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Key won't turn in the ignition

(1990 Toyota Corolla)
in Menomonee Falls, WI on December 23, 2008
I put the key in the ignition on my 1990 Toyota Corolla and they key won't even turn. The steering wheel is locked, but this was happening before the steering wheel was locked. Please help!!!!
Displaying 28 answers & 20 comments
Popular Answer
on November 10, 2009
I had this happen in my 1994 Corolla. You can try turning the steering wheel and the key at the same time and see if that works. In my car the key got stuck in the ignition and wouldn't budge. I had to drill out the ignition cylinder (very messy) in order to remove and replace it.

Even if you get your ignition to work. I would suggest replacing the ignition cylinder. This is actually pretty easy as long as it is still functioning. If you remove the appropriate panels, you'll see a small button on the bottom of the ignition cylinder. Insert your key and then push the button, and then pull the ignition cylinder out with your key. To install a new all you have to do is slide it in where the old one was. The repair manual should go over all of this.
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on February 12, 2012
hey bud you have any tips on the best way to drill out a keyhole
on June 15, 2010
Hey, my b/f has a 1995 Toyota Corolla and we had the same problem. I tried turning the wheel and the key at the same time by myself with all my strength and it wouldn't budge for me. We thought it was gonna be a serious problem.

Then when he came home from work, he rocked the car back and forth from behind while I turned the wheel and the key at the same time, and it worked! Maybe that will help!
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on September 01, 2010
Just worked for me! Thank you!
on February 11, 2011
Very helpful! thanks, my 99' honda civic locked up. In my attempts to free it i locked the stupid steering wheel as well. Two problems solved with aggravated rocking of the car. I swear from far away it must have looked like there were 5 people having an orgy in there. Anyways, it eventually freed up. Thanks again.
on November 09, 2009
This has happened in the past to me especially after getting new toyota. I found that turning the wheel enabled the key to turn.
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on August 15, 2010
My grand am did the same thing,It wouldn't turn back but half the way,so i drove it to the store came back home, same thing happen.i kept messing with it and then it pop loose...But will i need a new ignition at sometime...
on August 03, 2010
all answers made sense so I dont see why any were given thumbs down. You can thumbs down this one, I dont care because I'm not actually giving any helpful advice.
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on August 05, 2010
I'm curious about the thumbs down as well, seems like several good answers to me. To the original poster, did you find the solution to the problem?
on December 23, 2008
Make sure your tire isn't up against a curb, try turning the steering wheel before turning the key, If that dosn't work you will need to change the ignition lock cylinder.
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on December 11, 2010
How much would that cost for my 2000 Ford Focus?PLEASE ANSWER!!!
on December 16, 2010
Mine cost about 170 bucks 4 years ago at the dealer
on December 29, 2010
I have a 2002 Jeep Overland and sometimes the key wont turn in the ignition, I found a simple solution after trying for an hour to "jiggle" the steering wheel. I took a small amount of vegetable oil and lubed the key w/ it, took it back out to my Jeep and taadaa it went in and turned over.
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on February 09, 2011
Thanks! That worked on my 2000 Camry this morning in frigid temps.
on June 14, 2011
Thank you that just worked on my 2007 Kia Optima!!!!!!!!
on November 09, 2009
If your brake lights are out, your ignition key won't turn. Put your emergency brakes on, then try to turn the key towards you and shift the car into neutral. Then turn on the ignition. Release your emergency brakes and use your emergency flashers to drive to a repair shop immediately... It's illegal to drive without brake lights.
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on May 10, 2011
r u serious?? that is the most stupid comment i ever heard.
on June 11, 2011
I don't understand why but this DID work on my Cavalier.
on January 10, 2013
This is actually not a stupid comment, I had a Honda that one of the brake lights was out and in my manual it said if both were out my car wouldn't even start as a safety mechanism....I think my car got confused about it too because at times I had to shift it to neutral to start it, very annoying safety feature.
on December 09, 2010
wd40 in the key hole, thats all i have to say.
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on December 18, 2010
WD40 is the ticket. my GF likes to leave her key on the floor and i think it has picked up water and or dirt and seized the mechanism. we tried all the above solutions but to no avail. Then i trecked through the snow back to my shed and got the WD40, it worked like a dream.
on January 12, 2011
my sister dropped her keys in the snow a day prior- this morning the key wouldnt turn. read this post and tried it- IT WORKED! THANKS!!
on July 21, 2011
I have a 95 Geo Prizm,same as a 95 Corolla.Thanks for this,i first sprayed dust cleaner in the keyhole, then wd40.It took about 20 minutes or more of key turning and it started.Thought i was just lucky,so had my wife follow me tonight to my mechanic for an overnight dropoff.Funny thing was when i got there and turned the car off and i tried again for the heck of it,it started right up.So shut it off ,tried the key started right up once more.I didnt want my mechanic to have this experience ,so brought the car home on the way stopped for gas (left the car running)of course !came home shut it off.One more try it started. onward
on March 06, 2010
if the steering wheel is locked try turning it just a little till you feel the resistance go away. the key should turn. the steering wheel can lock if you are sitting a little crooked on the street. it could be that simple.
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on December 23, 2008
A worn out ignition key can cause this problem too. Jiggle the key around in the cylinder and try to turn the key. If you have a spare key, try that because it might be less worn. Dealers can cut fresh keys if you have the VIN and can verify registration/ownership
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on August 16, 2010
I used to run into this all the time when i worked at Saturn (r.i.p.) The ignition cylinder would get worn out so that you could pull the key out with the engine running. The customer would decline replacing the cylinder and get a new key instead...combine a new key with a worn out cylinder and you get some serious binding! When I bought my 4R back in September it only had 1 key and it hardly had any ridges left in it. I got 2 copies made and sometimes the key won't turn the cylinder but if I take the key out, flip it over and put it in the other way it will work just fine. i know the cyl is worn but I'm not going to worry about it until it quits working altogether.
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on December 17, 2010
buy american
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on February 01, 2011
yea right they make american with foreign machines and parts and it just happened to me this morning in my ford focus--nice try.
on September 19, 2010
I have found that turning the wheels straight right before you park and turn off the car helps when you want to turn the car back on.
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on March 07, 2010
So the wheel was free turning before you tried the key?
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on February 14, 2010
your key assembly needs replaced.
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on June 03, 2010
move the steering wheel around while you turn the key my 1990 corolla does the samething.
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on June 08, 2011
This happened to me yesterday-and by searching the internet I found out how to fix it!!! My problem was the key in my 1996 Toyota corolla wouldn't turn-instant panic! What I had to do is first, I called a used auto parts yard and got the ingition cylinder for the car, I only wanted the cylinder, but the only way I could buy it was the whole unit, so I did, cost me 60 bucks. Next, I removed the lower plastic panel, under the steering wheel, total time-5-10 minutes. Then, I took my electric drill(don't use a cordless-no way near enough speed) and drilled out the little silvery metal pin, which is located just underneath the cylinder. The way I found this was looking at the used unit I bought, and by turning the key to ass., a little pin popped out under the cylinder. When this pin pops out, by pushing the pin in , you can pull out the actual ignition lock cylinder, which is the part you want! By looking at the pin, I was able to locate the pin on the malfunctioning unit in the car. I used a carbide bit a little smaller than the hole, and about 10-15 minutes later I was able to drill out the little pin and pull out the key lock cylinder. Once this was done, it was just a matter of sliding in the "new" cylinder in place of the old one. And I have to admit I am definitely not a mechanic, but in this economy, we have to find every way the average person can to save money! I figure the repair cost me about 140 bucks, 60 for the part and 80 to get the car towed to my house. If I had done the fix where the car broke down it would of been just the $60, but I didn't want to risk running into a problem out in the middle of nowhere, if you know what I mean! So there you go, a real life fix of a broken key cylinder, 1996 Toyota Corolla, and forget the other remedy on the net, the "paper clip" fix, does not work for this car!
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on February 13, 2012
I believe this is what I need to do. Do you have a picture of the pin location, or an even more detailed description of its location?
on March 02, 2010
Cut a new key. I had the same problem. The minute you notice that the key does want to turn everytime when you try starting. Keys get worn out. Cut yourself a new set of keys.

