Key Turns But Won’t Unlock The Car Door (14 Reasons) | Flawless Car Guide

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Key turns but won't unlock the car door

When you put the key in the door and turn it, you expect the door to unlock. But what if it doesn’t? This can be a frustrating experience, especially if you’re in a hurry. You might be tempted to give up and go back inside your house, but don’t despair – there is a way to unlock the car door.

There are a few possible reasons why the key turns but won’t unlock the car door. It could be that the physical key is bent or damaged, the lock is dirty or jammed, or there is a problem with the electronic car key fob.

If you’re not sure what the issue is, keep on reading because we have discussed several causes due to which your key doesn’t work in a car door, and have answered the most asked questions.

Reasons Why The Key Turns But Won’t Unlock The Car Door:

It can be extremely frustrating when your car key won’t open the door. Following are a few possible reasons why this might happen. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to get the problem fixed as soon as possible to avoid getting stranded.

Key turns but won't unlock the car door

Insufficient Lubrication:

The door lock assembly is a complex part with many working components that are also subjected to environmental wear and tear. Locks don’t need much if any, lubrication, but over time, the locks on your car door can become dry and sticky, making it difficult for the key to turn. This can be especially problematic in cold weather when the metal can contract and become even less flexible.

If this happens, it’s often possible to solve the problem by simply applying some WD-40 or other dry lubricant to the lock. The oil should be applied by holding the key flat and pouring it into the gap.

Place it in the lock, remove it, and turn it around 180 °; repeat this process. Apply more oil to the other side of the lock if you feel the oil wasn’t distributed evenly using the key.

Too much oil will attract dirt and soon clog the lock, so be careful not to use too much. In most cases, this will be enough to loosen things up and allow you to unlock the car door. However, if the problem persists, it’s best to find out if any of the other mentioned reasons are not causing the issue.

Key turns but won't unlock the car door

Frozen Car Lock:

A frozen car lock cylinder may be the reason why you can’t open the car door with a key. If you reside in a location where freezing conditions are common, you will likely run into this problem.

When the temperature outside drops, the water in the lock can freeze, making it impossible to turn. The good news is that there are a few simple tricks that can help you fix a frozen car lock issue.

First heat the key and Carefully insert the heated key into the lock. If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again; eventually, the lock will open. To avoid melting the plastic or transferring too much heat to the base, direct the flame toward the key’s tip. And there’s no need to preheat the lock to red-hot temperatures; a key that’s too hot to touch will do the trick just fine.

You can also try using a de-icer spray that will melt all the ice. Pouring a small amount of rubbing alcohol into the keyhole is also a good option. This will lower the freezing point of the water, making it easier to turn the key.

Bad Car Doors Lock:

If you’ve tried all of the above and still the key doesn’t work in a car door, most likely the culprit is a bad car lock. It could be that the locking mechanism is jammed or damaged. In this case, it’s best to have a professional locksmith take a look at it to avoid making things worse.

When a car lock is damaged, it can cause the key to get stuck or prevent it from fully engaging with the locking mechanism. As a result, the key turns but won’t unlock the door. If you’re among lucky car owners, the problem can be fixed by replacing just the cylinder instead of the whole lock as the lock cylinder is the most vulnerable component to wear and breakage.

But, I wouldn’t recommend it because there are so many ways that anything could go wrong and you’d end up back where you started.

Broken Lock Tail Piece:

The tailpiece is a small metal rod that connects the door lock to the interior handle. In locks, a lever is located at the back, and turning the key mechanically moves this lever. The lock operates the latch between the door and the B column through the use of a variety of push-pull movements.

When this piece breaks, it can cause the lock to become jammed, making it impossible to turn the key. In some cases, the tailpiece can also become bent or twisted, which can also prevent the key from turning. If you’re having trouble unlocking your car door, take a close look at the tailpiece to see if it’s broken or damaged.

Having to remove the door panel is part of what makes fixing the tailpiece a job for a car locksmith. When additional elements like window controls and speakers are installed in the door, this challenge becomes even more complex. 

Key turns but won't unlock the car door

Damaged Key:

If your car key is damaged, it may not be able to fit into the lock correctly or turn properly. Inspect the key for any bends, cracks, or chips. If the car keys are severely damaged, they will need to be replaced. But, if the damage is minor, a locksmith may be able to file down the physical key so that it can be used again.

Worn-Out Key: Just like any other type of key, car keys can also become worn out with use over a long period. The cuts and grooves on the key can become smooth from all the turning, making it difficult to insert into the lock. But, if the key is too worn down, it will need to be replaced.

Broken Lock Cylinder:

The cylinder is the part of the lock that contains the pins and tumblers. When you insert your key into the lock, the cuts on the key correspond to these pins, which allows the locking device to turn and open the door. However, if any of these pins break or get stuck, it can cause the cylinder to create an issue and the car key won’t open the door.

In some cases, the entire cylinder may need to be replaced. But, if only a few pins are damaged, a professional locksmith can simply remove them and replace them with new ones. Either way, once you have a functioning lock cylinder in place, your car should be able to unlock and open as usual.

