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Ignition key won't turn


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9 replies to this topic

#1 aircraft engineer

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 03:22 PM

It's my sister's car - in PHX, temps about 100F+

It's a 97 Impreza, keys cut from pattern (locksmith "read" the key code off the original)

Unlocks doors, sometimes turns in the ignition, sometimes not. It's doesn't seem to be the locking sprag in the steering column - turning to neither side seems to free up the key to turn. (flat driveway/carport)

Seems happen when it's "HOT!!" (as if there's any time in PHX this time of year when it's NOT)

Any ideas out there? It's been lubed into the cylinder. IF I took a can of my "quik-freeze" for circuit boards down there I could freeze the cylinder from the inside out and see if cooling it makes a difference

All of this is hearsay from her and I'm posting it because I have the hi-speed net line.

#2 Carmen

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 04:13 PM

if sometimes work and sometimes not, i believe it is the key cut not exactly to the original. do you have original key to try?

#3 SubPar

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 05:04 PM

I had this problem with a 95 Legacy. I had spare keys cut from the VIN at a Subaru dealership. The new keys would not turn in the ignition. I compared it to the old one, and it was way off. Not the dealerships fault, it's just that the key and ignition were very worn, so only the worn key would start the worn ignition.

The parts guy at the dealership roughed up the new key, and then it worked fine.

I hope this helps!

#4 johnceggleston

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 05:11 PM

keys and keyways wear as they get used. cutting a key from a code for a 12 year old car is likely to produce a mediocre fit. the keyway is worn, the key is not.

either cut a key from a used / worn key or pay a locksmith to replace the pins in the key way to match the code on the 'new' key. doors are much less sensitive.

i removed a keyway had a locksmith rekey for 20$ about 6-8 years ago. call around.

#5 timintc

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 07:27 PM

It's my sister's car - in PHX, temps about 100F+

It's a 97 Impreza, keys cut from pattern (locksmith "read" the key code off the original)

Unlocks doors, sometimes turns in the ignition, sometimes not. It's doesn't seem to be the locking sprag in the steering column - turning to neither side seems to free up the key to turn. (flat driveway/carport)

Seems happen when it's "HOT!!" (as if there's any time in PHX this time of year when it's NOT)

Any ideas out there? It's been lubed into the cylinder. IF I took a can of my "quik-freeze" for circuit boards down there I could freeze the cylinder from the inside out and see if cooling it makes a difference

All of this is hearsay from her and I'm posting it because I have the hi-speed net line.


In a similar vein and coincidentily also a 97 Impreza, we cant remove the key from the ignition. Could that also be a worn ignition? or does it have something to do with something in the tranny and park mechanism?

#6 aircraft engineer

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 07:34 PM

She tried the "old" key I think - or maybe she left it with me and I need to send it down to her. Now if I can just find it...

the "new" key was actually "chunked" (shear cutter) from a blank - he "cut" it based on the code for the original (no key follower machine) so it was a "full cut virgin" identical to the original factory cut key.

Evidently not much more of a problem - she hasn't called me today, anyway

Interesting thing BTW - Sub keys use roughly the same blank as Nissan (don't know which Nissan, but the keys I had made in Thailand were all done on Nissan blanks - the only thing was that on the first 2, the cutter didn't shorten the blank to make up for the "shorter" Sub key length - it sticks out of the cyl about 1/4 inch more. The second guy cut the length down - keys there cost 60 cents - $1.50 more with plastic handles so 20B versus 70B at 32B/$)

not able to remove key - YES = the "backdrive" between the trans shift lever/handle and the "remove key" detent is probably broken or out of adjustment. There should be a way to get in and examine the column and see if the "lock rod" is moving. Since I'm not very savvy on Sub mechanisms, I'm going off old 'Murcan experiences. Once the key is "on" it allows the cylinder to rotate (no stops) - as long as it moves "on", your problem is likely in that backdrive. Check the cable linkage between the shift lever and the steering column - you might have to pull a few things off to get at it and see it. Someone else can turn the key while you sit there with a flashlight and "look"

#7 johnceggleston

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 08:19 PM

Interesting thing BTW - Sub keys use roughly the same blank as Nissan (don't know which Nissan,


i'v had 93, 95, 97, subarus and they all used the same key (as well as the same ignition keyway) as my 90 nissan. i don't know if or when nissan changed, or if / when subaru changed.

#8 four-fleet-feet

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 12:23 AM

Evidently not much more of a problem - she hasn't called me today, anyway


Well, it's still a problem. Had to call AAA this AM when it was get Dragon started or die of heatstroke in a grocer's parking lot. Used both a locksmith-cut by code from VIN key and a dealer-cut VIN key. Neither would get it to unlock.

