Help! I cannot turn the key in my previa. :(

I walk out this morning to my 93 toyota previa, put my key in the ignition…and it won’t turn. This key has worked fine for months…now it feels like it isn’t made for the lock.

I know on some cars you may have to turn the steering wheel to unlock the ignition…but that doesn’t seem to work here…but I can’t budge the steering wheel anyway.

Any ideas? Come on, someone make me look stupid and tell me the easy simple little thing i am forgetting.

stranded in minivan misery.

Make sure that your gear shift is all the way into park. I’m assuming your minivan is an automatic. That and the steering wheel lock are the two major reasons why the correct key would not turn in the ignition.

I’m not sure what type of gear shift you have on a Previa, but my car has a shifter in the center console with a push button. If that button is not locked when you’re in park, you cannot start the car.

Good luck, let me know if this does not work.

Your key may have worn down far enough that it no longer works. I had the same problem with a Toyota Corolla - I could not open my door with a worn out key.

Try using another key and that may work. I never thought keys wore out but mine certainly did. Toyota may use a softer metal than other companies.

My only suggestion was going to be that you move the steering wheel back and forth a little. I have an Acura Legend and sometimes I can’t turn the key unless I jottle the steering wheel a bit. Let us know if you get it open!


Your ignition lock cylinder may be worn out.
Typically one of the tumblers will have become worn or cracked to the point that it no longer moves properly. This problem can sometimes be temporarily overcome by jiggling the key around in the lock. This can realign the tumbler so that you can turn the key.
If you are mechanically adept, it is sometimes possible to take the lock apart and remove the broken tumbler. This will leave you with a somewhat less secure, but still functional, lock.


When you try to turn the steering wheel will it move at all? It should move freely with a little bit of effort. If the wheels are turned and the steering wheel is bound it will keep from turning the key. Turning the wheel hard away from the direction the tires are turned and gently turning the key might work.

It has already been mentioned Make sure your Vehicle is in park.

If the key is not working with one side flip the key over and try the other side. One side might not wear as quickly as the other.

try a different key (If you have one. If you do not Shame Shame on you)

Does the key in ign Buzzer ding when you insert the key?

Make sure the key is going all the way into the lock. Sometimes debris will keep a key from going all the way in.

If the key is worn at the shoulder or if the shoulder rest on the lock cylinder is worn, you may be able to turn the key if you apply ]u]slight turning pressure and slowly extract the key.

Apply a lubricant such as triflow into the lock. Insert and remove key a few times to help remove debris and lubricate the springs.

try jiggling the key while applying slight turning pressure

If none of that works call a locksmith. we have to eat too!

Hope some of that might be helpful.

No I can’t move the steering wheel at all…

I will go home and try some of these suggestions.

Thanks for all the help. I will let you know how it goes… :frowning:

Yeah sounds like the ignition lock cylinder. If you haven’t done it before, though, I don’t know about trying to remove it yourself. I’m not too sure about '93 Previas, but if it has an air bag, I suggest you take it to a professional.

It may not be as easy to replace these as earlier Japanese models may have made them.

Another thing to try: stand in the back (or front), and give the car a shove. I unfortunately don’t remember all the techincal details, but I think it had something to do with the teeth of one of the gears wearing down a bit, so the car wasn’t quite fully in ‘park’ as far as starting is concerned. The shove moves things enough so everything falls back into the right place, as far as I understand. (Hey, it has worked for me.)

Of course, if someone can provide me with technical information to refute this, then by all means please. I’m slowly trying to increase my car-guts knowledge.

<< Beep beep! >>

Nightsong, I think what you are referring to is when the neutral safety switch contacts are going bad, or the part in the trans that is supposed to activate the switch is too worn down to activate it. Both plausible theories…but more in a “turn key, nothing” type of scenario.

This one seems more of a physical impossibility to turn the key. However, if it’s because the shifter isn’t in park and the key doesn’t turn, then yeah.

Nevermind…I see what you were getting at. :o

Thanks everyone! I had to turn the steering wheel hard while trying to turn the key…and it just moved…



Don’t worry ready, it happens to the best of us. The reason I endorsed checking the gear shift is that I once spent 30 min. yanking on the steering wheel, trying to get the key to turn before I realized that I wasn’t quite all the way into park. Of course it was far enough into park for me to take the key out when I parked the car…

I was going to suggest a preventive measure… If you have a lot of keys (to include the car’s ignition key) and keep them all on one big key ring, the weight can result in them wearing out the igniton lock as Squink points out. I had this happen in a Toyota truck, and a friend had it hapen in his Mazda truck. Solution: Igniton key on a separate ring, or on a ring that comes separate from the main key ring.

nods to Lola Even a bit muddled, that makes sense. Thanks! :slight_smile:

Good idea, JCHeckler: only side note I have is if it’s on a detachable keyring, make sure the only way it’ll come off is by you taking it off. Had problems with keys falling off of those type of keyrings before.

I had a similar thing happen once (well, actually it happens all the time with my Tercel, but I’m going to share this little story just to make you fell less silly:)

I had never driven a car before and known this to happen, so the first time it ever locked the steering wheel I was quite scared. Add that to the fact that this was a brand new (2 month old) Altima. I was 16. I thought I’d broke it. Now, if that’s not enough, this happened as I was trying to start the car for my DRIVING EXAM!! Yep, here I am, parked in the driveway of the SAAQ, with the examiner sitting next to me, and the first thing I mess up is starting the damn car!! I was practically crying by the time my father came out of the building to ask what was going on (he could see that something was wrong), and then he realised what had happened and unlocked the steering wheel for me. I was so relieved, but also so scared that I’d fail just because of that. The examiner laughed it off and said it was a learning experience for her too, seeing as its never happened to her, and never to a student of hers either. I then proceeded to drive REALLY well for the next 20 mintutes, but messed up the parking (damn reverse parking).

Oh well, that was 6 years ago…now when it happens to the Tercel, I unlock the steering wheel without even thinking about it (my SO has a habit of locking it by accident due to the way he grabs the steering wheel while removing the key and getting out of the car at the same time…)