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Key will not turn

I have a 1998 Mercury Tracer. The problem I am having with it is the key will not turn in the ignition. I have tried turning the wheel and making sure it’s in park, that didn’t work. I also tried using my spare key and that didn’t work. What could be keeping the key from turning? How do I repair this?

I am not a FORD guy but I will tell you what worked many times just to get the car in the shop to change the lock cylinder. Cars were early but new Malibu’s (around 1997) and the problem was you could not turn the key,wack the key directly (do it straight dont bend it) one time with moderate force with a hammer. Worked every time,but it is not a fix,its just to get the car in the shop. Don’t really know how a FORD will respond. The faiulre was a manufacturing defect in the lock cylinder,there were many problems related to Malibu ignition switches (and many other problems with the Malibu). I hear they are much better now.

This is the first time I have had this problem. The car was working fine earlier today. I drove to the park, parked the car then got back in to leave and the key would not turn. I have been reading and some things say that is might be that it needs some lub in it or the cylinder may need to be replaced. What do people think?

I think its more of a part replacement issue rather than a lube issue,but if you want to lube a ignition lock cylinder use a small amount of powdered graphite. There is a locksmith that visits the site occasionally,you may use the search feature as he has posted his business info.

might be that it needs some lub in it or the cylinder

First WD-40 is NOT a lube. It is a water displacement. It will lube some things for a short while, but as it dries out it leaves a sticky gummy residue that will cause future problems. Graphite (Lock ease is graphite in a zero residue solvent) is a good choice. To clean a lock use a zero residue solvent.

Second it sounds to me like it is the transmission locking it and not the lock itself or maybe a worn out lock.

The inter-lock may not be working. Make sure the shift lever is in P or N, get a jump start for a possible low battery charge.
Have an auto part store check the battery and alternator (free).

Wiggle the steering wheel hard while trying to turn the key. It’s not one thing after the other, wiggle and turn at the same time.

I’m not sure if your ignition lock cylinder is set up the way my Mustang GT is but on my GT there is a little brass piece inside the lock cylinder towards the front that you can see with the key removed that activates the chimes when leaving the key in the ignition when opening a door.

What can happen over time is that little brass piece breaks off when you insert the key and gets pushed into the lock cylinder and prevents the key from going all the way in.

Happened to me, drove to work, later went to go out to lunch and same symptom you have.

I had to call a locksmith and he managed to remove that brass piece with a special pick. I no longer have the “key in ignition warning” but did not have to pay for a new lock cylinder, just the service call.

The Tracer in 88 used the same lock as the Escort for certain years. It is a proprietary component, though locksmith supply companies have the unit, should we need a new one.

Before going anywhere, we remove the troll dolls, scrunchies, coffee mugs and other “stuff” on the gear shift lever, and sitting between it and the dash…more than a few times, somethign was impeding shift from FULLY engaging park… but that usually causes key to be hard to remove, someone ELSES thread on this site… in this case, we just like to make a mess rummaging around in the car. Shift interlocks can both prevent turning to on, as well as removal of key, so I like to eliminate the obvious right off.

We then check shift interlock devices, if accessible without taking lock off.

Sometimes the existing lock unit can be serviced, if the problem is in the lock. We also find a lot of bad keys, and copies of bad keys.

Who woulda thunk that the supermarket and hardware stores would not know how to make a key properly?

So, were this to be one of my service calls, the Next thing I would do it get all the existing copies of the keys from client, and examine them.

Likely, we would cut a fresh set of OEM SPEC keys on CNC equipment. Thish produces far more accurate keys than dealers can make.

Then we see if this cures the problem. If not, that is ok good keys were needed anyway. Now we take the lock assembly off the steering column, and see if it works when not attached.

If lock does not work in our hand, we take it apart ( though it is not MADE to me serviced, we do not let that stop us! ) WORST case scenario, we replace entire assembly

If REPLACING, locks should be rekeyed to match clients’ door locks. Installing with DIFFERENT keys can lead to an expensive problem should all the ignition keys get lost in the future.

Then everything gets put back together, we pull your pockets inside out to settle the bill, and you are good to go!

Jeff Rosen

A locksmith somewhere that the site does not allow me to say cause it is construed as advertising, which I must respect.

sorry I am not able to share, I have gotten lots of email inquiries, and enjoyed being of help to others