Car Key Only Goes Halfway In Lock – What To Do?

You stick your key in your car and go to turn, but nothing happens. With a closer inspection, you see your key is only halfway in the lock. Oh no! You try again, and nothing happens. What could be going on with your key and lock? Lucky for you, we have researched what to do when your car key only goes halfway in the lock, so you will be prepared if this happens to you. 

A car key may only go halfway in the lock for several reasons. Your problem could be:

  • A bent/broken key
  • Cylinder pins are sticking. 
  • There is something stuck inside the lock. 

If you find yourself in a situation like this, it is best to do the following:

  1. Gently remove the key.
  2. Lubricate the lock
  3. Attempt to insert the key again
  4. Call a locksmith if the key does not go in or goes in but fails to unlock your car.

You probably still have some questions about car keys and malfunctioning locks. Keep reading to find out more information about this topic. 

A man sticking in a key into the car door keyhole, Car Key Only Goes Halfway In Lock - What To Do?

Why Would A Key Stop Working In A Lock?

Malfunctioning car keys and locks are more common than you may think. The problems happen slowly over time. The damage is not usually noticeable until your key no longer goes all the way in the vehicle lock. There are a few reasons why this happens.

A Bent Or Broken Key

Car keys go through a lot daily. It is easy to throw them around like they are indestructible. But without proper care, their quality will degrade over time. If you are wondering what to do about worn out car keys, read this blog post. 

You may have a bent or broken key and not even notice it at first glance. However, a further inspection may show a slight bend or worn our teeth. Any of these small defects may prevent your key from going all the way in the lock. 

Cylinder Pins Are Sticking 

Cylinder pins stick for a few reasons. First, the pins and cylinder may be dry. This is a widespread problem. In fact, it is the reason for most keys only going hallway in the lock. A dry cylinder is usually nothing serious and can be fixed easily. 

Another reason cylinder pins may stick is a worn-down pin. Small dirt particles can enter locks. Whenever you insert a key into a lock with small particles inside, those tiny pieces of dirt rub against the pins. Over time this increased contact may cause cylinder pins to become so worn down they stick. 

There Is Something Stuck Inside The Lock

There is a possibility your key will only go hallway in the lock because of an object stuck inside. The inside could be filled with a build-up of dirt particles, rust, or perhaps ice if it is cold enough outside. This problem is challenging to diagnose by yourself because there is no way to look inside the lock without damaging it. 

What To Do Next?

Now that you know a few reasons why your key only goes halfway into the lock, here are some suggested next steps to take:

1. Gently Remove The Key

If your key doesn't go all the way into the lock, the last thing you want to do is keep shoving it deeper. This can cause further damage or even cause your key to break off and get stuck inside the lock. Simply remove the key as gently as you can. 

2. Lubricate The Lock 

Next, you should apply a lubricant to the car lock and your key. A lubricant is the best way to fix a dry cylinder with stuck pins. 

What Is The Best Lubricant For A Lock? 

Always use a graphite-based lubricant on any type of lock and key. Graphite-based lubricants are dry, so they don't attract particles. Do not apply oil-based lubricants, like standard WD-40, to any lock. It may seem like a good idea, especially if you already have some oil-based products in your garage, but oil-based lubricants attract dirt and small particles. This will cause build-up and damage inside of a lock over time. 

CRC Dry Graphite Lube

This is a great lubricant option for any car lock. It repels dirt and protects the surface from excess friction. It would also be great to apply this lubricant on your lock and key regularly to prevent any problems from occurring later. 

Click here to see it on Amazon. 

Lock Ease Graphite Lubricant 

Here is another wonderful lubricant option for car locks. This spray protects against internal freezing, so it is especially helpful in cold environments. Also, it comes with an easy application snorkel.

Click here to see it on Amazon.  

3. Attempt To Insert The Key Again 

After you apply the lubricant inside the lock and on the key, try to insert the key again. Hopefully, it goes all the way in the lock this time. A dry lock is the most common reason for a key only going halfway in the lock, so usually, a lubricant is all you need. 

If the key still fails to go all the way into the lock, further action is needed. Remember, you should not shove the key or apply excessive force to the key even after applying lubricant. 

4. Call A Locksmith 

At this point, you have done all you can really do. If the key is still not going all the way in the lock or if the key is inserted but fails to unlock the car, you need professional help. Call a locksmith or auto shop, and a professional will be able to diagnose the problem properly. 

A bent/ damaged key will need to be replaced. Read about where to get car keys made in this blog post. If the internal lock is damaged, then it will need to be replaced by a mechanic or locksmith. 

How Do You Get A Half Of A Key Out Of A Lock? 

If your key broke off inside of the lock, you have an entirely different problem. If part of it is sticking out of the lock, you can:

  1. Use metal plyers to grab the key fragment and gently pull.
  2. Use tweezers to grab the key fragment and gently pull.
  3. Do not attempt to put the key back together.
  4. Get a new lock made so that you can open your car.

If the key fragment is stuck deeper inside the lock and no visible piece is sticking out of the lock:

  1. Do not stick plyers or tweezers inside to try to grab the fragment. These large pieces of metal can damage the lock or push the fragment deeper into the lock. 
  2. Call a locksmith for help.

There are plenty of DIY methods online about how to remove a key fragment. It is not recommended to try any of these strategies. There is an extremely high chance that sticking anything other than a lock's specific key into a lock will damage it beyond repair. By attempting a DIY method, you risk spending hundreds of dollars more on repairs due to further damage. 

Is It Safe To Leave A Key In The Lock?

It is not recommended to leave a car key in the lock. If your key only goes halfway into the lock but does not get stuck inside, you should definitely remove the key. 

If the key is stuck inside the lock, you should try your best to remove it. Leaving a key fragment inside of a lock may cause permanent damage the longer it is left inside. Also, if your car was unlocked when the key broke off, the car is still unlocked. Leaving it like this means your car is more likely to get broken into. 

If you cannot remove the key yourself, call a professional locksmith or mechanic for help. 

Don't Panic!

Now that you know what to do if your car key only goes halfway into the lock, you can stay calm. A dry cylinder, damaged key, or piece of debris may be the reason your key doesn't go all the way in the lock. A graphite-based lubricant is typically all you need to fix the problem. If lubricant is not enough, you need to call a locksmith. 

This can happen to anybody, so don't freak out if your key fails to go all the way in the lock. Be patient, and know the problem can be fixed! 

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