Key turns but won't unlock the car door
can’t open the car door with a key

Keys of Another Car:

Many people can’t open the car door with a key. In some cases, this is due to a problem with the keys themselves and not because of lock problems. One possibility is that the keys are not the correct ones for the car. This can happen if you have multiple cars and accidentally grab the wrong key. The simple solution is to try using the original car key to unlock open car doors locked.

Stuck Door Latch:

If the door latch is stuck, it can prevent the door from opening even when the key turns. This is often caused by rust and corrosion build-up around the latch, especially in older vehicles. To fix this problem, take your car to a car locksmith. He will determine and suggest to you the best course of action in such a case. You may have to repair or replace the door latch entirely because the lock and keys are totally fine and the issue is with the latch.

Key turns but won't unlock the car door
can’t unlock the car

Dead Car Key Fob Battery:

The battery may be dead if the keyless entry remote for your vehicle no longer opens or locks the doors. A weak signal or inconsistent performance are both indications of a failing battery. However, a dead battery is sometimes at blame when a car key fob won’t do its job. Only a signal reader or a new battery can provide a reliable diagnosis.

When a remote fob stops working, a smart first step in troubleshooting is to replace the battery and for that, you don’t need to go to an expert. Use a flathead screwdriver to open your remote fob. The number on the batteries should be checked.

Locate a store that sells that battery. The auto parts or electronics sections of most stores have a wide selection of key batteries for a variety of vehicles. Before you make a purchase, make sure the number is correct.

This is a prevalent issue in modern cars. Although it is not a big issue, still having a backup key fob battery on hand is a smart idea.

Damaged Wiring:

When there are problems with your car’s electrical system, you may notice more than simply a non-functioning key. Because vehicle wiring is typically bundled, a single shot or damage to it might result in a chain of seemingly unconnected problems.

When the key fob button is pressed, it sends a signal to the door lock actuator to open the door. If the wiring is damaged, that signal can’t get through and the door can’t be opened. Possibly, your key fob can’t unlock the car, and you may notice other functions may also become inoperable.

In the situation of electrical difficulties, the door lock can still be opened by hand. If a car key fob fails to open a door, you should still be able to get in by using a car key. An electrical wiring problem is likely to blame if only electronic opening procedures are unsuccessful.

Car Lock Not Installed Properly:

If you have tried all of the causes mentioned above and none is causing the issue, there’s a good chance that the problem is with the car door lock, not your car key. In fact, one of the most common reasons why you can’t open the car door with a key is because the lock is improperly installed. Since the car locksmith is also a human, he can occasionally do things wrong.

When a car door lock is installed incorrectly, it can cause the locking mechanism to misalign with the keyhole, which causes the contact of the car keys and their respective tumblers impossible. In some cases, the only way to fix this problem is to replace the entire lock. However, don’t worry, a qualified car locksmith may be able to realign the locking mechanism, allowing you to once again unlock the car door with ease.

If you opt for replacing the lock, you should first try the car key again. After a few weeks, if your lock is malfunctioning, return it to the locksmith and request a refund. Pick a different auto shop or locksmith to work with. You may learn a lot about the quality of a locksmith or auto mechanic by reading reviews about them online.

Dust Buildup:

You have tried all of the steps and still can’t unlock the car? If so, this issue can often be attributed to dust buildup.

Over time, dust can accumulate inside the lock mechanism, preventing the car key from fully engaging with the tumblers. As a result, the key turns but won’t unlock the door. If this happens to you, don’t panic. There are a few simple steps you can take to fix the problem.

First, insert the key into the lock and turn it back and forth a few times. This will help to loosen any debris that may be stuck in the mechanism. If that doesn’t work, try using a blow dryer.

You can also try spraying some WD-40 into the lock. This lubricant can help to free up any stubborn buildup. With a little patience and perseverance, you should be able to get your door open in no time.

Parts Not Connected:

A key fob may appear to control the door locks, but if a component of the assembly becomes detached or broken, the key doesn’t work in a car door. After sending an unlock signal from your fob, you may be able to hear the door lock assembly shift. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the door will open.

The key in the car door won’t turn even if the internal lock actuators can be pulled or pushed and the switches offer no resistance. If your car’s key fob stops working, try all the other entry methods and check the connections to make sure they’re still solid.

Blown Fuse:

A blown fuse is the next simplest possible explanation for why the key turns but won’t unlock the door. If your electric door locks aren’t working, check the fuse for them before taking your car to the shop. Fuse boxes are commonly located behind a plastic panel near the driver’s side footwell and do not require any special tools to access (Consult your owner’s manual to get more specific guidance).

After taking off the cover of the fuse box, you should find a schematic of the fuses and what they’re used for on the inside of the cover (or in the owner’s handbook). Find the one that goes with the locks on the doors. You may need to use tweezers or pliers to extract it.

Inspect the fuse’s central metal line to see if it is connected. When a fuse blows, there will be an obvious space where it formerly was. If the fuse is blown or worn, take it as an example and replace it with another fuse of the same amperage.

FAQs (Key turns but won’t unlock the car door):

What Is A Deadlocked Car Door?

