CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Saab 9-3 key won't turn in the ignition

We have a 2002 Saab 9-3 automatic car. We inserted the key in the ignition and it wouldn’t turn. It’s not possible to change the gear even. Three days back when we drove it, it worked fine. Don’t know what has happened since. Please let us know if you have any suggestions on how to make it work or what the problem could be. Thank you.

Turn your steering wheel back and forth while you try turning the key. Do not force key.

Tried turning the steering back and forth with the key in the ignition, but the key simply won’t turn. It’s not even possible to move the gear from “Parking” to Neutral. The gear too simply won’t move.

Normally you can’t move the shifter from park until the key is turned, so there’s nothing strange about that. What is strange is that the key won’t turn. Is the key slot on the steering column, or on the floor between the seats? If its between the seats like older Saabs, it’s more prone to getting dirt or liquids in it. Try a quick squirt of key lube into the keyhole. NOT WD-40 or sewing machine oil. Key lube is a special thing that you get at a car parts store. Also try a different key, if you have one. If you are in a place where it’s been very cold you can try warming the area up with a hair dryer.

I Googled this “forum Saab 9-3 ignition switch”, without the quotes, and got lots and lots of hits, so it looks like the problem is frequent. Take a few minutes to read some of those posts.

Thank you for your reply. The key slot is between the seats in our 2002 Saab. We have two keys and we’ve tried both but it wouldn’t turn.

We bought “Graphite Lube” (fine black powder) and tried squirting that into the keyhole.


The key is still not turning. In fact, after putting the lube and turning the steering wheel back and forth, now the key won’t go all the way into the keyhole (see image). Can’t figure out what is happening.

Looks like the ignition switch needs replaced.

The pins for the lock cylinder in the ignition switch have worn out. If you have AAA or another emergency program (e.g. Allstate, or others), you can call for emergency locksmith service. Otherwise, a mechanic will need to replace the lock cylinder and rekey it to match the door locks.