Ford focus, key will not turn.

Oneal20June 12, 2005

I got out of my car at my work place, and hour later I got back in my car and the key would not turn in the ignition switch. What does that mean?

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Your steering wheel is probably tight against the lock. Try moving the steering wheel a little (force hold it up towards locking position if you must).

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 9:13PM
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I have tried that. I have shook it , I have made sure that it is in park . Does this mean that i need a new ign. switch. I have also tried another key, and that did not work. please tell me some more info.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 9:26PM
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A similar thing happened to me with the old Mercedes Benz.
I spend about an easy hour using spray cleaner and graphite lubricant - over and over..
Much patience and perseverance was necessary..
Finally the tumblers "fell" again and that was the end of the little problem...
And, Oneal20, you are doing the right thing - many do not and break off the key !

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 10:07PM
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Try flipping the key around. They're double-sided, sometimes one side is more worn than the other.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 12:11AM
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Don't just wiggle the wheel, you may have to put some force into trying to turn it left, and right to get the lock to release.

Quite often this happens when parking "quickly" because there is steering pressure on the wheel and tires as the lock engages. Since there is power steering assist when the lock engages, it takes a lot of wheel force to get it to disengage. As a last resort, see if one of your front wheels is against a curb, or wheel stop. If it is, you could get your jack out, and lift that wheel and then you should be able to get the lock to turn. Otherwise then it has to be something in the column.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 9:02AM
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Possible causes:

1. Front wheel is against something and is putting pressure against the steering lock mechanism. Try what the above posts suggest.

2. Does you car have a "brake-ignition" key interlock? These are present on some Ford Pickup trucks. These require you to press the brake pedal down before allowing the ignition key to turn.

3. "Shifter-ignition key" interlock. The shifter interlock may be interfering. Try moving the shifter back and forth, then put it as far into the park position as it will go. Manipulate the key and shifter at the same time.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 1:49AM
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Sometimes there's an override mechanism on the shifter. Check your manual.

Usually it's there so if the battery is dead the car can still be shifted out of park.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 10:20AM
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I can just see this as a potential problem .. A man parks on a hill, turns the wheel one way to full lock, pulls the key, returns three days later and finds he can no longer reinsert the key.
But I imagine there are safeguards in place by now to prevent this scenario...
Better by far,IMO, is the Saab design where the transmission is locked, but then, nothing mechanical is ever 100% failsafe...
Brian, that over-ride seems to be a good idea....

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 10:31AM
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Oneal, you have a ton of good advice, please get back to us..

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 12:03PM
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Was searching for something about my Focus and came across this post a little to late but better late than never. The Focus is known for this key problem, the barrel I think it's called inside the ignition is an inferior part and wears out, especaially if you have a heavy set of keys you use all the time. I had it last spring after I came out of the hair shop. Ford refuses to admit it's a problem and should be a recall with the other 11 recalls on this car. I have AAA plus and called them figuring they would have to tow me to a Ford dealer and get it looked at but AAA said I have locksmith service with my AAA plus and they sent the locksmith guy with his truck who replaced the barrel with a much better one all free of charge through AAA right on the spot and the guy told me he had done a lot of those on the Focus. Other posts on the net I have read complaining about this they had to pay a Ford dealer quite a bit to get it fixed. In any case it's probably not anything you are doing wrong but more inferior parts in this car. My fuel pump just went at 50,000 miles on my 2000 Focus while I was driving 6hrs. from home toward vacation and it costs me $500 to get it replaced so I could get on with the vacation. This car is such garbage and there are so many complaints about it. I think after tax and all we paid about $16,000 for it and that's not so cheap and we should not be having these kinds of problems in the first 5 years. Had to have the wiper motor replaced over the winter then then next month I think it was the wiper switch or something, two things concerning the wipers in a months time that cost me almost $400 to fix. I have a 97 Mercury Villager van going strong that needs just some routine break work and inspection this month so I was afraid with so many miles to take it on a long trip but it would have been a safer bet compared to the Ford Focus. I just feel so cheated that we paid that much for a car and are having so many problems with it. I need to search for a replacement for my van and at this point I might end up having to buy a new second car because we bought this thinking it would last to 100,000 or more and we would just be buying a new van but I don't think I see it happening that way at all now and who the heck can afford two new cars at the same time?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 6:07PM
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I had posted this in an auto forum about our 2 Fords. I didn't see the year/mileage of your Focus--did you state that above?

