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May 23, 2020

How to Deal With Ignition Cylinder Problems

Cars of varying ages are on the road. We all know when purchasing a vehicle, that maintenance will be needed at some point. There are so many issues that a car could have (transmission issues, break issues, engine trouble etc.). You may also be having issues with your ignition lock cylinder. You may be wondering what that is. The ignition lock cylinder is a cylindrical tumbler that comes with a matching key. To state more plainly, it is the mechanism you put your key in to turn the car on. Some newer vehicles now come with keyless start, or push button start. However, the majority of cars on the road still come with traditional ignition lock cylinders. This cylinder is usually found on the right side of the steering column, right behind the steering wheel.

Ignition lock cylinders usually work in four positions. Position one would unlock the steering wheel. Position two would power on the accessories (think about when you want to listen to the radio, but don’t want the car engine on). Position three will power on the vehicle's fuel injection system and computer. And position four will actually start the engine and bring the car to life. If you are having issues with your ignition lock cylinder, you may find it hard to power on the vehicle. However, there are usually symptoms that can warn you that your ignition lock cylinder is starting to wear out.

Symptom 1: Issues powering the vehicle on

This is one of the main symptoms that will let you know your ignition lock cylinder is acting up. You have to turn the key in order to start the car. This constant turning will cause wear and tear on your ignition lock cylinder - it's unavoidable. Everything wears out over time.  You may find that it's hard to put the ignition cylinder in certain positions, or that you have to jiggle the key in order to get the cylinder to turn. These all point out to wear and tear on your cylinder, and you should have it checked out before the cylinder seizes up on you completely.

Symptom 2: Car will not start

This is an annoying one. If you have gotten in your car, you clearly have somewhere to go. It can be very annoying and worrisome to turn your key, and have nothing happen. The ignition cylinder lock system is connected to an electronic ignition switch - they work in conjunction with each other in order to turn the car on. If you are turning your key and nothing is happening, the ignition cylinder lock may be the issue. However bear in mind, this could also be due to other issues as well (alternator issues, engine issues etc.). If your car will not start, you should definitely take it for a diagnostic to find out the cause.

Symptom 3: Issues removing or inserting the key

If you are having problems inserting or removing the key - this points to a problem with your ignition lock cylinder. The key is repeatedly inserted, turned and removed over the lifespan of the car. This will lead to wear and tear on the mechanism and the key itself. This will cause operational issues to the cylinder. A worn cylinder can bind or jam when the key is inserted, turned or removed - which will lead to issues starting or powering on the vehicle. This type of issue will continue to deteriorate, eventually leading to the key not being able to fit the lock at all.

Symptom 4: Worn/Damaged or bent key

As you drive your car, you may notice issues starting to occur with the key itself. A friend of mine had a car key that was so soft and malleable, he could actually bend the key with his bare hands. Needless to say, he started his car with a hope and a prayer each time. If you find that your car key is worn or damaged, or that the key has started to bend - this may signal problems with your ignition lock cylinder. If this is the case, you have a few options. You can call a locksmith who may be able to get you a “key by numbers” or a “CODE key”. This is a key that is cut by a machine that can recreate the sequence of your original key. If this code key doesn’t work, then you have issues with your ignition lock cylinder and will need to get it diagnosed by a professional.

In most of the above cases, you probably think a mechanic is the necessary resolution. Not necessarily. When it comes to ignition lock cylinders - bear in mind that you are dealing with a lock. The proper service to call would be a locksmith. When people think about locksmiths, it is usually in relation to homes - such as help with a front door lock. However locksmiths are able to work on any type of lock, be it home, auto or even for a safe. So a locksmith can help with your ignition lock cylinder issues, or even help with your vehicle door locks.

In some cases, you can troubleshoot the lock cylinder issues yourself. Sometimes the key won’t turn due to the steering wheel being in a “locked” position. Try moving the wheel a little and then turning the key. Other times, you may need to apply extra pressure to the key when turning (be careful, you don’t want the key to break off inside the cylinder mechanism). You may need to clean or lubricate the cylinder. This can be done with electrical contact cleaner. If you are handy, and are having issues - sometimes the fix can be as easy as firmly tapping the cylinder face with a hammer. This can help if tumblers inside the mechanism are stuck. If you are not comfortable with this, your best bet is to call a nearby locksmith for assistance. If you are in Charleston, South Carolina or surrounding areas, give us a call at 843 Locksmith. We can come to your vehicle where it is, and diagnose the issue and get you on the road again.

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