What Not to Do When Removing a Broken Key from a Car Ignition

car keys

A broken key in the ignition can be a torment. Until you get it out you’re effectively immobilized, which is the last thing anyone wants. Getting the broken key out is an art as much as a science. However, there are a number of methods you should never employ to remove the broken key. Knowing what they are can help you find the right way.


There’s no point try to use a magnet to extract the broken key from the ignition. Car keys are non-magnetic for a very good reason. If they attracted metal, they could attract all manner of iron filings and metallic debris that could end up fouling the ignition or door lock.

Metal and Super Glue

There are those who recommend a thin strip of metal and some Super Glue as way to extract the broken key. The idea is that the sliver of metal will be thin enough to fit between the key and the ignition and the glue will bond to the bit of the key.

There’s absolutely no reason why the glue should bond to the broken key rather than the ignition itself. If that happens, all you’ve done is compound the problem, meaning the only solution will be to drill out and replace the lock, which is both time-consuming and expensive. The chances of this working are very small-so small it’s not worthwhile.


Prying the broken key out of the ignition with a screwdriver simply isn’t going to work. You’re just going to damage the lock and it will end up costing you a great deal more money. Anything involving brute force should also be out of the question. Again, all that will follow is damage to the lock. In order to remove the key you need to be very careful. Never push things too hard in a lock.


Unless the key is broken off above the level of the lock you shouldn’t try to remove it using pliers. Even needle nose pliers can’t reach into the ignition slot to retrieve the broken key. Again, all you’re going to do is possibly damage the lock and you’ll certainly become frustrated as the pliers consistently fail to grab the key. If the broken key is above the lock then pliers might work, but even then it’s not guaranteed, and you’ll need to ease the key out rather than pull it out.


Picks, such as dental picks, could possibly work, although it’s unlikely. The main thing working against them is room. There not enough space to maneuver the picks around the broken key to work it out. No matter what type of pick you use it’s unlikely to be effective. Apart from the space you’d be unable to exert enough pressure with it to remove the broken key or even pull it part way out so you can use another tool on it. It’s better to save you energy for a method that’s likely to be effective.