Whether you’ve got a keyless entry system or are turning a standard car key, the occasional lockout or failure is an unfortunate part of car ownership. Luckily, a majority of these issues are easily fixed. Here are 6 of the most common reasons your car key isn’t working.

1. The key fob battery is dead

If you have keyless car entry, you know that eventually those handy little keyless car fobs are bound to run out of juice. And when it happens, you won’t be able to unlock the car remotely until you have its battery changed.

If changing the battery doesn’t solve the issue, you may have an issue with a corroded battery contact or a functional problem with one of the buttons. And sometimes, a vehicle no longer recognizes its fob and will need to be reprogrammed. New battery doesn’t solve it? Visit your dealership or a technician who can help you reprogram or replace your fob.

2. Your lock’s broken

Turning a key in a lock repeatedly over time wears down both key and lock. So if you have a an older model car that uses an actual physical key and you find yourself locked out, there’s a decent chance your lock’s been damaged. Other times, locks can fail because of excess dirt or debris, a worn down internal mechanism, or damage from an accident. If you suspect your car lock may be damaged, head to an automotive locksmith or mechanic for help.

3. Your key’s broken

Though occasionally a key will physically break apart in a lock, standard keys fail because of wear and tear over time. A worn or bent key will be less effective finding its way into the grooves of the lock or ignition. An automotive locksmith should be able to help get you a new, functional key.

4. Your key has been duplicated too many times

Maybe you’ve made a few too many copies of your car key at the locksmith (or of your transponder at the dealer). Sometimes these copies-of-a-copy end up with tiny differences from too much duplication. If you’re going to have copies of keys made, try to use a car’s master key rather than a duplicate.

5. You have an ignition issue

If you can’t get your car to start but there’s not an obvious issue with your key, then you might be having a problem with your ignition switch. Signs can include: problems with turning or removing the key from the ignition, flickering dashboard lights and electronics, and/or a stalled engine. If you suspect your ignition’s the culprit, have a professional evaluate your ignition assembly for a complete diagnosis.

6. Your key wasn’t programmed correctly (or at all)

Pairing keyless entry car fobs to transponder keys not only makes it easier to lock and unlock your car, but it also adds an extra layer of security. Recently replaced or duplicated a car key remote and it’s not working? It’s possible your transponder key and the key fob weren’t programmed to work together. Visit your car dealership or an automotive locksmith to have them correct the issue.

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Safe and smart | Car safety


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.