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What Happens To Your Car When The Ignition Switch Is Locked?

The ignition switch in a car is one of the most common anti-theft mechanisms to prevent accidental break-ins and car stealing cases. Even though it is called a switch, it is the ignition lock cylinder, a complex network of electrical components with anti-theft coding.

But, if the switch does not work properly, it can even lead to drastic consequences, including fatal consequences.

In general, when the ignition switch is locked, it prevents the car from moving as the car reads the anti-theft code and treats any driving attempt as a burglary attempt.

But what happens when the ignition switch is turned to lock? Well, we are here to offer you some answers from our car experts who can help you to understand this issue.

The Ignition Switch Is In a Locked Position- What Happens?

Well, in short, the car will be locked in the position. The engine will not start if the ignition switch is turned on. If the ignition switch is left in the “Lock” position, this will lock the car until it moves the key from the lock position. That means that if the ignition switch is in the locked position, no matter how you try, the engine will not start. That means, even if the battery is dead. Seems like a dreadful situation. But why does it happen?

As you already know, the ignition switch turns on the anti-theft mechanism in the car that prevents the engine from starting. If the ignition switch is left in the lock position, the car’s integrated security system turns on.

It, in turn, keeps the car locked till you open the car with your original keys and remove the ignition switch from its lock position. On top of that, unless you start the engine again with the original keys, the car will not start.

It is a mechanism that is used to prevent car break-ins. In other words, the whole car activates a keyless system. At that stage, the key cannot be removed from the slot, and the engine cannot be started at any cost.

What Happens Inside The Car When You Turn The Ignition Key?

First, consider what happens when you usually start the car! You open the doors and put the key inside the slot to start the engine. As soon as you insert the key, the electric circuit between the starter motor and the battery becomes a closed circuit. Then the starter motor converts the electric energy to mechanical energy. On top of that, the starter motor is also connected to the flywheel that starts the combustion cycle.

The combustion cycle starts inside the engine cylinder, and the starter motor gets disconnected.

After that, the engine initiates the combustion cycle and uses the combustion energy for the wheels. The combustion chamber activates the pistons, and these moving pistons transfer the energy to a quick shift through the piston rod. The pistons move back and forth, creating a circular motion that initiates the wheels. Hence, the wheels start to move.

In short, when you start the car engine by inserting the key in the ignition hole, the whole cycle happens inside the car within a few seconds, and the wheels start to move. The whole combustion cycle goes on, and the car starts moving.

Looked Steering Wheel & Ignition Key- Solutions

Many people face issues regarding the locked steering wheel and locked ignition key. The key is locked, and when you try to move the steering wheel right or left, the wheel gets locked completely. This locks the car out, leaving you with a car that does not start at any cost.

It happens as the car automatically activates the anti-theft mode. In other words, even if a thief manages to move the steering wheel after breaking inside the car, they won’t be able to run away with the car. But, there are a few ways to solve the issue.

1. Moving The Steering Wheel

  • First, insert the key inside the ignition switch.
  • Then, move the steering wheel to the left or right as much as possible- in the opposite direction of the previous movement.
  • Now again, using your other hands, move the key and turn the steering wheel again. You will see that the wheel is not in a locked position, and it works fine.
  • Alternatively, turn the wheel in the direction you can move(either left or right) and hold it there with one hand.
  • Next, turn the key inside the switch and turn the key in the accessory position with the other hand. In the meantime, try rocking the steering wheel as you turn the key.
  • Alternatively, try jiggling the key inside the ignition switch and slowly rocking the steering wheel with the other hand. You will find the wheel is now unclothed.

2. Use Some Lubrication For The Ignition Switch.

Often the ignition switch gets locked due to the lack of lubrication. The machine gets jammed inside and fixes the switch position.

  • Take some graphite or silicone-based lubricant. First, spray the lubricant in the keyhole of the ignition cylinder. You can use a cloth to wipe the excess out.
  • Now, insert the key into the slot and try moving it. You can also use a simple jiggling motion to move the key. If required, add some more lubricant.
  • After some time, you will find that the key is moving, you have unlocked steering, and the car is ready to go.

3. Get Hold of a Hammer

Sometimes, the ignition switch gets severely jammed and even will not work with lubricant. For such scenarios, you may need a hammer to force the key to move. Please do not use the hammer in a brutal motion that can damage the key.

  • First, take the key and insert it into the ignition switch.
  • Take the hammer and use a slow and soft motion to gently stroke the key. The motion should be soft, and you must not hit the key or the ignition with the hammer. You will find that the key will start to move after a few minutes.

4. Get a New Key

Even after trying multiple times, the key does not move from the locked position. The key is probably the main reason here. A faulty or damaged key often does not work properly, resulting in locked steering. You can get a spare key or a replacement and try unlocking the ignition mechanism.

5. Replace the Ignition Cylinder Itself

You have tried all the methods, but nothing works. In such scenarios, getting a replacement of ignition cylinder is the only solution. Probably, the ignition cylinder is broken or damaged. You can visit the nearest car servicing station or your trusted mechanic to replace the ignition cylinder.


If the ignition switch gets fixed in the locked position, you will not be able to start the car and drive it. The car turns on the anti-theft mechanism automatically as the ignition switch is turned on. That means, you get locked steering that doesn’t move and the engine also does not take a start.

There are a few days to counter his problem. If you are unsure what is happening with your car, it is always better to ask for the professional help from a trusted motor mechanic and understand what is wrong with your car to fix the issue.

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