Key Turns but Won’t Unlock Car Door – What Are the Causes and Fixes

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The car key turns but won’t unlock car door fixes are important details to know, especially for new car owners. If this happens, you need to check the locking mechanism for broken components because the lock may be damaged, frozen, clogged, or poorly lubricated.

Key Turns But Won T Unlock Car Door

You may also be using the wrong key, a damaged key fob, or worn car key. Read on for more information and quick solutions to a dysfunctional locking mechanism.

Why Does the Key Turn but Won’t Unlock Car Door? 

The key turns but won’t unlock car door because of a frozen lock or clogged keyhole. Insufficient lubrication, a broken lock, a faulty door latch, a damaged key or key fob, and electrical system problems can also cause the key to turn without unlocking the door.

– Opening With the Wrong Key 

If you use the wrong key to unlock your car door, it may turn without unlocking the door. You may encounter the problem if you own several cars or share a house with car owners with similar car models. Hence, before considering mechanical issues, confirm that you have the right car key.

– A Frozen Lock

The prolonged low temperatures in winter can cause your car lock to freeze. You may not notice the frozen car lock until you try to unlock the car door after parking it for a while. The ice inside the lock prevents the car key from turning all the way to unlock the door.

Low winter temperatures may also cause the metallic elements to shrink or deform, making it harder to lock and unlock your car. The lock won’t turn until you thaw the locking mechanism.

– Poor Lubrication 

The car door lock consists of several moving parts that require sufficient lubrication to function correctly. The door lock does not require as much lubrication as other car components. However, the door won’t unlock if the lock has rust or dirt on it.

Why the Key Turn but Won_t Unlock Car Door

The corrosion and dirt hinder the unlocking mechanism. Over-lubrication may also cause lock problems as the excess oil settles on the lock components as dirt.

– A Damaged or Worn Key 

A worn or damaged manual key turns but won’t unlock the door because it lacks enough force to open it. The key wears out as you insert it in and out of the lock for years.

The tumblers on a worn-out key do not line up to open the lock. In addition, a worn-out key may break or bend inside the lock, causing more unlocking problems.

– A Broken Lock 

Car door locks develop mechanical issues after years of use. You may also damage the lock with multiple attempts to use the wrong or damaged key. Lubricating a broken car lock does not help. You need to repair or replace it depending on the level of the damage.

Many car locks develop problems at the tailpiece, which connects the lock to the interior handle. The lock tail piece may be twisted or broken, causing a stuck car lock. Check the lock cylinder as well for any defects on the pins and tumblers.

– A Dirty Keyhole 

A simple issue such as dirt in the keyhole may cause you unnecessary panic and delay. The dirt accumulates over time if you park it regularly uncovered.

Keep your car shielded if you live or travel in a dusty area. The car won’t unlock or start easily until you clean the keyhole.

– A Jammed Door Latch

The key and lock are always the first parts to check when you cannot access your car. However, a car key turn may fail to open the lock if the door latch has a problem. The latch may be corroded or stuck, leading to unlocking issues.

If you have a car key fob, you can try to key unlock other doors to confirm if the problem lies with the driver’s door. Your mechanic can also check if the key and lock are turning, but the door won’t open because of a stuck latch.

– Faulty Lock Installation 

A poorly installed car door lock may cause all sorts of issues. Installation problems are rare with factory locks. However, your mechanic may have made a mistake when installing a new lock.

Faulty Car Lock Installation

Call the same or a different mechanic to reinstall the lock if it is not too damaged. Alternatively, you can consult a qualified automotive locksmith for a premium car lock.

– Dead Battery 

If you are experiencing problems when using a remote key to unlock the door, the key fob battery may be drained.

Low battery leads to inconsistencies in operating the remote key. The key sends a poor signal that cannot open the door.

– A Blown Fuse 

A blown fuse causes problems in opening an electric car door. You can access the fuse box without any special tools and inspect them for wear or blow.

You will notice a space where a blown fuse was on the central metal line. Use the manual for full information and installation instructions.

– Faulty Wiring 

Electrical system issues such as faulty or corroded wiring may cause the key to turn without unlocking the door. The issue is common when using a key fob, which relies on efficient electrical wiring to function well. You can open the car manually if the remote key won’t unlock the door because of wiring problems. 

You will need to replace the wiring to use the remote key in the future. The car won’t unlock manually without triggering the alarm if you use a remote key to lock it.

How To Fix a Key That Turns but Won’t Unlock Car Door

To fix a key that turns but won’t unlock car door, you need to identify and fix the broken component. It could be the key, lock, electrical wiring, or door latch. A qualified locksmith can help you repair the broken parts and install a new locking mechanism if necessary.

– Lubricate the Lock 

You can solve lubrication problems by applying oil or lubricant to the key. Hold the key in a flat position, apply the lubricant on the gap, and insert it in the lock.

Turn the key 180 degrees and then apply oil on the other side. Repeat the process until the stubborn lock is well lubricated. Do not use too much oil to avoid clogging the lock.

– Replace Broken Components

A professional locksmith can fabricate a duplicate key to replace the damaged car key. The locksmith service or a qualified mechanic can also replace a faulty or worn lock and any other defective component, including blown fuses, broken key, electrical wiring, broken lock tail, and a broken lock cylinder. Replace dead batteries to fix a dysfunctional key fob.

– Check the Electrical System

You may need a mechanic for this part. If all parts of the locking mechanism are functioning properly, your mechanic should check the electrical system.

Fixing Key That Turns but Won_t Unlock Car Door

The mechanic will replace any broken or rusty wires and test the system for you.

– Unclog the Lock and Keyhole 

Ice, dust, and rust in the lock or keyhole will cause lock issues. You need to unclog the locking mechanism to resolve the issues. The car door won’t unlock with key in cold temperatures if the lock freezes. A mechanic will do a better job of cleaning the locking system without damaging any components.

Once the lock is clean and lubricated, buy a good cover to reduce dust accumulation. Lubricate the system often to avoid corrosion and freezing under cold temperatures.

Key Turns but Won_t Unlock Car Door Reasons Fixes Conclusion

Can a Bent Push Rod Cause a Key to Turn but Not Unlock a Car Door?

A bent push rod is not typically related to a key not being able to unlock a car door. Causes of push rod bending can include engine misfires, valve train malfunctions, or excessive pressure. However, issues with a car door unlocking mechanism are usually related to key, lock cylinder, or latch problems, not the push rod.


Multiple issues can cause your car key to turn without unlocking the door.

Here are some tips to remember:

  • A car key cannot open a frozen, broken, rusty, and poorly lubricated lock.
  • A car key that turns without unlocking the door could be damaged, worn, or wrong.
  • Electric problems can cause lock issues, including blown fuses and damaged wires.
  • Lubrication, repairs, and replacement of broken components fix most lock issues.

Keep this guide to diagnose and fix issues with your car door lock in the future.

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