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on October 09, 2010
I call BS because I am going through the same problem right now and I tried the spare key and nothing! The key will not freakin turn at all it is like it's locked in position. No amount of shaking the wheel or jiggling the key is working. The cylinder in the ignition is shot!
on January 09, 2011
we just had this problem and it was froze up inside the cylinder used a bic liter heat the key slide it in the ignition nomore problem quite comon if your in the north around snow with keys and ignitions
on November 11, 2011
im actually going through this now!!!!!!!! my key wont work and i tried everything you guys are saying!
on August 22, 2010
yrs ago i had a ford tempo and this constantly happened to me. I think the fuse had to be replaced. my Dad always came to the rescue so i dont rem all that well.
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on December 30, 2010
your steering wheel is locked, Just crank the steering wheel hard to left or right. it will take a strong pull but will unlock and you are good to go.
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on November 01, 2012
your ignition key cylinder is having issues.
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on November 04, 2011
used WD40 and it worked! Thank you!
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on May 25, 2012
This happened to me today with my 2003 Avalon and I called AAA, took 2 Service people to attend to my problem
and finally,the second guy was able to start it but advised me to have the car towed to a dealership so they could fix it. I went home and tried my spare key and the key turned the ignition very easily with no problem at all. I tried it a few times and NO problem,then I tried the old key and it won't turn the ignition again.
ALL YOU NEED IS A NEW KEY. I guess keys get worn out.
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on June 21, 2012
Thanks guys! 2010 Toyota Corolla wouldn't turn at all. I wiggled the steering wheel (even though I "locked" it earlier) and jiggled the key. I think it was tension from the wheels being turned, maybe coupled with the extreme heat. But it started!
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on August 03, 2012
Most probably key got worn out, go to Toyota dealer and you will get a new key in 5$, need to take proof of ownership, photo ID.

I had same problem, steering locked, key was not moving, got a new key in 5$ and issue resolved..wallah..realy happy.
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on October 30, 2010
This happened to me and I was stuck at the mall. No matter how hard i turned the wheel the key would not turn. Had a locksmith come in and drill out the old cylinder and reset pins on the spot. He did say that I will have to get new cylinder and that temp fix will not give me problem, but if i wanted to i can get new cylinder but it will cost me. Three months later temp fix is permanent fix at least for me$$$$.
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on June 10, 2011
AAA just sent a tow truck in response to my call regarding my locked ignition. The driver noticed that my front tires were not straight. He put the key into the ignition key slot and turned the wheel with a good amount of force - and then turned the key. The car started started immediately. It may have been a AAA record for quickness of fixing a customer problem. I almost always park with my steering wheel and car wheels straight. Yesterday I backed the car out of my driveway and drove backwards to park the car at the edge of the street. The front wheels were turned when I shut the engine off.

Another thing that will disable your ability to start the car is if the car is not in "Park."
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on August 17, 2018
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