Car Key Stopped Working?!

Here are Some Tips to Help

You go out to your car, and when you try to start it, or even just unlock the door, the key is just not working. 
Of course, you contact a reliable locksmith, but while you are waiting, you try to figure out why the key simply won’t work.

Actually, there are quite a few reasons and some of the causes will depend on the vehicle manufacturer, make, model, and type of key. 
Moving through the various key types, we will also talk about the potential problems.

Car Key Stopped Working?!

Section 1

Car Keys Types

Section 2

Damaged Car Lock

Section 3

Ignition Problem

Section 4

Vehicle Electronics Problem

Section 5


Section 6

Key Problem

Car keys types

Section 1

Car Keys Types

Traditional – This is a simple piece of metal that inserts into a slot, turns, and the engine starts.
This is common in cars made before 1995. 
Each key is cut to the exact grooves of the cylinder.

Transponder – This is a physical key that has a chip embedded, frequently under the plastic cover. 
The key is also cut to the grooves but the chip is a transmitter that connects with a receiver in the vehicle. 

It is an additional security measure, so the key must work in the cylinder but the transmitter and receiver must communicate properly for the car to start. 
This is different from a keyless entry.

Keyless Fob – These are remote control devices that control different actions by the car. 
It communicates directly with the computer in the car to activate the door opening and usually a push button to begin ignition.

The basic use is to open the vehicle door but some have additional and advanced options like remote starts, trunk opening, and turning the car security system on and off.

Now we will delve into what has happened to cause your key to stop working.

Damaged Car Lock

Section 2

Damaged Car Lock

There are two main areas where a car door lock will break…either the lock cylinder or the lock assembly. 
If you insert the key and it turns but the lock doesn’t open, the assembly is damaged. 
If a fob opener works but the key won’t turn to open that door, it is the cylinder.

The lock can also be clogged with dirt, debris, or ice. 
If you have been in a collision, the impact could damage the lock as well.

The lock can generally be repaired or you may need a replacement.

Signs of a damaged car lock

  • The keyway is blocked or obstructed (you cannot fully insert the key).
  • The key will open one lock but not another.
  • Key will turn but the lock will not open.
Ignition Cylinder Problem

Section 3

Ignition Cylinder Problem

The key opens your car doors but doesn’t fit into the cylinder that turns the engine on. 
Or, if the key works in the door and fits into the ignition, but not turning in the ignition, it could be a problem in the ignition system.

A call to your automotive locksmith is in order. 
They are generally able to work on ignition cylinder problems as well as keys. 
After an inspection, the technician will be able to tell you if the cylinder is able to be repaired or you will need a replacement.

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Ignition Switch

  • Car stops while driving

  • The engine does not start

  • Car starts and then suddenly stops

  • Issues powering on the accessories

  • Issues turning or removing the key

Section 4

Vehicle Electronics Problem

As technology has advanced keyless and key fob openers and starters, the issues of non-starts become more complex. 
As mentioned, the transmitter and receiver must communicate with each other. 
If one is damaged, the key will not work properly. 

It could also be a problem with the internal vehicle electronics.  There can be frayed wires, the internal components become out of alignment, overuse of the keys, etc. 

As much as possible, remember if the fob was dropped or got wet or some other type of accident.  Note if one button works but others don’t. 

Start with your automotive locksmith, but you may end up at the dealership.

Main reasons why your car won’t start

  • Dead battery

  • Faulty starter

  • Clogged fuel filter

  • Empty gas tank

Car Key Stopped Working

Section 5


Keyless entry remotes and transponders must be programmed to work with a specific vehicle. 
If you recently had a duplicate made or replaced the remote, it could be as simple as having it programmed. 

Also, if you had your car battery replaced, this could cause the remotes or transponders to no longer recognize your vehicle.
This also applies to aftermarket keys.

This requires a technician to sync the remote or transponder to your car, which can be handled by an automotive locksmith.

If the The immobilizer light turns on when the key is in ignition the key is not programmed or the chip in the is broken.

Car key fob not working

Section 6

Key Problem

Aftermarket Keys

So you are trying to save a few bucks and purchase an aftermarket key, and there is nothing wrong with that. 
You just need to realize that this new key will need to be programmed to work on your car. 

Another issue with aftermarket is that the parts used to make this key were not designed for your specific vehicle and will need some tweaking. 
Warning!  Once an aftermarket electronic key is programmed, it cannot be undone. 
So, if the key was used on someone else’s vehicle, it can’t be adjusted to work on yours. 
As you can tell, you may be sorry you tried to save some money.

The solution is to go to a reputable locksmith to get the right blanks for your car, including make, model and year.
At that time have the keys cut and programmed by that same technician.


Copied Keys

Having duplicate car keys on hand is a great idea. 
It helps with multiple drivers of the same vehicle, misplaced keys, lockouts, and key damage.
However, with each successive replication of the key a bit of accuracy is lost. 
If the duplicate is not copied correctly, you can also have issues.

You can have a brand new key developed from the coding in your car. 
It will function just like an original. 
If you are dealing with a transponder or keyless, be sure the programming is performed at the same time.

Car keys have become part of almost every day’s activities.
When you can’t get into your vehicle or make it run, you will become frustrated and possibly angry. 

As you can tell, there are various situations that can develop to cause your key to not work. 
Start with the basics. 
If it is a metal key, look for rust or damage. 
If it is a fob, check the batteries.

If you are still stumped, contact a reputable automotive locksmith.  

Key Fob Batteries

Batteries do not last forever. 
If you find the fob works intermittently or not at all, start by replacing the batteries, which is a very simple task.

Most common reasons your key is not working:

  • The battery in the remote has failed
  • The remote needs to be reprogrammed
  • The fuse has blown for the control circuit or module of the keyless entry system
  • Either the antenna, wiring, or faulty module may fail
  • The key fob chip or remote is broken or got wet.

TIP: Car key remotes typically use CR2025 or CR2032 batteries, although CR1620CR1632, and others are also used in some applications.

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