Reasons Why The Door Wont Unlock

3. Broken Lock Tail Piece

I’m not a locksmith so detailed knowledge of the internal workings of a car door lock is a bit beyond me. However, I know that worn lock tumblers will either prevent the lock from rotating or allow you to unlock the door with just about anything, including a screwdriver. If the lock is turning but the door is not unlocking, this is most likely caused by the broken tailpiece.

When you turn the key, you’re mechanically moving a lever situated at the back of the lock. Through a series of push-pull connections, the lock will open the latch located between the door and the B-column. If one of the components on the way to the door latch fails, you might notice that it’s easier to turn the key than it used to be, and of course, the door won’t unlock.

Fixing the tailpiece is really a job for a locksmith because it involves stripping the door panel. This is one of the most complicated tasks to get right, especially when the window controls and speakers are mounted on the door. I’ve probably experienced a dozen of door-related failures, whether it’s the handle, lock, or tailpiece, and I’ve left the majority for a specialist.

4. Broken Lock Cylinder & Tumblers

In the case of a broken lock cylinder or tumblers, the key won’t turn at all as the failure will prevent all the tumblers from lining up. There are three challenges you’ll have to overcome to get the lock repaired:

  1. Gain access to the vehicle.
  2. Remove the broken lock.
  3. Remake the lock and reinstall it.

Considering that you have the key, the first step should not be difficult – you can use the fob to unlock the doors, open the lock on the passenger’s side or get into the vehicle through the trunk. If you can’t get into the vehicle using conventional means, then I strongly suggest reading this article as it lists all the alternative ways of accessing your vehicle.

Once you’re in the driver’s seat, you can manually open the door and more importantly, drive the car to a local locksmith. You won’t have to change the keys because they can use your existing key as a template to create the new lock. Alternatively, you can take out the lock yourself by following the steps explained in this article. It’s not an easy job, and you’ll still have to get a new lock designed, or go with a new one and replace the keys.

5. Worn Key

Sliding the key in and out of the lock for years or decades is eventually going to wear it down and make it unusable. The wear will prevent the tumblers from lining up and the lock won’t rotate. It can also bend, and even snap inside the lock, which is the worst-case scenario.

Some locksmiths can cut copies from a worn key, but you can be certain it’s going to cost more than duplicating a key that is in good condition. If your key is not worn right now – that’s great, as you can take it to a locksmith and have it duplicated. While you’re there, clone the RFID chip and even fob, as cloning is much cheaper than programming from scratch. We’ve covered the topic in more detail in the “How To Start My Car Without a Chip Key FOB?” article.


Cleaning and Lubrication

The first thing you can try to unlock a stuck car door luck is a lubricant. A dry lubricant is preferred as a long term solution as oil-based lubricants tend to attract things that can build up, such as dirt and dust. If you are going through the trouble to clean and lubricate, you might as well make sure the problem doesn’t immediately resurface!

However, for a quick solution, an oil-based solution can solve the problem. Most people usually have WD-40 on hand, which would be a great oil-based lubricant for this issue.

Also, if a foreign object is lodged in the key door lock, you can attempt to remove it. When applying lubricant, be sure to first clean the assembly. Remove any blockages, as well.

Once that is done, continue to lubricate the assembly until it moves freely. This will help to ensure that this is more of a long-term fix, assuming build-up and improper lubrication are the culprits.

3. The Key Won’t Turn in the Lock

If you try to turn the key in the exterior lock, but it doesn’t work, there are several possibilities. The latch or the lock cylinder may be broken, or the mechanism may need to be adjusted. The key itself could also be worn down. All of these should be inspected by an expert. Instead of turning to a locksmith, call the experts at an authorized Subaru service center. They know the inner workings of your Subaru better than just about anyone.

Final Words

Car keys not working could become a big problem if you don’t deal with it properly. Read through the above points thoroughly to ensure that you can properly diagnose the exact problem you might be facing with your car keys. Hopefully, this article will help you solve your problem of key turns but won’t unlock the car door. If not, then you must contact an automotive locksmith to keep from damaging your car lock or key any further.

There’s a problem with your key chamber

Okay, so your keys are fine. But what about the key chamber?

Just like the key itself, a damaged lock chamber can stop your locks from working properly.

A damaged key chamber could be the consequence of a failed break-in.

For example, maybe you left your phone in your car once. That’s the jackpot for thieves – perhaps somebody tried (and failed, thankfully) to pick your car door to get it.

