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How to Turn on a Car Without a Key

Updated February 21, 2017

Starting a car without a key is often attributed to illegal car theft. However, there are valid, legal instances when a car may need to be started without a key. Starting a car without a key may be necessary when purchasing a junker, when the ignition lock goes bad or when the vehicle's key is lost. A car can be started without a key by using either a screwdriver or by hot wiring the steering column.

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  1. Remove the plastic cover around the steering column using a Philips screwdriver. Place the screws in a plastic bag or cup to keep them from getting lost. Set the plastic covers aside.

  2. Break the lock cylinder by inserting a screwdriver behind the cylinder and prying outward until it pops free. Discard the lock cylinder.

  3. Insert a flathead screwdriver into the slot where the cylinder was positioned. Turn the screwdriver as if it were a key and the vehicle will start.

  4. Remove the plastic steering column panels using a Philips screwdriver. Set the panels aside and place the screws in a safe location.

  5. Pull the bundle of wires from beneath the steering column until they are all visible. Remove any tape or binding that may be holding them together.

  6. Locate the two wires that are identical in colour. Pull these wires free of the steering column. Strip a small amount of plastic off the exposed end of each wire. Twist the two exposed wires together. Wrap the wires together using electrical tape so that they cannot come apart.

  7. Trace the wire from the ignition coil to identify the ignition wire under the steering column. In the majority of vehicles, the ignition wire is brown. Pull this wire free of the harness and strip the end.

  8. Touch the end of the ignition wire to the end of the two stripped wires. This will cause the car to crank and start. Separate them as soon as the engine starts. Do not allow them to touch each other or the metal of the vehicle.

  9. Tip

    Tape the ends of the exposed wires with electrical tape after starting the car to prevent electrical shocks.


    Neither of these methods should be used on a car that you do not own without permission of the owner. Avoid contact with the exposed wires; they will cause a painful electrical shock. Do not allow the two identical wires to touch any metal in the car. This will short out the electrical system.

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Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Electrical tape

About the Author

Based in New England, Quinn Marshall began her writing career in 2004. She was a featured writer for Laptop Logic and contributes to publications such as "Smashing Magazine."

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