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Key stuck in ignition, can't turn it back to Lock

Key stuck in ignition, can't turn it back to Lock

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Old August 10th, 2018, 01:56 PM
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Key stuck in ignition, can't turn it back to Lock

HI, all. I've been having some trouble with my car for the last couple days. It's an '88 Olds Cutlass Ciera and it refuses to let me turn it off and retrieve the key. It started a couple days ago, but the first few times I was able to get the key out of the ignition at the expense of grinding the engine for a quarter of a second as I turned the key all the way forward and tried to quickly get it back to the Lock position. Now that trick seemingly no longer works and the key is fully locked in. I've been pulling out the fuel pump fuse to get the engine to at least stop when the car isn't in use.

I found this forum via googling the problem and a lot of posts say that it's likely due to a misalignment in the backdrive linkage? But those posts also state that rotating the steering column collar counterclockwise should free the key. I've grabbed the collar and twisted as hard as I could before fearing I might break something, but the ignition never let me turn it back to Lock. Does my problem still sound like it's due to the backdrive linkage? And is there a decent video/guide out there on how to go about realigning the linkage? Any help is appreciated, thanks
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Old August 10th, 2018, 02:16 PM
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Move the steering wheel hard to the right or left and see if the key will come out. Note the tumblers have to be in the locked position for this to happen.
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Old August 10th, 2018, 02:21 PM
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I've tried moving it all the way to the left and trying to free the key, moving it all the way to the right to remove the key, and attempting to remove the key while rotating the wheel. Nothing seemed to make the ignition even loosen a bit
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Old August 10th, 2018, 03:10 PM
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You're saying the key won't move enough to turn the engine off??? Try pushing the key/ignition cylinder 'in' when trying to turn the engine off. You might also want to do a quick check to see if the engine will shut off when the transmission is in neutral. If it shuts off there, you have an issue with the alignment of Park and the backdrive.
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Old August 10th, 2018, 03:19 PM
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The ignition won't release the key in any gear, I've gone through them all. I've also tried shifting as far right as my shifter will go and quickly moving it back to park as a youtube video suggested - nothing.
I've also tried moving the ignition cylinder in and out (assuming that when sitting in the driver's seat, we're referring to 'in' as toward the left/steering column and 'out' as pulling toward the passenger seat). When I was able to wriggle the key out the first few times (after cranking an already-started engine for a quick moment) it seemed like pulling as far out as I could, turning the key, then pushing the cyllinder in while moving the key toward Lock was the trick to getting the key out, but evidently it doesn't work anymore.

To elaborate on the issue a bit, the key will indeed not move enough to turn the engine off. When I was able to get the key out, it would freely move from Lock to the next position that gives the accessories power without cranking the engine. However, when I actually cranked the engine to turn the car on, the mechanism then locks into that position and doesn't let me go back to the accessory power or Lock state. So I can't turn the car off as the ignition cyllinder won't turn back to where the key is able to be released.

Please let me know if you'd like a video of what I mean. Also, sorry if my replies seem to be showing up after a long time. I just made my account today so all of my messages must be approved before actually going through. My reply to oldcutlass still seems to be in the chamber, but I assume it'll come out before this one.
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Old August 10th, 2018, 04:38 PM
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Does the part of the column below where the key is closest to the dash move at all? If it is like older cars there is a back drive connected to it and if that linkage has become sloppy it may not be moving far enough to allow you to remove the key. Try twisting it counter clockwise and see if it moves at all and then try and remove the key.
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Old August 10th, 2018, 04:57 PM
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Unfortunately it doesn't move at all. I've tried to jiggle it as much as possible, it only turns about as far as the shifter would let it go.

I actually took a video of my last attempt. I tried to go through most of the different tips I'd seen. Pulling out the cyllinder, pushing the cyllinder in, doing a combination, etc.

Here is a link to the video
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Old August 10th, 2018, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by svnt442 View Post
Does the part of the column below where the key is closest to the dash move at all? If it is like older cars there is a back drive connected to it and if that linkage has become sloppy it may not be moving far enough to allow you to remove the key. Try twisting it counter clockwise and see if it moves at all and then try and remove the key.

What he said I agree!
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Old August 10th, 2018, 08:51 PM
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I'm sorry, guys. I think there are like two replies from me in the chamber but they're under moderation review. Obviously those will be out by the time you see this, but for future reference if it looks like I'm abandoning my thread, I definitely am not. And I appreciate all the suggestions and help guys. Thanks
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Old August 11th, 2018, 07:58 AM
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I fixed your 2 posts. Hopefully you'll get your ignition switch assy sorted out.
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Old August 11th, 2018, 08:04 AM
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Pull back and up on the shift lever with your left hand (in park) and try turning the key off at the same time.
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Old August 11th, 2018, 08:48 AM
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I wonder if the lock cylinder it self went bad and is jamming???
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Old August 11th, 2018, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by oldcutlass View Post
I fixed your 2 posts. Hopefully you'll get your ignition switch assy sorted out.
Much appreciated
Originally Posted by tru-blue 442 View Post
Pull back and up on the shift lever with your left hand (in park) and try turning the key off at the same time.
Like as if I were attempting to shift to an option before park? Unfortunately that didn't help
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I wonder if the lock cylinder it self went bad and is jamming???
Sounds like a decent possibility. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm capable enough to really make sure that's it
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Old August 11th, 2018, 02:43 PM
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Your going to have to tear into the column, I bet your going to find the gear the lock cylinder is splined to or the rack the gear moves is broken or worn.
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Old August 11th, 2018, 03:18 PM
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Ok, here are some comments directly from the Chassis Service Manual that deal with diagnosing Steering column problems

Issue: Key cannot be removed in Lock position. Possible cause: Ignition switch is not set correctly, OR defective lock cylinder. Remedy: Adjust ignition switch OR replace lock cylinder

Supplemental question: Does the car actually shift into gear or return to park when the engine is running? If not you may have an activator rod that's not working properly.
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Old August 11th, 2018, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by matt69olds View Post
Your going to have to tear into the column, I bet your going to find the gear the lock cylinder is splined to or the rack the gear moves is broken or worn.
I was afraid of that. Looks like I might not be able to handle this issue on my own
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Ok, here are some comments directly from the Chassis Service Manual that deal with diagnosing Steering column problems

Issue: Key cannot be removed in Lock position. Possible cause: Ignition switch is not set correctly, OR defective lock cylinder. Remedy: Adjust ignition switch OR replace lock cylinder

Supplemental question: Does the car actually shift into gear or return to park when the engine is running? If not you may have an activator rod that's not working properly.
It's not necessarily that the key can't be removed in the Lock position, but that the key won't even turn back to accessory power/Lock at all. But the remedy is still probably the same in this situation.

And yes, when the engine is running, I can shift just fine and each position works as intended. It's just that the key refuses to turn back toward me at all
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Old August 11th, 2018, 07:13 PM
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Defective lock cylinder.
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