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How to Start a Car with a Screwdriver and Hammer (5 Steps, 2 Methods)

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to start a car with a screwdriver and hammer.

Sometimes, you might deal with a lost car key or malfunctioning ignition switch. You’ll need alternative ways to start the car in such situations. A screwdriver and hammer can be the ideal tools to start the car without the key.

In general, to start the car with a flat screwdriver and hammer:

  • First, insert the flathead screwdriver into the ignition switch and try to start the car engine.
  • If the 1st method doesn’t work, Insert the screwdriver into the ignition switch and hammer it into the switch until you break the ignition lock cylinder pins. Then, start the car engine using the screwdriver.

Follow the step-by-step guide for more details.

Before We Start

Before starting the how-to part, you should realize one thing. This article is for educational purposes only. You can use the techniques below to start your car in an emergency. Other than that, you should not use this knowledge to attempt to steal a car. Or you cannot initiate these methods on a car without the owner’s permission.

With that in mind, I hope to discuss two methods to help you start your car with a screwdriver and hammer in this how-to guide.

Things You’ll Need

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Safety gloves

Method 1 – Use Only the Screwdriver

This 1st method only requires a screwdriver, and you should try this out before jumping to the 2nd method.

Take the screwdriver and insert it into the ignition switch. Try to turn the screwdriver. Sometimes you might be able to turn the ignition switch with the screwdriver. But most of the time, it won’t work. I recommend you try this technique anyway. If it works, think of it as a lottery ticket win. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next method.

Method 2 – Use the Screwdriver and the Hammer

The second method requires some time and effort, and if you do it correctly, you’ll get positive results regardless of the model of the car. Here, the target is to break the pins located at the ignition lock cylinder using the hammer and screwdriver.

Step 1 – Insert the Screwdriver Into the Keyhole

First and foremost, take the flat screwdriver and insert it into the ignition switch keyhole.

Step 2 – Wear Safety Gloves

black safety gloves
Video | ProductsTests

Then, grab safety gloves. You might have to do a considerable hammering, so remember to wear safety gloves.

Step 3 – Disconnect the Battery

After wearing the safety gloves, remember to disconnect the battery. Never start hammering the ignition switch while the battery is connected to the car. You might get shocked accidentally.

Step 4 – Start Hammering

Next, take the hammer and tap on the screwdriver. It would be best to continue tapping until the screwdriver breaks the ignition lock cylinderpins.That means the screwdriver should travel the length of the key. So, as I said earlier, you might have to tap the screwdriver for some time.

Quick Tip: Remember not to damage the surroundings of the ignition key while hammering.

Step 5 – Turn the Screwdriver

After some time hammering, the screwdriver will stop going deeper. That means you have reached the ignition lock cylinder pins, which are most likely broken.

Stop the hammering and reconnect the battery to the car. Then, try to turn the screwdriver while it is still inside the keyhole. If the pins are broken, you might be able to start the car with the screwdriver. If the pins remain intact, you’ll have to start hammering again. After a few good taps, try your luck.

Don’t Forget: This brute force method will work in most cars. However, against modern advanced programmed ignition switches, this method might be less effective.

Things That Can Go Wrong While Using a Hammer and Screwdriver to Start a Car

Undoubtedly, this is one of the easiest methods to start your car when dealing with a malfunctioning ignition switch. But there are a few issues with this method. In this section, I’ll talk about them.

  • Using a screwdriver and a hammer to start your car is dangerous. You might end up damaging your car’s interior.
  • Executing this method permanently damages the ignition key switch. Hence, your warranty will be null and void.

Difference Between Using Hand Tools and Power Tool

Did you know you can use a power drill to break the ignition lock cylinder pins? You can, and it is a safe process. But you won’t have access to a power drill all the time. So, having a hammer and screwdriver in your car might not be a bad idea at all.

Quick Tip: Remember that using a screwdriver and hammer should be your last resort to start the car.

Precaution and Warning

As I mentioned earlier, the above two methods are a bit risky. So, whenever you execute these methods, follow these guidelines to avoid injury or damage to your car.

  • Don’t let the screwdriver slip; it might injure your hands. So, always wear safety gloves.
  • When starting the car with a screwdriver, sometimes it might throw off some sparks. So, don’t keep any flammable material underneath the steering wheel. (1)
  • Always disconnect the battery before starting the hammering process.
  • If you aren’t comfortable with the above process, take the car to a professional.


Can I Start a Car Without a Key?

Yes, you can. There are multiple ways to start the car without a key. You can hotwire the car. Or you can break the locking mechanism of the ignition switch with power tools or hand tools. Use a power drill if you plan to use a power tool. Or use a screwdriver and hammer if you plan to use hand tools. Either way, with some effort, you’ll get the job done.

What Happens If My Ignition Switch Goes Bad?

When the ignition switch goes bad, the power will be cut off from the ignition and the fuel system. So, you’ll have a hard time starting the engine. For this situation, replace the ignition switch.  However, if you get stuck in the middle of the road, try to hotwire the car. Or try to break the ignition lock cylinder pins using a hammer and screwdriver. (2)

How to Fix a Locked Ignition Using the Steering?

Sometimes, your car might lock the steering wheel and ignition switch suddenly.

When that happens, wiggle the steering wheel back and forth. At the same time, try to turn the key on. After a few attempts, you’ll be able to turn the key freely, and the steering wheel will be unlocked too. So, always try this method before jumping into more advanced approaches.

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) flammable material – https://ehs.princeton.edu/book/export/html/195
(2) fuel system – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/fuel-system

Video References

Ratchets And Wrenches


Joseph Wilkins

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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