Subaru Forester Won’t Unlock—What To Do?

Not being able to get into your Subaru Forester can be a great hassle, especially if you are in a hurry to run some errands or an emergency. Don't worry, this article has you covered. We have researched the things you need to do if your Subaru won't unlock.

There could be multiple reasons why your Forester won't unlock. It could be caused by a defective key fob, malfunctioning power locks, or a mechanical issue with your door.

Here are some things that you can do>

  • Check your key fob for defects
  • Use the pin to enter open your tailgate and gain access through the back
  • Use the spare key for mechanical entry to your car
  • Call a locksmith or your local AAA for assistance
  • Use a tool to get in


Trekking Titus Canyon Road using a Subaru Forester, Subaru Forester Won't Unlock—What To Do?

What To Do?

A car that won't unlock is a problem that we all want to avoid.

Not only does it take time, energy, money, and effort to open, but it may also affect other important things if you get stuck in this situation while you are in an emergency.

Silver Subaru Forester parked at plain field

But don't worry. We have some advice for when your Subaru won't unlock.

Check the key fob for defects

Most of the time, the culprit of this problem is the keyfob. It could be that your fob is malfunctioning or that the battery is dead. The quick fix to this is to have it checked or get new batteries. 

Having keyless entry will be more stressful as you will not be able to use this feature with a dead key fob. However, it's even trickier if you have keyless ignition.  

If this problem with your key fob persists, it might be time to go to your local dealership and have it replaced. This will be easier if you are still under warranty.

Use the spare key for mechanical entry to your car

All Foresters (even keyless ones) still have a mechanical key on the key fob. They are located on the backside of the fob, you can access them by pulling them out with a small latch on the fob. 

This is the old school way, but a useful one. When electronics fail you, go mechanical. This will consistently open your vehicle without any power or sensors for it to work.

If you lose your primary keys, you can use the spare key given to you when you bought the vehicle. It is very common for all cars to have an extra key as a backup if ever you lose your main one.

If you will buy a pre-owned car, always make sure to ask for the spare key.  

Call a locksmith or your local AAA for assistance

If using a key won't work for you, it is time for you to call professional assistance. Your local locksmith or AAA is always there at your disposal. That is why knowing their local hotlines is important. 

Locksmiths have access to tools and techniques that aren't available to the rest of us. Because of this, they will be able to help you access your vehicle even if you have lost your keys. 

Use a tool to get in

If you do not want to hire professional services, what you could do is use do-it-yourself tools like a super air jack.

This is a tool squeezes through the spaces of your door. You then pump it up with air which then creates a small space enough for you to insert a reach tool that will unlock the latch of your car door.

Below is a video demonstration of how the tool works.

Click here to see super air jack on Amazon


This however will attract attention, it is because once you unlock the hatch using the reach tool, your car alarm would go off. If you are parked in a public area, you might raise some suspicion.

Another downside is that you risk damaging your door, especially if you lift it up too much.

For this reason, it's still wiser to ask for professional help to avoid any damage. This will also avoid further malfunction if there is already something broken on your door. 

Why won't the ignition key turn in my Subaru Forester?

Opening the back of a Subaru Forester

Now that we have seen how to get into your car, we are now met with another challenge: your key is not turning in your ignition when you try start the car.

This will not be relatable for all Forester owners, especially if you have a 2015 and newer model. This is because it was the year that Subaru introduced push button start to the Forester. 

There are two main reasons why your ignition key might be acting up. It is either your ignition cylinder is locked or your ignition cylinder has already worn out. We further explain these below. 

Locked ignition cylinder

If your key won't turn in the ignition, it could be due to a locked ignition cylinder. While this can be an annoyance, it's no reason to worry. This is because it is not a problem but a safety feature installed by Subaru.

A locked ignition happens when you or someone else move the steering wheel while no key is inserted in your ignition. This feature is done to prevent thieves from hot-wiring your car.

To bypass this, you would need to insert the key to your ignition, and, after that, gently turn the key while simultaneously moving your wheel.

This should unlock your steering wheel and your ignition, allowing you to finally turn it and start up your Forester. 

Worn-out ignition cylinder

A worn-out ignition is a bigger problem than a locked ignition cylinder. This is because you will need to replace the cylinder.

In some cases, the ignition cylinder is not the one worn-out but rather your key itself. If this is the case, then you would need to use your spare key or get a new one from your dealership.

The main reason for these two problems is heavy keychains.

Heavy keychains put extra strain on your keys and ignition cylinder while they are in contact with another. This is due to the weight that the keychain applies while it dangles as the key is inserted through the ignition. 

While traveling, your key chain sways, especially if you are on rather rugged terrain or a rough road. This constant weight and pressure can cause your key to go out of its shape or cause your ignition cylinder to be damaged.

If you have heavy keychains, we advise that you ditch them now to avoid this hassle. 


Lubricating your ignition key may also be an easier solution for it to be unstuck. Silicone-based or powdered graphite are some great lubricants that you can use on your ignition switch.

Click here to see silicone-based lubricants on Amazon

Lubrication is very important. It makes the contact between your key and ignition smoother.

You have to understand that your key is metal and the ignition switch is as well. The constant rubbing of these elements can cause them to wear out eventually.

This is where lube comes in handy, it makes the contact smoother and therefore avoids unnecessary wear on both parts. 

Typically, your ignition is located on the side of the base of your steering wheel. It is where you insert your car key to turn on your car and start your engine.

The trend of new cars having a push start button, makes this system somehow obsolete but not completely. 

This is due to the possibility of push-starting buttons to fail. With newer models like the 2021 Subaru Forester and up, remote start is available but they still come with ignition switches. 

Can you WD-40 an ignition switch?

Black Subaru Forester trekking on the desert

WD-40 has many uses, so many so that it's like a miracle. You can use it as protection from corrosion and rust for metals, removing stuck parts, a lubricant, and even a degreaser with its other types.

This makes it one of the good choices as an agent to lubricate your ignition switch. 

The dielectric property that WD-40 makes removing gunk, dirt, oil, condensation, and flux residue easy.  It is also effective on electrical parts. WD-40 does many wonders that its formula is categorized as a trade secret by the company itself.

Click here to see WD-40 on Amazon

How long do Subaru Foresters last?

A black Subaru Forester moving down a dusty road

The 2.5-liter boxer engine of the Subaru Forester is estimated to last owners at least 200,000-250,000 miles.

Given that the average driven miles a year of an American car owner is 15,000 miles, you can expect to have the Forester for at least 13-17 years of service life, barring of course circumstances like major accidents that can cause significant damage to your vehicle.

Subaru is a Japanese car brand, and when you say it is a Japanese car, reliability and durability are the words that immediately come into mind. Their reputation for making well-built cars is next to no none, that is why you can expect that your Forester will last you a long time. 

In summary

Trekking Titus Canyon Road using a Subaru Forester

You can do multiple things in order to access a Subaru Forester that won't unlock. Having your spare key is always handy if ever your electronic keyless entry system suddenly falters. 

Furthermore, ignition switch maintenance should not be ignored, as this is your backup when your keyless or remote start starts failing you. Moreso if it is your only way of starting your vehicle. 

If you found this article helpful, you'll want to check out these great posts:

How Much Cargo Space In A Subaru Forester?

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