Key Turns but Won’t Unlock Car Door (6 Causes & Solutions)

Do you have some kind of difficulty when trying to unlock your vehicle? There are several reasons why the key turns but won’t unlock car door.

A good number of vehicle owners like keeping the door to their vehicles locked to prevent robbery and ensure the safety of their valuables. However, when you turn the key and the door to your vehicle does not open, that’s something to worry about.

This read is for you if you are in a similar situation. It could be that the lubricant is insufficient, the lock is frozen, the key is worn or broken, and/or lock tumblers, and cylinder.

In this article, we will discuss the reasons why your key will turn without opening the car door.

Below are the various reasons your key turns but won’t unlock car door and their solutions explained in detail.

1. Insufficient Lubrication

It is best to bear in mind that your door lock has delicate parts exposed to elements. Such locks do not need excess lubrication, that is, if needed. However, with time, microscopic rust and dirt can stop such a mechanism.

Using the WD-40 is also a good way of cleaning the lock and driving out moisture, but you should use multi-purpose lubricating oil.

You can apply the oil by holding the critical flat, then pour the oil inside the key’s groove. Next, insert the key in its lock, remove it, then rotate it by a hundred and eighty (180) degrees, and do so again. Please make use of your key in spreading the oil; put more oil, when it seems like the locks on opposite sides did not receive sufficient lubrication. However, do not use excessive oil to avoid fouling the lock or gathering dirt.

Also Read: Is it Illegal to Sleep in your Car?

2. Lock is Frozen 

In many driving schools, the teachers forget to teach the students about proper vehicle care and maintenance. As the cold weather approaches, it is not only winter tires that you will need. The cold can make you unable to open your door, and your lock seizes, but there’s a way of thawing it.

A well-known solution to the issue is lock de-icers, but if you have none, your pocket lighter can be of service.

Using a lighter, heat the key up, put it in the lock, and do the same process a couple of times until the lock opens. Place the flame close to the tip of the key, so that it does not pass so much heat to the base or melt your plastic. It is unnecessary to make the key red hot making it too hot to be touched, as it can heat a lock.

Key Turns, but Won’t Unlock the Car

You can use glycerin to keep your lock from being frozen. First, apply lubricating oil and carefully spread it on your lock, one hundred percent of glycerin freezes at 56oF, which can resist the water mixture. For an optimum result, mix one-third of distilled water with two-thirds of glycerin. Please make use of a kitchen scale and then measure it using grams, because glycerin is known to be denser than distilled water.

The door rubber seal can harden from cold, and can even freeze. Therefore, one of its seals may pull off or crack, when you open such a door. A straightforward solution is for one to get a cloth and dab glycerin, then use it to clean the seals. This is a trick that you can use to avoid problems.

3. Broken Lock Cylinders and Tumblers

Here your key will not turn because it is broken, and the tumblers are not lined up anymore. To fix the lock, you need to overcome these challenges:

  • Have access to your car
  • Take out the lock that is broken
  • Remake your lock, then reinstall it.

Because you already have your key, that first step will be easy- make use of your fob to unlock doors from the trunk, get inside the car, or open the lock on your passenger’s side. If you cannot do so, continue with this article to find other alternatives for accessing the car.

As you are in your driver’s seat, manually open your door, then drive your vehicle to a locksmith. No need to change your keys, because the existing key can be used as a template for a new lock.

Or, you can remove the lock by following the guidelines in this article. Unfortunately, it is not easy; you will need to get another lock and then change the keys.

4. Broken Lock Tail Piece

I do not have a piece of detailed information, about the internal functioning of a vehicle’s door lock, because I am not a locksmith. However, I am aware that worn-out lock tumblers, either allow one to open the door using anything (a screwdriver), or prevent your lock from rotating. If the lock turns but your door does not unlock, this results from a broken tailpiece.

As you turn your key, you are mechanically pushing the lever at the back of the locks. From some push-pull links, your lock then opens a latch found between the B-column and the door. When one of the units fails on its way to your door latch, you may notice that it is simpler to turn your key, unlike before, but the door will not unlock.

Repairing a tailpiece is a locksmith’s job because it entails stripping your door panel. It is a highly complex task that takes time, especially if your speakers and window controls are fixed on your door. I have had experience with door-related issues; sometimes, it’s the tailpiece, handle or lock, and I take it to a professional.

5. Key is Worn 

As you slide keys in and out of your lock for a long time, eventually, it starts wearing down and becomes unusable. That wear prevents your tumblers from lining up properly, making the lock unable to rotate. The key can snap inside, or bend in the lock.

A few locksmiths can cut copies from a worn key, but be sure that it is more expensive, unlike key duplication. If the key is in good shape, you should take it to your locksmith and get a duplicate. Also, clone your fob and RFID chip, because cloning is way cheaper than programming from the beginning.

6. Dead or Worn-Out Key Fob Batteries

The batteries in your vehicle’s fob can die. This may be why your key turns, but because it lacks juice, it will not serve its purpose. Unfortunately, batteries run out with time, which is a common problem.

Key Turns, but Won’t Unlock the Car

How to Find Out if Your Key Fob Batteries Are Not Working?

When your car is not responding to signals and commands sent from your key fob, there is a possibility that your battery is either dead or worn. Sometimes, your key fob works but needs to be pressed so much, or the key fob doesn’t work when you are distant. Therefore, it may be the reason why the key fails to work.

Its Solution

When you are confident that the fob batteries are worn out or dead, change them. Look at your car manual to know the exact battery type that you will need. In addition, the manual comes with instructions that you have to follow.

You may get the guidelines on the internet. Also, a car key’s fob batteries can be obtained from local hardware shops at Walmart, Target, etc., or online.

Also Read: Car Alarm Keeps Going Off 

Frequently Asked Questions – Key Turns but Won’t Unlock Car Door

Why is my key not unlocking my door?

Dust and dirt can find their way inside a lock, which builds up with time. It can clog up your locking mechanism, making it hard to turn. Apply a silicone-based lubricant, or use graphite spray on your lock, then insert the key and turn it a couple of times.

How do you fix a key that won’t unlock your car?

Examine and change the fob battery of your key. Dismantle your crucial fob, to know if the buttons are misaligned or if there is a broken contact. You can reprogram the remote or let a professional reprogram it. If the need arises, change the remote.

Why would a key suddenly stop working?

Many things like debris, hair, dirt, or dust having gone into your keyboard can interfere with your key’s circuitry or movement. So, try to remove such a key and clean that area well.

How much does it cost to fix car door locks?

This repair is usually a painless and quick process, and its price is not egregious. The repair and assessment will cost between $50 – $300. This depends on the level of damage, and the extent of labor needed.

How do you open a deadlocked car door?

When keys are left in an ignition, the step to take is to turn your key to a position that will disengage your deadlock system, pull your inner handle to unlock the vehicle, or work on the internal door lock.

What happens when your car door won’t open?

Try a second door when the first one refuses to open. When the entire door cannot open, your lock may be damaged, or your remote lock may be faulty. When a particular door doesn’t open often, it is because the latch is broken, and this will need replacement.

Conclusion – Key Turns but Won’t Unlock Car Door

When a car key is not functioning, it becomes a more significant issue when you fail to take care of it. So, make sure you read the points mentioned above keenly, to get accustomed to diagnosing the problems the key might be going through.

We hope that this article will guide you through solving such issues. If it does not, reach out to a locksmith and avoid causing additional damage to your key or car lock.

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