Ours are old---a Tbird and a Towncar. Both have a key cylinder which balks at moving into ACC position. I was told that this is an early sign of ultimate failure--that is, the key will not move at all--as you describe. Also told that there is a small light metal piece inside these cylinders which shears and causes this problem. I plan on checking this out, but hope that I can repair the existing cylinders. Thought I would mention this here. In our case, the cars are just plain old with over 100K miles on one and 200K on the other. It just becomes irritating not to be able to shift the key into ACC. This is not a steering wheel position thing. The wheel is always straight ahead and not locked by jarring.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 9:36PM
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On those older cars--if they are older than, say, 1993--the actual ignition switch might be damaged. This is separate from the ignition cylinder. There was a recall for these ignition switches for overheating but apparently whomever did the recall on my 1988 Mustang didn't bother to replace the ignition switch connector, so the overheating continued and damaged the new switch. I didn't even know anything was wrong until I disconnected the ignition switch in the process of installing keyless entry, and then the heat damage was quite obvious.

I could see how, if the heat damage had been any worse, the ignition switch might have started hanging up internally.

A new switch was about $15 and a new connector was about $10. It took about an hour to install them, not a really difficult job. Thankfully, in addition to not installing a new connector, they also didn't use the threadlocking compound on the screws for the switch. Otherwise, apparently the screwheads break off and you have to drill the screws out. I didn't bother to use any threadlocking compound either. But the manual says to use it. I think it's an anti-theft measure, and I'm not really worried about someone stealing a 17-year-old car.

I got both at CarQuest.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 11:21PM
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acraftkady, the same thing just happened to my focus.... my windshield wiper motor went about 1 month ago ford tried to charge me 360 and i got it fixed somewhere else for 200. and just tonight my key wouldn't work. its only a 2003 and i got it december 2003. the car just seems like it is never working right

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 12:23AM
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Why would Ford try to charge you for a wiper motor that would, from the date you purchased the car, still be under the 3/36000 warranty?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 10:38AM
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It wasnt because it had 13000 when i purchased it, and when i went to get it changed it had 39000

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 10:56AM
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A few things happened while the car was in warranty for me and right after the 3yrs. a lot more started going wrong at my expense and I am so tired of it. I don't feel I should be having a ton of problems in the first 5yrs. at 50,000 miles like I am. I am sure the wiper problem and every thing else is going wrong on a lot of these cars so they are just not made right.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 3:35PM
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Ford will do what they call an "after warranty adjustment" where they will make a free repair out of warranty but as far as I know they'll only do it for the original purchaser of the car.

Was the car a certified used car? Those often have additional warranties, and with only 12,000 miles on it, I would be surprised if it weren't a certified used car.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 10:17PM
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I had some good news today. I went to the ford dealer and they are submitting my $500 receipt for the fuel pump and said I may get reimubursed for this. This must mean there is something about the fuel pumps in these cars or why would they bother to do this? It's supposed to take 6-8 weeks to go through so time will tell.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 1:29AM
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They may be doing an after-warranty adjustment. That they are doing this does not necessarily mean that there is a widespread problem with fuel pumps on that car.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 12:04PM
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From what I am reading on the net every one has so many troubles with this car and all the same problems I have experienced and the more I read the more ripped off I feel from the Ford company. Getting rid of it and buying another vehicle is not an option because my 97 Mercury Village mini van has 150,000 and that is going to need replacing and I just can't afford two car payments at the same time so I am stuck with this piece of junk and I just hope we can get 1000,000 out of it with few problems but I am not counting on it.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 10:18PM
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I repaired the ignition lock on my 2003 Ford Focus. I saved $280 to $320, which were quotes from Ford dealers. This is how I did it.
Problem was that the key would not turn. I ordered a new locking mechanism from the dealer. It cost me $50.00.

First I removed the plastic steering column cover with a Allan wrench. (Two Screws) I did not remove the steering wheel. However, it would have allowed for more room to work.