Deadlock systems are standard on many modern cars. This new lock system adds protection to your vehicle by requiring the use of a key or fob to unlock the door. They are available to make it more difficult for thieves to gain access to your vehicle. They won’t be able to get in through the glass and unlock the door or trunk of your car; instead, they’ll set off an alarm.

For cars with deadlocks, the key must be turned further than usual. It’s possible that many motorists are unaware of this because neither their dealership nor their owner’s manuals made the point clear.

How To Unlock A Stubborn Lock?

Although most sources advise using a lubricant as a solution, I believe that multi-purpose lubricating oil achieves the same results at a fraction of the price. This can help lubricate and free up any buildup in the mechanism.

Before placing the key into the lock, make sure it is flat and lubricated. With some effort and time, you should be able to flip the lock.

What Do You Do When Your Key Won’t Unlock The Door?

If your key won’t unlock the door, you might try using lubricant. WD-40 is a popular choice, but any type of lubricant will work. You can also try cleaning the dirt and buildup off of the key and the lock. Make sure you’re using the correct key. A lot of people have multiple cars, and sometimes it’s easy to grab the wrong one.

Sometimes the key turns but won’t unlock the door because the internal components of the lock are damaged. The lock contains pins and tumblers.

Keys are designed with cuts that correspond to the pins within locks, allowing the locking mechanism to revolve and unlock when the door is unlocked with the key. However, if any of these pins break or get trapped, the key in the car door won’t turn.

In such a scenario it’s worth seeking assistance from a locksmith as he will suggest to you the best course of action.

Why Do My Car Doors Lock But Won’t Unlock?

The most likely explanation is that the switch is not letting enough power through to open the doors. Again, make sure there isn’t any evident damage to the unlock buttons, such as a broken wire or a filthy switch. Performing electrical testing while you have access is a smart idea even if nothing appears to be incorrect.

Why Do My Keys Just Spin In The Lock?

This is typically caused by a set screw that has become loose inside the door handle or knob. Sadly, the significant majority of people never bother to read this warning and find themselves frustrated by a key that won’t stop rotating in their lock. Assuming it isn’t due to a missing or loose set screw, it means that a piece of the lock’s internal mechanism has been jiggled free. The easiest solution in such a scenario is to replace the entire mechanism.

Why Would A Key Stops Work In A Lock?

There are a few reasons why a key would stop working in a lock. The key might be bent or worn, the lock might be dirty or jammed, or there could be a problem with the electronic key fob.

If the key is bent or damaged, it might not fit well into the keyway of the lock. If the key is fine, any of the internal components of the lock may be damaged.

Over time the lock gets dirty or jammed, which makes it difficult to turn the key properly. Use Wd-40/multi-purpose cleaner or blow dryer to lose and clean the lock.

If there is a problem with the electronic key fob, it might not be able to communicate with the lock properly. This can be a problem if the key fob is not working correctly or if the batteries are low.

If you’re having trouble unlocking the car, make sure to check all of these possible causes. As a solution, you might need to get a new key made, replace the lock cylinder or tailpiece, have the lock cleaned or repaired, or replace the key fob batteries.

Is My Key Fob Not Working, Or Are The Door Locks Broken?

If you have a spare key fob, try using it to see if the problem still occurs. If you’ve lost your key fob and don’t have a spare, the electronic lock switch on the driver’s side of the car will do the trick. If your car’s remotes or interior switches suddenly stop functioning, you may need to have the locks fixed.

Why Won’t My Key Open My Car Door?

We’ve covered the reasons why won’t my key open my car door, but there are other options besides forcing the door open. The key can open the passenger side door or trunk to let you in, you can use the remote key fob, or a smartphone app can be used to unlock the car’s passenger door.

How Can I Replace A Key Fob That Won’t Unlock Doors?

Getting a new key fob and programming it is the two distinct steps involved in replacing a lost or stolen one. There are a lot of different places to buy them, including online and at many different department stores. A locksmith or the dealership can program your key, and either one can supply you with a replacement key fob.

Why Doesn’t My Key Fob Lock But It Unlocks?

Sadly, the keyfob battery has finally given out. This is among the most common reasons why a car door unlocks but doesn’t lock. It’s possible that putting fresh batteries in your key fob will fix your non-functioning locks. If one door is malfunctioning then the door lock solenoid could be at fault.

How Can I Reset A Locked Car Door?

For one second, press and hold the “lock” button on the fob, then insert the key into the ignition and turn the engine on. This works on the vast majority of vehicles but not all of them.

Is It Possible To Replace My Key Fob Without A Spare?

If you lose your only key fob and don’t have a spare, you can buy a new one, but you probably won’t be able to configure it yourself. Even the simplest self-programming methods usually necessitate the use of a functional key fob. The onboard computer of a vehicle can be programmed with the help of special equipment that a locksmith or dealerships are equipped with.


To conclude, we have discussed 14 reasons why the key turns but won’t unlock the door. If you ever find yourself in one of these terrible emergencies, the numerous solutions may be of some assistance.

Most of the scenarios can be handled one-handed however, it is recommended that you take it to a technician or automotive locksmith for assistance. They have years of experience and can get the job done quickly and efficiently.

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