There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to start your car only to find that the key is stuck in the ignition. It’s a common problem, but it can be a real hassle to deal with, even in Subaru Foresters.
There are 4 common causes why your key gets stuck in the ignition:
- Damaged ignition switch
- Bent key
- Locked ignition cylinder
- Obstructions in the ignition cylinder
Luckily for the Forester drivers out there, there are several things you can try to unstick your key from the ignition. In this guide, I’ll explain the causes of why keys get stuck in the ignition in the first place and what you can do to unstick your key.
Why Does Subaru Forester Key Get Stuck in Ignition?
Here are some of the most common reasons for why your Subaru Forester keys get stuck:
1. Damaged ignition switch
When the key is turned in the ignition, an electrical signal is sent to the starter motor, allowing the car to start. A broken or damaged ignition switch to send this signal will prevent the car from starting.
The ignition switch can lose efficiency with continued use and eventually stop working if not replaced. The switch may have also been exposed to moisture, dirt, or other contaminants.
Additionally, the ignition switch can break if subjected to an abnormal amount of pressure. To illustrate, the ignition switch can break if the key is turned too forcefully.
2. Bent key
If the key is bent, it may no longer fit in the ignition lock cylinder and will not turn. A car’s key fits into the ignition lock cylinder and is turned to start the vehicle. A key that has been bent may not fit properly in the lock cylinder and become jammed.
Your key may become misshaped after prolonged use. The ignition key can bend or break from repeated use in and out of the lock cylinder.
Accidental drops or other forms of physical stress can also bend the key. A key can become bent, for instance, if it is dropped on a hard surface or is hit by something.
When a key is not stored properly, it can bend. This is especially true when the key is kept on a crowded keyring or if it’s carried around in a pocket with other heavy or sharp items.
3. Locked ignition cylinder
If you look at the ignition cylinder in your Subaru Forester, you’ll find the word “Lock.” When locked, you will not be able to remove the key or start the car, and oftentimes, you can’t remove the key. This can usually happen when you turn the key too quickly or if the steering wheel is locked into place.
Misalignment between the lock cylinder and the key is another common cause of a stuck key in a locked ignition. If this is the case, the key may turn halfway before getting stuck.
For Foresters with automatic transmission, the ignition cylinder will lock in place when you turn the engine off while the vehicle is not in park.
Finally, a broken or worn ignition lock cylinder can prevent the key from turning in the ignition. Damaged or worn lock cylinders prevent smooth key rotation and can lock the key inside.
4. Obstructions in the ignition cylinder
The final reason why your key may get stuck in the ignition is that there’s something blocking the key from getting out. You’ll typically notice an obstruction when your key doesn’t slide in and out smoothly.
How to Unstick Key from Subaru Forester Ignition
Here are a few things you can try to unstick your Subaru Forester key from the ignition.
1. Jiggle the key
If the key is stuck in the ignition because of a mechanical issue, such as with the switch or the lock cylinder, you may be able to free it by jiggling it. The mechanical components of the ignition system can sometimes be unlocked by a light jiggle of the key, which can cause them to move or shift slightly. When a key becomes jammed due to dirt or debris, shaking it can sometimes free it.
2. Unlock the steering wheel
After turning off your car, you can accidentally lock the steering wheel in place when you turn it too far to the left or right. This is a security measure that prevents the theft of your Forester. To unlock the steering wheel, you will need to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction while the key is in the Lock or Accessory position.
3. Put the vehicle in park
For Foresters with automatic transmission, make sure the vehicle is in park before trying to pull the key out. If it’s in any other position, you will not be able to remove the key from the ignition.
As an aside, if you want to put your Forester in another position without using the key, press and hold the shift lock release button while moving the gear selector. Make sure your Forester is parked on a flat surface or has tire blocks in place before doing this.
4.Shake the gear selector
If your automatic Subaru Forester is already in park, but you still cannot remove the key, try giving the gear selector a little shake. For some reason, the vehicle may not register that it’s in park until you give it a slide nudge back and forth or left and right.
5. Open the door to remove the key
When you open the door of your Subaru Forester while the key is still in the ignition, there will be a beeping noise that alerts you of this fact. The purpose is to tell you to release the key before going inside and forgetting about it altogether.
Strangely enough, the beeping noise can trigger the ignition cylinder to unlock. So, if you cannot remove the key, try opening the door first before pulling it out.
6. Disconnect the sensor wire
If you’re desperate and don’t mind turning off the beeping noise whenever you open your car door with the key in place, you can try disconnecting the sensor wire. The only tool you need to do this is a screwdriver. Yakfish Taco on YouTube has an excellent video guide that shows you how to do this on a 2017 Subaru Forester.
7. Take your car to a Subaru dealership
The final thing you can do is let professional mechanics resolve the problem for you. Unfortunately, I cannot give you an accurate price range for how much it’ll cost you since it depends on the severity of the problem. Some people have claimed they paid as little as $25, others were forced to fork over $600, and others still paid nothing since their Foresters were still under warranty.
Does This Problem Happen with Push Button Start?
No, it doesn’t. The emergency key—the physical key that’s inside the key fob—is not the primary tool for starting your Forester if it has a push button start.
To turn on your Forester with a push start button, simply depress the brake pedal until the green light on the start button turns on. Press the button and wait for a few seconds for the engine to turn on.
The keyless ignition system was introduced in select trims starting in 2015. If your car is older than that, you will need to rely on the key to turn the engine on and off, in which case, you may be subjected to any of the problems mentioned above.
How to Prevent Future Incidents with the Ignition System
Maintaining your Subaru Forester according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and using a properly functioning key can help keep your ignition system trouble-free. It’s also wise to never turn the key in the ignition too quickly and to have the ignition system checked by an expert if you ever experience problems.