I removed the plastic electronic key reader from the locking device, with a Allan wrench.(One Screw). Don't lose the screw, the car won't start without it.

Then I drilled out the lock with a 10MM size drill. Took about an hour. Don't drill any deeper than 35MM. Mark it on the drill bit prior to drilling, and drill a starter hole, 3MM, prior to using the larger bit. Be careful not to damage the housing around the lock.

I removed the pieces of lock with needle nose plyers, and brushed the shavings from the lock with a small brush.(Kids watercolor brush) I then vacuumed around the steering column and floorboard.

I took the new lock to a locksmith, and had it keyed with the old key. The locksmith was very familiar with the Focus problems. This took no more than 30 minutes.

I placed the new lock in, and re-attached the plastic electronic key reader, screw and all, and started the car.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 6:40PM
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Ford and all these people are so DUMB

I have 2 friends with Focus cars and a taurus with the exact problem. Its so easy to fix too.

Go to Autozone. Get WD-40.

Spray key and lock inside very good the grease gets hard and the tumblers stick.

Wait 1 min turn key works fine. This repair lasts forever why Ford and the stupid people here didnt use WD-40 totaly blows my head off. Why do you think they sell it.

Replacing the lock is very stupid too.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 6:38PM
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Really Greg? Actually it's a huge problem with the Ford Focus. The ignition switch is actually quite cheap and wears out prematurely. There have been tens of thousands of complaints filed with Ford and it will hopefully become a recall issue soon. I don't think the recall will state 'buy a can of WD-40 Stupid'.

Here is a link that might be useful: Consumer Affairs

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 10:06AM
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This time last year this happenend to me, wd-40 did not work! After $300 and a lot of time on-line, I got a refund check for $215 from Ford. This is a common problem! A couple of other things to watch for is the rear wheel bearings it is also common for them to wear out, The wheel bearing are covered under 100,000 mile warranty, however, according to Ford the wheel bearing cannot be purchased alone, it comes in a hub assembly which is not covered! Tricky! They ended replacing both rear wheel bearings for the deductible of my warranty $100 vs $250 each! The other is the head. Took the car in for scheduled oil change and found the head was warped. They fixed it, the next week after finding oil under the car, they replace our engine. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 5:44PM
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I have 2002 focus and PB Blaster fixed it. I can still feel some resistance when I turn the key. I will try to put some more hoping that it would loosen the hardened grease per Greg. I noticed black liquid sticking to the key.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 9:37PM
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The Focus lock is bad about getting stuck. It is best to replace the lock. The original lock is a sidebar wafer lock that is bad about getting stuck. The replacement will be a double wafer lock that is unlikely to get stuck.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 10:05PM
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We had the same problem as it seems many other Ford owners experience, and we couldn't turn the key in the ignition. We called our car mechanic, and he gave us a simple, but temporary solution:


Hit the key straight on, give it 2 or 3 taps, and then turn it. It really works!!

Make sure not to hit too hard, or you'll do some damage.

Our mechanic suggested leaving the hammer in the car all the time, but now that we can at least use it, I think we'll follow the above suggestions and get it properly fixed.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 10:33AM
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My husbands car has been doing the same thing for a while. He does the "smack the key inward" thing to get it to turn. However, now the car is idling weird and has even started to stall at idle. We took it in and the mechanic says that it may be because of the steering issue and the column not reading the chip in the key correctly. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:27PM
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I have read all of the remedies on here about the ignition locking. I have done all of the little tricks and they worked for a while. Even did the WD40 so I am not stupid. It only works for so long and then it's gone. Time to replace mine. Save yourselves the inevitable

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:19PM
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I took the two star head screws out grabbed a screwdriver and a hammer hit you ignition on the top one time and key turns. Now before putting key in I sprayed the ignition with wd40 through little opening on the side of ignition and let it soak now the key will turn here and there it sticks but barelly push key in and it turns

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I've had to replace the ignition in my 2000 focus 4 (yes 4 times) all 4 times I had to have it towed on a flatbed towtruck... its a common problem in fords, but not common enough for the ingitions to be recalled... like clockwork, every 18 months I had to buy a new ignition, until I finally had them remove the automation killswitch

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 10:05PM
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