In the good old days, car parts lasted forever. We see classic cars from the 70’s and 80’s and they still have the original locks fitted. Even when the keys get lost for these old cars, we can strip them down and make keys for them. However, over the last few years, we,ve seen a rrise in the number of customers calling us because their ignition lock won’t turn. Sometimes they have had all the warning signs of it getting sticky, or needing to wiggle the key. Other times, they have had no warning. It’s common on Peugeot and Citroen cars that you’ll try it one day, and the ignition lock won’t turn, whatever you do. So why is this? More importantly, what can you do about it?
In this article, we’ll give you a few common examples, is your car at risk? Then how to look out for any warning signs and lastly the best thing to do when your ignition lock won’t turn.
Common makes and models that suffer from ‘ignition lock won’t turn’ problems
Citroen and Peugeot
Already mentioned is your Peugeot and Citroen range of cars that use a high security key. This is every Citroen and Peugeot made after 2006 except the Peugeot 206. This type of key has a key blade with a groove machined along the length of the key, as shown below in this very sorry looking key.
The groove is a wavy line, cut in the key and suited to your particular lock. On the Citroen and Peugeot range, there is very little wear happens to the blade. Unlike Ford, and Fiat, the key blade will often still have clear and crisp lines. Therefore, all the wear happens inside the ignition lock and suddenly, the ignition lock won’t turn and you’re stuck somewhere.
Ford Custom and Transit ignition lock won’t turn.
We believe this is a big problem that’s about to get very common. On Ford keys, the blades wear muck quicker than on the Citroen and Peugeot example. Therefore, if you look at the state of your key, or get an expert to check it, you’ll know in advance. Below is a good example of a worn Ford Custom key.
The keyblade has a ‘shadow’ of the original shape and more commonly this happens where there is a high point along the key. This is shown with the black arrow in the photo. This is an actual key that stopped turning. A new key blade, cut to the original shape cured the fault, You can read more in depth by clicking here.
This is the most extreme example of worn key blades causing problems, and we only see it on the Fiesta model.
This photo clearly shows how the edge of the blade becomes tapered and this will cause the problem where the ignition lock won’t turn. This is simply because the metal of the key is not moving the lock levers into the correct place! To read more about this problem, click here.
Renault and Vauxhall
So these two brands are in bed as far as the vans are involved. Between them, they’ve designed and produced the poorest quality ignition lock we have ever seen. We’ve been replacing these often and unlike Ford (where these are readily avaiable) Renault and Vauxhall are making the whole thing as difficult as possible.
Inferior Component Design is where it starts, with a key that is often the same shape as a sawblade
This design of blade damages the insides of the ignition everytime it slides in and out. It won’t do it on every van, but where there’s a sharp gradient of the groove (a zig-Zag left and right) then troubles coming. The symptoms are that the ignition lock starts to catch, or become difficult to even slide in and out of the lock ( let alone turn in the lock). If you leave it past this point and still try and use the van, you’ll soon find that the ignition lock won’t turn.
To read more about the Renault and Vauxhall problem, click here.
Whilst I’m sure the Fiat design team hadn’t meant for the locks to have a similar consistancey as cheese, that’s what they feel like some of the time. Maybe the metal is softer, maybe the design is all wrong, I’m not sure. But what we see are Fiat owners that struggle with keys that just won’t turn anymore. The keys wear very badly and when the lock is forced, it gets damage inside.
Vauxhall Astra H
Another case of keys and locks wearing in equal measure. Watch out for these becoming difficult to turn. Once these lock in place they can be tricky to get turned.
General Warning signs that the ignition lock won’t turn soon.
It’s the same as the dentist. When you bite hard into a crusty loaf an you getthat first twinge of pain from a tooth, you know you need the dentist. If you’re like me, you probably don’t make the appointment, hoping it will just be a one-off. Then it happens again and again. At this point, if you get it looked at, it’s going to be easier, quicker and cheaper to fix.
The warning signs for a fauty ignition lock are clear. It catches when trying to turn, or will only turn when you jiggle the key up and down. You know deep down that it’s not right. The reason you have to jiggle the key is that you’re moving the insides of the lock up and down so that it all lines up. You can only do this so much and eventually that trick won’t work anymore.
Get it fixed while it still turns
Think of it like when you’re running low on fuel. No-one would dream of running the car so long that the fuel runs out completely and you break down. For a start, there’s the inconvenience. You’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere, possibley miles from home. Next, you’d have get to a garage to buy fuel and then get back to the car. Lastly and more importantly, with modern cars, if you run out of duel, you’re in big trouble. Especially with with diesel cars, the fuel takes a long time to make its way through the system and sometimes this needs to be done by a specialist. Just ask any garage that’s changed the fuel filter on a 2008 Mondeo! What a nightmare it is to get it running again!
So by leaving the problem ( the shortage of fuel) until it’s too late, you create so many problems for yourself. The same is true for locks and keys. To change most modern ignitions, you have to be able tou turn the lock to the on position. Once you do this, then a button can be pressed that allows the lock to be removed. So what happens when the lock can’t be turned? Well simply put, the lock cannot be replaced easily. Maybe it can be drilled out, or more likely the garage will also replace the lockhousing ( the thing that holds teh lock in place). If this is the case, it means extra cost for you and extra labour you’ll need to pay for, simply because the problem has gone on too long. Just like running out of fuel, a simple routine job has become so complicated and expensive.
What to do, when the ignition lock won’t turn
Ok, so if you’ve got to that point where it is truly stuck, there are a couple of simple things that may buy you some time. they are not a total fix because let’s face it, the lock is on it’s way out.
Firstly a key cut to code may work. What does this mean? When the car was new, the keys had no wear at all, and the lines were crisp and sharp. As the keys, the original shape wears away and problems begin. If you get a key copied from your old worn key, you end up with a new, but worn key. The shape is not good enough to copy from and so the new key will not be the cottect shape.
However, if you get a key cut to code, this means it is cut by a computer controlled machine that knows the original shape and can reproduce a key, like new. This means there is the correct amount of metal on the key and that it will move the insides of the lock to the correct place for the lock to work.
Who can cut a key to code?
There are two sources for new keys cut to code. Firstly the dealer can supply these ( there may be a long wait and you will need the original key number). Or, you can find a high quality Auto Locksmith or key cutting shop that has invested money, in high quality key cutting machines. These will be able to decode your worn key and the work out the original shape of your key. Once it knows this, it will be able to cut a fresh new key while you wait.