Key Turns But Won’t Unlock Car Door? Here’s Why And How To Fix

Will your car key not unlock your car door, but it turns just fine? Here's a super simple guide on how to fix this issue with your car door.

Let’s imagine you wake up one morning and head out to work. As you approach your vehicle, you try to open your car with your key.

No success. Frustrated, you then use the manual lock and try to turn the key — again, to no avail.

So what do you do?

This guide examines several reasons your key turns but doesn’t unlock your car door. Each section includes a quick fix you can try.

Let’s get started!

Table of ContentsShow

Lock Is Frozen

In winter, driving can be a necessary evil. But you’re already off to a rocky start if you can’t unlock your car. When temperatures hit below 32°F, your lock can quickly freeze. Ice forms inside the lock, blocking the key from turning.

If you’re based in the northern states or Canada, low temperatures over a period of time make the metal shrink and deform. This makes the key harder to turn.

How To Fix It

While the easiest fix for a frozen lock is to wait for the car to heat up, you may want to put some money towards a de-icer spray. This is available for less than $10 in every car mechanic store or online.

Fixing a deformed lock due to cold weather can be easily solved with increased lubrication. More on that in the next section

Lock Needs Lubrication

Car Lock Spray

As with all car parts, the lock is subject to wear and tear. Over time, it gets old, and your car door will stop unlocking.

How To Fix It

You could try getting a specified lubricant spray for your lock to fix this.

Once applied, turn the key anti-clockwise a few times before attempting to unlock the car again. Repeat this process until successful.

Wrong Key

Car Key (transponder) immobilizer

While this issue may be obvious, it’s still on this list for a reason. Do you live in a house with multiple car owners? Do your visiting family and friends own the same model car as you?

Sometimes the key will fit the lock and even turn. However, the car will not open.

How To Fix It

Ensure you have the correct key for your car. Sometimes it’s the easy things we often overlook.

Dirt In The Keyhole

Car Lock Keyhole

Ever wondered why your car lock has a cover? The answer is simple: to prevent dirt from entering the lock.

Dust and dirt can enter the lock and prevent the key from turning. This issue occurs far more often in unshielded car locks than in shielded ones.

How To Fix It

In this situation, air spray can help remove dust and other particles from the lock. However, these might push it further in or even damage the component if you’re unlucky.

It’s better to check with your local mechanic, as they have the right tools to clean your lock.

Worn-Out Lock

Car Door Lock

When you use a lock, it slowly wears down. After decades of use, if you struggle to turn your key, chances are the lock is at the end of its lifetime.

Note: this can also be the cause of your key being stuck in the ignition. The key (see below) or ignition cylinder can wear out.

How To Fix It

Even if the lock hasn’t completely failed, you want to go to an auto locksmith for maintenance.

Nothing is worse than being stranded on some forgotten road, unable to open your car door!

Key Damaged

Broken Car Key

If you’ve opted for the cheaper version of a car key, you’re likely to pay the price when it comes to the quality.

While original car keys can also be damaged, non-original ones are more likely to break.

How To Fix It

If your keys are broken, you have to obtain a replacement from the locksmith.

These days you can often fold the key stem into the main part of the key as an aftermarket customization. This maintenance will prevent key damage in the long run.

Lock Installed Incorrectly

Car Lock

If you’ve faced any problems mentioned in this article and gone to the wrong locksmith or car dealer, a faulty installation may continue to cause you problems.

Mechanics are also humans and make mistakes.

How To Fix It

First of all, test the key after you’ve had a fix. If your lock is giving you trouble after a few weeks, make sure to return it to the locksmith and ask for a refund.

Opt for an alternative locksmith or car dealer. Online reviews can give you a good idea of how good the mechanic or locksmith is.

Door Latch Stuck

Car Door Latch Stuck

Sometimes neither the lock nor the key is at fault, but rather the door itself. If your door latch is stuck, corroded, or rusty, you won’t be able to open the door.

To confirm this issue, try other car doors and see if they open (if possible). Your trunk will probably have a manual lock, at least.

How To Fix It

You don’t have many options other than getting to an auto locksmith and having them fix the latch.

Key Turns, But Door Won’t Open: Conclusion

Car Door Lock System

There you have it. You know eight realistic scenarios when your key turns but doesn’t open the car door. The various fixes might help if you find yourself in one of these unfortunate emergency situations.

However, in general, consult your car mechanic or an automotive locksmith to address these problems. They are the experts and know how to help.

This may be a little costly. While some fixes will cost you next to nothing, replacing an entire lock system will put you out of pocket by between $75 and $300.

If you can’t access your car with the regular fob, there could be several underlying issues. The most likely is a dead key or car battery.

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Benjamin Kitchen

Ben is an IMI-qualified light vehicle technician from England with experience in a fast-fit garage. He aims to help drivers worldwide with common automotive problems. You’ll often find him working with his 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa. It may have a tiny engine, but in eight years it's never once let him down!