Physical Key Won’t Unlock Car Door? [Reasons & How To Fix]

Being unable to unlock your car, especially when trying to catch up with an important event is really an unpleasant situation. It’s probably a situation where the key turns but still won’t unlock the door and you’re standing there wondering – “why won’t my car unlock with key?”

You don’t have to worry because it can always be resolved.

The car door lock is a delicate system in a car that can deny you access to your car when there is a malfunction or the use of the wrong keys especially when you use only the traditional key–and these keys can easily get damaged when not handled properly and it can contribute to why you are unable to unlock your car.

Key Takeaway

There are different reasons why your manual key may fail to open your car door. They include:

  • Inadequate lubrication
  • A Frozen door lock
  • A Worn-out door lock
  • Damaged car key
  • Using the wrong car key
  • Improper lock installation of car door lock
  • Dust in the lock
  • Jammed door latch
Manual key won't unlock car door

Possible Reasons Why Manual Key Won’t Unlock Car Door

1. Inadequate Lubrication

Lack of lubrication is one of the reasons why the manual key won’t unlock car door. When your car lock lacks lubricant, it becomes stuck and stops rotating, making it impossible to open. This can occur due to prolonged use or even getting into your car after being out in the rain.

To remedy this, grab some lubricant spray and spray it into the keyhole of your door lock. Turn the key the other way multiple times (while applying extra lubrication) until you can properly turn it.

If you want to lubricate with oil, pour the oil into the key’s groove. Then insert your key into the lock, take it out, spin it 180 degrees, and repeat. Spread the oil using the key, and add more lubricant if the other side of the lock isn’t adequately lubricated. You should not use so much oil to avoid accumulating dirt in the car lock.

2. A Frozen Car Lock

When the temperature is below the freezing point, water molecules in the air freeze and attach to the keyhole of your door lock, making it hard to turn the key.

In a situation like this, you’ll realize that the physical key won’t unlock car door. This situation is common for people who reside in areas where the temperature drops below freezing.

If this is the case, then you don’t need to think about changing the door lock or lubricating it.

If you need to open the car quickly, you can use a de-icer spray to defrost the door lock first for it to function correctly before inserting your key.

manual key won't unlock car door - frozen lock

3. Worn Out Car Lock

Your car door won’t unlock with key or may be very difficult to unlock with a manual key if the lock is worn-out.

No matter how well you lubricate your car lock, you need to understand that every car lock tends to deteriorate with time.

This simply means that even if you use the original key for your car, it may not unlock the door.

If your key isn’t turning the lock or if it takes a lot of effort to turn it, your car lock is most likely worn out. And when this is the case, unlocking your car with a manual key becomes difficult.

When you see indicators of a worn-out automobile door lock, take it to a locksmith and ask him to replace it because it can only be solved by replacing the entire lock. 

4. Damaged Car Key

When a key is damaged, it becomes harder to turn the lock and may even become stuck. This is why it is important to always handle your car key properly. 

One of the ways to prevent your key from being damaged is by not using it for the wrong lock. It could either bend or break the key.

If your key is damaged, then the only option is to replace it.

 A replacement key can be manufactured by a car dealership or a locksmith. You can locate anyone near you and request a new key. 

5. Using the Wrong Key

One of the primary causes of most car door lock issues is the use of the wrong key. If your car lock is not worn out and the car lock is well lubricated, then you could be using the wrong key for your car. 

This happens if you possess several vehicles of the same model and pick up the wrong key. The keys are usually constructed so that they can turn a little before becoming stuck, giving you the impression that the key is turning.

This is why you need to always differentiate your car keys or even place them differently. 

So, if this is the case, the solution is simple: you don’t have the proper key to open your door and you need to go and get it.

physical key won't unlock car door - wrong key

6. Improper Installation of Car Lock

If you just had your car locks replaced by a locksmith or auto repair company, this might be why your key is having difficulty unlocking the door for you.

In many circumstances, the mechanic may have fitted a malfunctioning lock or an incorrect key. This can cause issues from the start and make opening your car a challenge using a manual key. 

If this is the case, you should go back to the company that installed the lock and you can replace it with a better one or ask for a refund if they are unable to correct it.

manual key won't unlock car door - improper installation

7. Dust in the Car Lock

This happens most of the time due to unshielded automobile locks. Your manual key will not unlock your car when it gets trapped in a speck of dust. Having a cluster of dust will prevent your key from unlocking your car. 

However, to solve this issue, you must remove any dust particles from your lock and thoroughly clean it with a compressed air spray. Both the vehicle key and the car door lock may need to be cleaned in some circumstances for them to work properly.

8. Jammed Door Latch

If your door latch is stuck, you won’t be able to unlock your car door no matter how hard you crank the key.

The issue here is with the latch rather than the lock. You will need to take your car to a mechanic and get it repaired.

When the automobile door is unable to open from the outside with keys, virtually everyone suspects a lock or a key problem.

However, both your lock and key may be in working order, but a rusted or corroded door latch can prevent the door from opening.

To solve this problem, you should speak with a car repair company for the best solution.

manual key won't unlock car door - jammed door latch

Read: Problems After Using Cataclean


Car keys are an integral part of any driver’s daily activities, so whenever there’s a situation where the physical key won’t unlock car door, it can be a costly hassle.

Aside from the reasons listed in this article, a significant cause of key not opening car door is lock damage. Locks may be damaged as a result of a collision or repeated usage of the key.

And in this case, you would need to replace your automobile lock if it’s not operating correctly. However, if you do not want to spend the money on changing the entire lock, you can choose to replace just the cylinder of the lock.

In most circumstances, the cylinder of the lock or the tumblers wears out or gets broken. If you update those, you can avoid changing the lock.

If you are still unable to unlock your car, you can contact a professional locksmith who can inspect your vehicle and give you quick solutions.