And since the vast majority of cars come with remote unlocking by default, chances are we might never realise until we’re forced to rely on physical keys!

More specifically, this can cause damage to the pins in your lock chamber, so they don’t align with your car key any more.

One of the first things your local auto locksmith learns is how to unlock car doors. In the vast majority of cases, we’ll be able to unlock your car door, even if it’s damaged.

If time isn’t critical, we can also rekey your car lock altogether. Alternatively, we can schedule a follow-up appointment, fixing your problem for good.

Structural Damage

This is usually more common after an automobile accident, though a hard slam of the car door or trunk could also potentially cause structural damage in the car door lock. This can result in a bent or disconnected latch.

Now that you have narrowed down what may be wrong with your car door lock, it is time to try to fix it. What are some things that you can do, both with minimal skills and those that may be skilled with a toolbox?

Step 3 Operating the door lock

You know how this works, but be prepared if your key fob battery is flat, your car alarm will sound when the door is opened. Placing the key/fob in the ignition will turn the alarm off.

Also worth noting, it’s very likely the door lock is very stiff as it’s probably never been used. A shot of WD40 will do wonders, but do be careful not to damage the key especially as it’s needed for the ignition switch.

2. Phone a Friend or Family Member

If you locked keys in car, it’s natural to panic a bit and wonder how the issue will get fixed. Being locked out of your car can put you in a vulnerable position, even if it does not seem like a full-blown roadside emergency. That’s why it’s crucial to call a friend or family member if there’s one nearby. 

You’re put at risk by having to potentially get help from strangers or stand by the side of the road, so it is always a good idea to let people in your life know where you are and the situation you’re facing. If they can’t help you figure out how to get into a locked car, they can provide some much-needed emotional support, and also it can be a good safety measure to know your whereabouts. 

In the absolute best-case scenario, your family member or friend has a spare key you can use to unlock your car and remedy the issue. But even if they don’t have a key, they may be able to help out by bringing you some supplies to help you manually unlock the door. Some tools that you might find helpful include: shoelaces (or comparable string), a doorstop, and a wire coat hanger, to name a few (more on that later).

2. The Ignition Cylinder Is Locked

If the ignition cylinder is locked, chances are there’s nothing wrong at all. If the steering wheel is moved without a key in the ignition, the wheel and the ignition cylinder will lock up. This is to prevent hotwiring. This security feature is easy to accidentally activate, and it’s just as easy to turn off. Gently move the wheel while you continue to turn the key. As you combine these two motions, the wheel and ignition cylinder should unlock.

Step 1 Locating your key

For those that don’t have a flip-out key, locate the hidden key in your fob. All key fobs will contain a hidden key. Usually, there’s a discrete slide button or cutaway that reveals the flat metal blade key. Google your model car and you’ll quickly find how to access the key.

4. Use DIY Tools to Reach Inside

When it comes to tips for purchasing a car, chances are you didn’t consider whether your vehicle had post locks or not. If your car doesn’t have those types of locks, the good news is there are many DIY-friendly methods to get back into your locked car. Here are some tools you can use:

A coat hanger

If you have horizontal locks, you may be able to use a coat hanger by untwisting and molding it into a hook shape. Once you do that, try to use the car door and maneuver the hook around the lock. Then pull to see if it unlocks. 

A screwdriver and metal rod 

If you have a screwdriver and a metal rod, you can try to get your car door unlocked as well if you don’t have the keys. Use the screwdriver to open some space and then take the metal rod and push into the lock to see if it opens. Just be careful as these tools can damage the vehicle. 


You might even find kitchen tools like a spatula may help if you’re trying to figure out how to get into a locked car. Take a spatula and place it between the car door to create space and pry the door open. If you can get the door to open with the spatula you can unlock it from the inside. 

An air bag pump wedge

You can also get an air bag pump wedge that can be used to open your car door. Using this tool, the air is pushed between the car doors to make a door opening that is big enough to use tools so that you can effectively unlock the car. 


If you have a strip of plastic, you can fold the plastic into a U-shape, and then with the bottom closed portion you can place it between the door jamb and lift it up. 

How do you open a deadlocked car door?

The latch is stuck

Sometimes, the problem doesn’t lie with your keys. It might not even be a problem with your lock. Instead, it could be a problem with your door.

Door latches can get stuck – rusty or bent components can often result in a door that doesn’t open.

Short-term, you can get around this by trying one of your car’s other doors. While it’s a bit of an inconvenience, it works as a temporary solution.

However, for a more long-term fix, call for the best mobile car locksmith.


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