VW Car Key Won’t turn in lock

German cars have a reputation for excellent engineering and reliability. When we see a fifteen-year-old VW Passat, it usually has the original car key and ignition lock. Unfortunately, the newer car keys and locks from VW are not so reliable. We’re starting to see a new fault, and your VW car key won’t turn in the lock, so you can’t drive it. This problem is showing up on cars from 2009 onwards and we’ve seen it up to 2013 models.

Why won’t my VW car key won’t turn in the lock?

It helps to know just a little bit information about locks and keys. The ignition lock on your VW is simple.

Ignition lock and key

It’s a small lock, with lots of pieces that move up and down, called tumblers. When the correct key is put into the lock, the tumblers line up and then the key can be turned, simple.

The lock must be held in place, and the big piece of aluminium that does this is called the lock housing. As well as holding the ignition lock in place, it also has electric wires attached to it, and the steering lock. So, the lock is a very simple thing, whereas the lock housing is more complicated and has many functions. Unfortunately, when your VW car key won’t turn in the lock, it’s not obvious which problem you have. It could be the VW lock that’s faulty, or it could be the lock housing.

What do I do about my VW lock problem?

When your VW car key won’t turn in the lock, the first thing to do is to find out whether you have a lock problem, a lock housing problem, or both. Most independent garages will follow the guidelines and simply order both parts.

This will solve your problem but is the most expensive solution. For a start, the lock will need to be ordered in, and takes 10-14 days to arrive from Germany. However, the lock housings are available next day. So, if you have a low mileage car and your car lock is ok, you may just need a new lock housing. This would cut your parts bill in half and you could be mobile in a couple of days, instead of two weeks!

How do I test to see if I need a new ignition lock?

This isn’t easy. The only way you’ll know is to take the ignition lock out of the lock housing. To do this you’ll need to remove the plastic housing that covers up the lock housing. This can be a bit of an effort with some VW cars.

Once you can get to the lock, you then need to remove it from the housing. This involves turning the lock to the first position and poking a piece if wire into the lock release hole. It’s not simple and you’ll probably find you’ll want a mechanic to do this. Once you get the lock out, carry out the following fault finding.

How do I know if I need a new ignition lock?

When you have your lock out of the car, you need to put your VW car key into the lock and test it. Does the key turn smoothly in the lock? Or, is it notchy and feel like there is some resistance? If the lock turns smoothly, great news, you probably just need the lock housing. These are available from VW or TPS the next day and cost between £90 and £150 plus VAT. If you turn the lock and it grinds, or there is any resistance, you need a new lock and a new housing.

How do I know if I need a new VW Lock housing?

We recommend that the very least you should do is replace the lock housing.

Ignition lock housing with lock removed

We’re seeing 2-3 cars every month that are suffering with lock and lock housing problems. The lock housing is normally the faulty part, so it needs to be changed.

Do I need a new VW Car key as well?

The new style of VW car key is terrible quality. Since 2009 they changed the design and they have a problem with the blades becoming loose and snapping away from the key. However, unless you have this problem, we would say that the key will be ok. Even if the key blade is worn, (usually caused by turning the lock when jammed) you’ll just need a new blade, and not a complete key.

If you order the parts from VW or TPS to your VIN number, then your old car key will fit the replacement lock. This means you can still use your old WW car key, saving you the cost of a new key and programming.

The unfortunate thing is because the lock and housing become stiff to turn, this causes the key damage at the hinge. Take a look at this article from last year.

Can I fit my own car lock and lock housing?

We think this is a tricky job. It’s not a weekend DIY project. The lock housing has lots of things attached to it and is held on the car with security bolts. These need to be removed with a hammer and punch, which isn’t that easy. Next, there are lots of things attached to the housing, and these need to be carefully removed.

The new lock housing comes with a warning. You can’t turn the mechanism without the lock in place. What we mean is, don’t mess about with the new lock housing, until you have a lock to put into it. If you do turn the lock housing, it will be scrap and you’ll need a new one! For some reason VW have designed the housing so that if it is tampered with, it locks up and cannot be used. This is good if someone is trying to steal the car, but not much used if your trying to fix it!

Should I try to fix the VW lock and housing myself?

As we’ve said, this is quite an involved job. If you’re confident with cars and tools, you’ll probably have no bother. However, we believe that if there’s any doubt, leave it to the garage. We hope this helps!