Zac Surant

Car Hack – Key Stuck in Ignition: Pontiac Aztek

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key stuck in ignition pontiac aztek

My 2004 Pontiac Aztek has a knack for stealing my key.

Let’s face it. For many of us, taking our well aged vehicles to the mechanic as much as visiting the doctor: avoid it at all cost for risk of finding out something else is wrong. This principle is tried and true, right? If you don’t know there is a problem, then there is not a problem, right?


What are some of the implications then with this avoidance tactic? The most obvious: your car falls to pieces around you.

This isn’t going to happen all at once, no. It will be an oxygen sensor first which triggers your check engine light, or possibly the tacometer no longer reads your RPMs. These are not vital to your daily commute, so they are ignored and accepted as the passing explanation of, “Yeah, it just does that.” It isn’t until you are stuck in front of your workplace, sweating, while frantically turning your car on and off, in and out of gear trying to get your car to spit out your key, that you realize you may have a problem. Trust me, after you retrieve the key, the fun isn’t over. You try explaining to your boss, “My car just wouldn’t give it back.”

key stuck in ignition

My key stuck in the ignition. Officially late for work.

With that short narrative behind us, this might be a good time to stop and focus on this very common problem with the dreaded, “My car won’t give me my key!” One of the highest offenders of this key stuck in ignition problem is the Pontiac Aztek. I can just picture it now: Walter White trying to have a dramatic exit and his keys are stuck in his ignition. To remedy this issue Heissenburg would have had to fork over a whopping $350 to have an ignition sensor wire harness re-braided under his gear box panel. For those of you who read that and went cross eyed, it essentially means that the part that releases your keys when you put the car in park is broken.

key stuck in ignition pontiac aztek walter white

Walter White and his Pontiac Aztek

Alas! There is a much simpler, and cheaper, car hack that would let you out of your car and into work on time. The good news, it won’t cost you a penny…just a bobby pin. Okay, if you don’t have a bobby pin, I suppose you can use something more manly like an allen wrench, but give me a break—I’m married with two daughters. In reality, any tool that is approximately 1.5” long and has a 1/8” diameter will work perfectly. Once you’ve got your manly tool, follow the steps below.

key stuck in ignition tools

My manly and not-so-manly tools.

Car Hack – Key Stuck in Ignition


Step 1: Remove the small cap that covers the ignition lock override access port.


Step 2: Insert bobby pin/allen wrench/manly tool into access port.


key stuck in ignition car hack

Your man tool should be inserted into the access port.

Step 3: Press lightly on ignition lock override.


Step 4: Dance. You now have your keys back.


key in ignition



If you enjoyed this simple no/low cost fix for your greedy car, then be sure to look out for more Car Hacks on The News Wheel.

  • Zac SurantPhotographer

    Zac claims many titles. He is a photographer, a husband, a father, and a believer. He is a foodie, a techy, a geek, and a gamer. He is a coffee connoisseur, a small business entrepreneur, and to his kids, sometimes he's a dinosaur. He believes all of his titles have combined to developed his style, drive, and passion in his field and more importantly his outlook in life. Oh...and he drinks coffee through a straw.

  • Bewitchedbyme2

    I just wanted to say….Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My ’04 Aztek does this often and I always just fight it until it releases my keys. But last night, after work, it somehow locked and wouldn’t let my husband put his key INTO the ignition, we tried everything and finally just got another ride home. I found this page and we tried it today, it worked like a charm!! Thanks again.

  • Is there such a hack for the steering wheel lock? Like to just unlock the wheel without the key in the cylinder?

  • Stacy

    I have to send you a huge thanks! I have been stressing going to the shop and decided to google the key issue instead, Your advice saved me the time and money I would have had to spend! Yes, I am now dancing thank you!!!!!!!!!

  • Kolleen Dodge

    You are a life saver!!!! No exaggeration!!! I have been going through the agony of changing out the starter, battery, etc. trying to get my key to release. After reading your article, it took literally 2 seconds and I had the key out !!! You really did save not only mine, but my 2 boys lives!!!! Thank You So Very Much !!!!

  • Bill Acevedo

    Life saver, I did what you said. And I was able to get the key out. But somehow my new battery is dead. The other two time, by a miracle car turn on. Wonder why this time battery is dead?

    • kyle

      thanks for ur help it worked great!

  • notsowhizkid

    Awesome tip!! Thank you!!

  • Cherri

    We also having trouble with key not turning off and draining battery help please

  • jordan

    omg I’m literally in front of my work place and then this n happens. but yes this backed works.. thanks
    in have a Pontiac aztek 2002

  • quick_cne

    Thank you !!!!!!! My Honey consistently asks me to get the keys out of the ignition, because he claims, “You have the touch.” Really, I have the patience to turn it on/off and put it in/out of gear until it releases the key. Tonight he asked me to “Please, get it out before I destroy it”. With no success, I suggested looking the issue up online. To my delight, I found your car hack and read it aloud. Much to his amazement, it worked in seconds as described. I haven’t stopped laughing at your thumbs and ease of process. You made our night.

  • Becky

    Bless you!!! It worked, first time!! YEA!!! 😉
    Now if you can just tell me why my rear hatch will not open with key, key fob button, Dash button or actual key…I will be Forever beholden. 🙂 Thanks!!!!!! Love my Aztek, but getting old….like its owner. Becky