Leaving Keys In Ignition – What Could Go Wrong?

Car drivers sometimes make mistakes, such as leaving keys in ignition with car off. However, does it truly harm the car?

Many scientists have done some investigations to provide you with the information below!

Forgetting the keys in the car ignition will cause the battery to drain and finally die. It’s because of the steady energy flow that can burn the ignition coil, making it stop functioning over time.

Besides, other effects will shock you and cost you a big fortune afterward.

What Are The Reasons Behind Keys In Ignition?

leaving keys in ignition
The Reasons Behind Keys In Ignition

There might be several reasons why the key is stuck in the ignition

It is worth mentioning that while certain reasons are exclusive to particular automobile models, most of them apply to everyone’s unattended vehicles, regardless of model.

Failure to Set the Parking Gear 

You will not be able to take the key from the ignition when the transmission gear is not set to parking mode.

The key will become jammed in the ignition for an automatic gearbox when the drivers put the gear in drive, neutral, or another possible gear.

People using a manual gearbox should keep the gear in neutral mode and ignore the other gear selections. It is a common feature of cars, but many drivers, especially newcomers, may forget it.

Some may choose the parking brake option but not fully set it. If a car has a digital screen with gear selections, ensure the “P” is displayed.

Other vehicles feature intelligent key warnings, like Nissan, offering battery and detection signals.

Keys Coated With Dirt

Car keys can build up dirt from drink spills and other objects they touch with.

When it becomes sticky, there will be a lot of issues that prevent a good connection between the keys and the ignition cylinder pins. As a result, you will not be able to take the key out.

Steering Wheel Lock

If the steering wheel lock is activated, it will be difficult to spin the steering wheel and pull the keys out.

There are some reasons for the activation of the lock, including powering off your car while the wheel is in operation.

The locked steering wheel will make the ignition cylinder trapped. If you want both the steering wheel and cylinder to be unlocked simultaneously, move the steering wheel when you rotate the key.

Damaged Key 

When you have used your keys for a long time, they’ve experienced a lot of tear and wear. It will cause them to degrade. Bends and cracks that form after a long time may create ignition issues.

You will find it hard to get your keys out of the ignition.

Dead Battery 

The battery is critical to maintaining the proper operation of the ignition. When it becomes death, issues like keys locked in the ignition should be foreseen.

Other possible causes include a broken ignition cylinder or a manufacturer recall.

What Happens When You Leave Keys In The Ignition? 

First, it is always advisable to switch off your motor, remove your keys from the ignition and place them in your handbag or pocket. Remember to put it in a handy area, as most car keys are not waterproof. Does leaving the keys in ignition drain battery?

Yes, key left in ignition drain battery. Although the drain will be small and does not harm a functioning battery when the key is in the off position, the drain will accumulate after a long time.

Besides, there are other reasons you should ensure to take the key out of your car. You may mistakenly trap your keys inside the vehicle and find no way to get inside.

Furthermore, a thief could consider it an invitation to take your vehicle. Because of these reasons, it’s wise to practice picking the keys from the ignition.

What Happens If I Leave My Key Fob In The Car?

key left in ignition drain battery
If I Leave My Key Fob In The Car Things Can Happen

You may be surprised that simply putting the key fob in the car will give your vehicle many problems later, not to mention leaving it in the ignition.

A key fob in a vehicle might deplete the battery. The constant contact between the key fob with the car requires a small amount of power. It will generate a little drain, which will worsen with time.

Moreover, when the key control remains inside the car, the car door will not lock. So take your key fob and lock your vehicle door to protect your automobile and the valuables inside.

To highlight, putting the key fob inside the car while the engine is operating may lead to the following:

  • While the engine is working, it will consume fuel. It will gradually use up all gas.
  • The battery may drain when you leave the engine running for an extended period.
  • Overheating may also occur in case the engine remains running for a long time.

Can You Leave The Key In The Ignition While Pumping Gas?

Leaving keys in ignition when the vehicle is turned off is not likely to start a fire at a gas station.

However, developing a practice of removing your keys will prevent you from forgetting and turning off other devices.

Even though gasoline fires are rare, you should turn off any 12-volt sources of energy, including phone chargers and cigarette lighters.

Develop the habit of switching off your automobile and putting your keys in a handy place whenever you begin filling up the vehicle with petrol.

Also, It will protect your vehicle from theft. Thus, taking the key with you will ensure you are safe, and you will feel no worries during the filling-up process.

Can Leave The Ignition On Cause Damage? 

While keeping your vehicle operating while going to the shop or in traffic is not bad, there are some limits that can be harmful. How is it? As mechanical issues may occur.

Continuous usage of an already-started vehicle with the key in the “Start” position will pose a threat to the starting motor. The motor features an overrunning clutch that sends electricity in one direction.

Your engine can start by supplying electricity to the motor. It will then turn the flywheel to begin the engine.

When the motor is turned on for a long time, there will be continuous power to charge itself, and it potentially leads to an engine overheating.

That is the reason why leaving key in on position drains battery, and you should avoid doing it to save a great deal of money later.

How Long Can You Leave Ignition On?

There are many reasons why you should not leave the ignition on for a long time, including fuel consumption and overheating. You should turn it off when not using it.

The average battery life with the ignition on is varied.

  • The battery capacity – the greater the capacity, the longer a battery can function.
  • The vehicle type – many battery kinds are available for each automobile model.
  • The number of accessories in the vehicle- as more accessories consume electricity, the battery’s lifespan reduces.
  • The battery’s condition – great batteries will work longer than old and weak ones.

What To Do When You Cannot Take Your Key Out?

does leaving key in ignition drain battery
How To If You Cannot Take Your Key Out

There are a few tricks to get your keys out, but these are situational.

For example, if the problem is unclean keys covered with a sticky coating, using alcohol or adhesive remover may help. You should use it to clean the key.

Besides, ensure the gear is in park mode for an automatic gearbox. The shifter should be set to a neutral position when you have a manual transmission.

Gently shaking the steering wheel while twisting the car keys may also be effective. Be cautious not to use too much force since it might result in a more serious problem, such as key damage.

To avoid such issues, you should also inspect the battery and replace it if needed.

Can I Leave My Car In Accessory Mode? 

As previously stated, leaving the vehicle in accessory mode will constantly lower the battery. Elements in the car determine the rate at which your battery drains.

The battery will be deployed quickly if any external devices and accessories are connected to the vehicle.

However, you can keep your car in accessory mode for a brief duration. To prevent the danger of significant battery drain, limit your vehicle’s accessory mode for a short time, like 60 or 30 minutes.


Leaving keys in ignition for a long duration can lead to a depleted and, in some cases, damaged battery.

Switching off the engine when not being used is recommended for longer battery life. It will also help avoid other technical concerns.

You should develop a habit of turning off the car, taking the key with you, and disconnecting accessories to have a healthy battery.

If your key is stuck and you find no way to get it out, it is time to see a technician who can inspect the car for you.

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