9 Reasons Why Key Turns But Won’t Unlock Car Door [SOLVED]

This is a question that most drivers ask themselves at one point or another. A key turns in the lock and it won’t turn all the way to unlock, leaving you frustrated and stuck.

key turns but won't unlock car door

The reason for this happening can be as simple as a frozen lock, lack of lubrication, wrong key, dirt getting into the keyhole, etc. but there are other situations where it’s more complicated.

In this blog post, we will go through some common scenarios where a car key won’t unlock a door with solutions! Stay with us!

9 Reasons Behind Key Turns But Won’t Unlock Car Door

There are many things that can cause your car key to not open the car door. Here are the most common issues-

1. Lack of Lubrication

The most common reason for a key to turn but not open the door is that it lacks lubrication. This can come from prolonged use, or just getting into the car after being out in the rain.

When your lock doesn’t have enough lube, it will get stuck and stop turning, which means you won’t be able to unlock the car. If you have been using the keyfob to unlock the door and trying to unlock it with the manual keys after a while, it may happen.

To fix this, get some lubricant spray and apply it to the keyhole of your door lock. Turn the key in the opposite direction several times (while applying more lube) until you can successfully turn it all the way!

If you are confused about what product to use, you can get our recommended Master Lock PTFE Lock Lubricant.

2. Frozen Car Lock

This is applicable for those who live in a region where the temperature goes below the freezing level. When the temperature is below zero, car locks can get frozen.

When this happens, you won’t be able to unlock your car no matter how hard you try! The reason for this happening is that when it’s too cold out there (below freezing point), water molecules in the air turn into ice and stick onto the keyhole of your door lock, making it impossible to turn the key.

The solution for this is simple- just wait until your car warms up! The ice will melt and you’ll be able to open the door without any issues. However, if you need to unlock the car instantly, use a de-icer spray to thaw the door lock so that it functions properly.

Apart from freezing climate areas, regular cold temperatures can cause the lock not to function properly as well. Cold weather makes metal shrink which can create a situation like lack of lubrication.

To solve any kind of winter car lock not opening issue, we recommend Victor Lock De-Icer and Lubricant that does both, de-icing and lubricating.

3. Worn Out Car Lock

Over time, car locks tend to wear out. This means that they may not open the door even if you use the correct key. When a lock is worn out, it becomes more and more difficult to turn the key as time goes by.

If your key isn’t turning the lock or it’s taking a lot of effort to do so, then it’s likely that your lock is worn out. The only solution for this problem is to replace the entire lock.

I recommend not to wait for the lock to completely fail as you will be stuck in the middle of nowhere. Take your car to a locksmith and ask him to change your lock right away once you are seeing signs of a worn-out car door lock!

4. Damaged Key

If you are using a key that is not the original one, there’s a chance that it may get damaged. When a key is damaged, it becomes difficult to turn the lock and may even get stuck.

The best way to avoid this situation is to always use the original car key. If you have lost your key or it’s been damaged, you will need to get a new one made. You can go to the car dealership or a locksmith to get a new key made.

Brand new keys can also get damaged if they are abused too much. Tiny damage to the keys can cause the lock to not open. So, be careful when using your car key and try not to damage it in any way.

5. Using Wrong Key

It may be possible that you may have picked up someone else’s key by mistake or you misplaced your own key. If this is the case, then it’s easy- you don’t have the correct key to unlock the car door!

This mostly happens when people own multiple cars of the same model and mistakenly pick up the wrong key. These keys are similarly made and can turn a bit before getting stuck which may give you a feel that the key is turning.

However, if you are absolutely certain that you are using the correct key, then the problem might be with the lock.

6. Damaged Car Lock

Just like locks wear out over time, they can also become damaged. This may be due to a collision or constant use of the key.

If your car lock is not working properly, it’s time to get a new one. However, if you don’t want to spend money on replacing the entire lock, then you can go for an alternative- change just the cylinder of the lock. In most cases, the cylinder of the lock or the tumblers are the things that get worn out or damaged. If you change those, you can get away without replacing the lock.

However, I don’t recommend doing so as things can go wrong in many ways and you may get stuck again with a similar kind of problem, car door won’t open even with the right key.

7. Improperly Installed Car Lock

If you had a recent car lock installation done by any locksmith or auto mechanic shop, it can be a reason why your key is having a hard time opening the door for you.

In many cases, the mechanic may have installed a defective lock or improper key. This can give you problems from day one and make your car difficult to open.

If this is what has happened with you, then take your car to a proper locksmith and get a refund for the wrong lock installation so that you can get it replaced by a better one.

8. Dust Got Inside

This happens with unshielded car locks often. Dust and dirt particles accumulate between the key and the lock. The lock doesn’t open as it gets stuck to a tiny bit of dust.

To fix this problem, you will need to take out all of the dust particles from your lock and clean them thoroughly with a compressed air spray. In some cases, both the vehicle key as well as the car door lock might need to be cleaned.

9. Door Latch is Stuck

If your door latch is not working properly, it will not let the car door open no matter how hard you try to turn the key.

In this case, the problem is with the latch and not the lock. You will need to take your car to a mechanic and get it fixed.

On almost every occasion, people think about a problem with the lock or the key when the car door won’t open from outside with keys. However, it can happen that both your lock and the key are functioning absolutely fine but a rusty or corroded door latch is preventing the door from opening.

To solve this kind of issue, you should consult with an auto workshop to get the latch fixed or replaced.


The final words of wisdom to take away from this article are that you should always use the original key and avoid any damage.

If your car door lock is not working, then it may be time for an upgrade or a new installation.

You can also keep on top of these problems by regularly cleaning out dust particles with compressed air spray before they accumulate in the tumblers which will make them difficult to clean later on.

Finally, if all else fails, contact a professional locksmith who can inspect your vehicle and give you some solutions quickly!

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