It doesn't matter if I jiggle the shifter (4EAT) or push the brake in hard, both dealer suggestions. It doesn't matter if I move the wheel or not (to see if it's locked). There's no rhyme or reason to it. It'll go for days without having a problem, and then it's three times in a row. I stuck the key in in mute desperation when AAA told me I'd have to wait two hours. It was already 105, and it turned easily and started right up. I'd been trying for twenty minutes with no luck. It just wouldn't turn! But I know it's not a 'key' issue; when it works, it works. It just doesn't always work in the ignition!

Last car I ever had this exact thing happen on was a Budget rental Dodge Shadow. Two cars, from different cities had the same ignition key problem. I've NEVER EVER rented a Dodge again. Now on my car? Nooooo... I know Dodge recalled all the affected models, but I haven't been able to find the old recall for the exact cause. It might help track this down, if it's not the tumbler. Would have been circa 1989-91 models. Anyone know how to find that info? Google's no help.

Am I right in thinking this will need a new ignition lock cylinder? If so, can I pull a door cylinder at a JY or does it have to be an ignition one? I already know I'll need it rekeyed to match the other locks (my hatch is very good, the pax door lock is new @ March, but the driver's door cylinder is a little stiff - the previous owner seemed to abuse both the driver door and ignition locks, as per a Japanese-only mechanic. Pax lock was broken upon purchase). I know where the donor car was for the pax lock, and if the other locks are good, weelll...

Unfortunately, the JY donor has no key (it was a police-seized car; it says 'evidence' in places, but the locks are unbroken). I seem to have read somewhere on here the last month that we'll need the donor car's key to get the ignition tumbler out. True? If we can't get the ignition tumbler, can we make the trunk lock tumbler work in the ignition?

#9 johnceggleston

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 08:23 PM

Am I right in thinking this will need a new ignition lock cylinder? If so, can I pull a door cylinder at a JY or does it have to be an ignition one? I already know I'll need it rekeyed to match the other locks (my hatch is very good, the pax door lock is new @ March, but the driver's door cylinder is a little stiff - the previous owner seemed to abuse both the driver door and ignition locks, as per a Japanese-only mechanic. Pax lock was broken upon purchase). I know where the donor car was for the pax lock, and if the other locks are good, weelll...


first, since the key works the door but only has trouble with the ignition, use a spare key to lock and un lock the door and leave the key in the ignition, turned a little bit so it won't lock. in other words, the next time you get it turned so it will work, do not DO NOT turn it all the way to the off /lock position, leave it half way in between lock and acc. this will make it so you can still start it. then use the other key to lock/unlock the door.

yes you need a new ignition lock cylinder, no the door cylinder will not work. but new may mean you can have a lock smith rekey your existing ignition cylinder and make it like new. he should be able to tell you or at least not charge you if he can't make it work.

it is surprisingly easy to rekey one, if you have the necessary part, tools and of course knowledge. if you remove subaru ignition cylinders all the time it can be done with out removing any plastic steering column parts. maybe this is true for lots of cars and the locksmith knows how. take the car to one and ask. how much to pull the lock cylinder, how much to rekey? can you make it fit this NEW key i have?

oh and buy some teflon lock spray for all of your lock cylinders, it works wonders.

good luck.

#10 four-fleet-feet

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 12:44 AM

first, ...use a spare key to lock and un lock the door and leave the key in the ignition, turned a little bit so it won't lock.

That would sure solve the problem - but not in the way I'd like. Arizona is practically car theft state #1. I wouldn't have to worry about fixing the lock, though, would I? :grin:

Anyway, I've tried teflon lube, graphite, and every other thing a locksmith has to lube the cylinder. I wish I'd just had all three replaced in Washington before I left! Alas, hindsight is perfect. When I was in the j/y it would have been so much easier to strip the donor all at once, even if it was pouring rain and just about 40 before the wind chill with at least 6" of mud on the ground... lots of fun.

It's either rob a bank time or run up the Amex at the dealer - oh, wait, the dealer closest to me doesn't take Amex! Nuts. I had a heck of a time finding a good locksmith in Washington. It's harder to find one here in Arizona; I've been trying. Not many have seen a Subaru, let alone worked on them. AAA actually laughed when I asked them for a good Subaru-savvy locksmith. "In Arizona? Fat chance," I was told. "Dealer." Ka-chingg!

Too bad I can't talk to the seller. I'd like to know what she did to Dragon to mess up all her locks (save the hatch). Then again, considering the state the rest of the car's panels/interior was in :eek: , perhaps better not to know.

Of course, it was 110 today at 11 AM, and the key worked just fine. Not that I'm complaining or anything, you understand, just going :burnout:

Thanks for the help; now, all I need is to be lucky. I drive the deserts at night. The last thing I need is to break down in a rest area with no phone coverage at 2AM somewhere west of Needles! NOT the place you want to be struggling to get your car to start (cue theme to Twilight Zone here)




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