert key in and out many, many times. No change. Did not have WD-40 or 3-in-1 with spray snorkel to try.


- Call BMW dealer. Something to try? Nope. Have it towed into shop.


- Car in garage, steering column locked, in park, so all 4 wheels locked tight. Would have to be pulled out of garage, wheels scuffing the whole way before could be pulled up onto flat bed tow truck.


- Call local locksmith. If car at their store, they could drill out lock. If I could get car to their place of business, would not need lock drilled out.


- Jiggle steering wheel, left and right while trying to turn the ignition key. No change.


- Sit and look at car. Do not want to get it towed. Do not want to pay for cylinder replacement at dealer.


- As it has been very cold, could lock be frozen, frozen? Moisture in there somehow and lock cylinder pieces not moving like they should? Remember seeing lock deicer before at auto parts store. Always have thought of it for use on exterior door locks but maybe, perhaps?


- Head to auto parts store and although I do not find lock deicer, do find “Lock Ease”, which is this spray can of graphite in some sort of liquid. Comes with a snorkel so I can shoot it right into the lock cylinder and get way back in there.


- Shoot the “Lock Ease”. Sure is liquid. Put key in cylinder and try to turn. Nothing. Pull key out and it is black and dripping. Wipe off key.


- If a little did not help, perhaps more? So spray again, pointing can upwards inside cylinder.


- Sit in driver’s seat, insert key into lock cylinder and begin jiggling steering wheel while turning the key. Suddenly the key turns and car starts! Fluke? Or did spray graphite really help?


-  Back car out of garage and park it so towing would be easy if eventually required.


- Turn off car and remove key. It black and oily and so wipe off.


- Insert key and try to turn in ignition cylinder. Bulky but it does turn.


- More spray graphite and then key in and out of cylinder and turning it to car start position and then turning off car and removing key and cleaning it. Over and over, key in, turn, start, engine stop, key out.


- Appeared to be ok but thought I would take to dealer to get new cylinder anyway. Started car on first turn of key and drove to dealer. Parked such that if key decided to stop working, they could tow it easily into one of their shop bays.


- Turned off engine and removed key. Inserted key and started car successfully 20 times. Go home.


- Read on “Lock Ease” can that “liquid carrier” for graphite would eventually evaporate leaving only the graphite but every time I pulled the key out of the cylinder, black and oily.


-  Start up engine, set heater to 90 degrees and leave car running. Warm car would help evaporation?


- Engine heats interior for 30 minutes. Stop engine, remove key, wipe clean. Reinsert key and remove and oil gone. “Carrier” evaporated.


- Turn key and moves like it should.


So, no locksmith, no tow job, no cylinder replacement. Why did ignition cylinder freeze up? I do smoke cigarettes and thus some smoke tar could have built up on cylinder parts or normal airborne sticky got on cylinder parts. Don’t know, don’t care. Just know that “Lock Ease” seems to have solved my problem.


Update: 4 December 2010:  Since I went through experience with frozen ignition lock above, ignition lock has never "frozen" on me again.




Ron - Shared Knowledge Home