Whether you drive a brand new car or a rusty old pickup truck, when you turn the key, you expect your vehicle to roar to life. Sometimes, however, turning the key results in a sudden break. Instead of driving down the highway, you are stuck where you are, looking at your broken key.
If this happens to you, it is important to take the right steps. Having a key break off in the ignition is not as uncommon as you might think, and knowing what to do next could save you a lot of time and money.
Protect Your Ignition Switch
One thing you can do to avoid this troubling problem is taken good care of your ignition switch. Ignition switches can weaken over time, but there are things you can do to protect the switch and avoid this scenario.
If you have a heavy keychain, with lots of stuff hanging from it, you might want to remove the heaviest items and put them somewhere else. A heavy keychain puts constant pressure on the ignition switch, weakening it prematurely and making the broken key scenario more likely.
What To Do When Your Key Breaks
Prevention is always the best defense, but what do you do if your key does break off in the ignition switch. Trying to remove the stuck key on your own could further damage the ignition switch, and the repairs could be quite costly.
If the key broke off cleanly and there is a big piece sticking out, you can try to remove the broken key with a pair of needle nose pliers. You will need a long thing pliers to pull the key out, and you will need to be careful to avoid damage to the switch or the keyhole.
Once you have a good grip on the key remnant, use firm and steady pressure to pull it loose. Try not to wiggle the key back and forth too much – the goal is to pull it out in a single movement.
If the key refuses to budge, or you do not have access to long thin pliers, it is best to call a locksmith for assistance. Trying to force the key out of the ignition could result in severe, and expensive, damage to the key lock or ignition switch. A locksmith can help you retrieve the embedded key and provide a replacement key for you to use.