I have had this same problem on 4 of my Jeeps. A locksmith provided me with two answers.
This key thing happens to me at least once a week.
It is a common problem with Jeeps. 1998 Wrangler, 2007 Cherokee and two 2000 Cherokees all had the issue.
1. Replace the tumbler assembly. $150. USD (Not!)
2. Place the key in the ignition, smartly impact the key on the **** end, end that is sticking out of the ignition. (Harder is not better) strike straight on as to not break the key off. 4 or 5 strikes should fix the problem every time.
FYI - flooding the switch with WD-40 will not fix the issue, it is a tumbler problem.
Same problem on a '98 Wrangler. Been that way for some time. Wiggling the key usually works, but takes a LOT of wiggling sometimes. Very Frustrating. Everyone I asked says the switch is going bad, getting worn. Have used compressed air, WD, white lithium.
Since the key must be in the "on" position to remove the cylinder, it's much smarter to replace it sooner rather than later!
Found a new replacement on Ebay for $55 +/-. They will re-key it for me to match original at no extra charge.
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If the steering wheel is under great tension, this can cause the key to be unable to unlock the steering column or turn in the cylinder. Try pulling the wheel first to the right while turning the key, and if that fails, then the left. Often this will release the tension and allow the key to turn and the column to unlock.
If the steering wheel lock is engaged with the wheel turned sharply in either direction - weight of the vehicle at rest on the wheels can cause the steering column and ignition key lock to bind. To get the ignition to turn and unlock, you may have to grasp and turn the wheel or wiggle it a little back and forth to get it to come off the steering lock. This will relieve the pressure and allow you to turn the ignition lock if done right.
Take off two-halfs of steering wheel (torx screws) put key on acc and there is a small hole in the column where the tumbler is stick a small paper clip or watch screw driver inside and the tumbler should come out this seems to be a problem after the 850 series beacause of the chip inside of the key
easiest way to handle this problem is as you turn the key turn the steering wheel back and forth not real hard bust firm and try and turn the key foward and back at the same time. usually what happens is the little detente inside the column gets stuck just right and stops the tumbler from moving
The immobilizer does not "lock" the ignition, it does not energize the fuel injection relay. What you have is a "locked" steering column. Put the key in the ignition, and pull/turn the steering wheel HARD left or right, whilst turning the key to on or start. Do BOTH at the same time.The action of you pulling on the steering wheel will unlock the steering column.
Being a locksmith for ten years, I have been aquainted with a number of occasions where the steering wheel gets locked up. Always start with the least expensive option. Question:
I'm sure this sounds silly but, have you tried turning the wheel hard right and hard left? You wouldn't believe how many times people have their tires turned to the right or left, which binds the ignition switch to the point that you can't turn the key to start the vehicle.
If the steering is in a rotational bind it can also bind the "U" joint in the steering column.
Check to make sure that you can actually operate the key cylinder and start the vehicle.
If you can operate the key cylinder of the ignition and start the vehicle, try rotating the steering wheel with the engine running, and see if that will unlock your "U"joint adjuster.
If you do all of the above and it's still unable to be adjusted, you will have to have a locksmith replace the universal joint rod in the steering column.
The main reason for these joints to fail is due to people driving with the column in an attitude of either up from the straight position, or down from the straight position.
The column is "designed" to operate from any position, BUT it causes the joint to fail due to prolonged use in an either up or down position while driving. The adjustable wheel is great for getting into and out of the vehicle, but it should always be driven in a totally straight position with NOupward or downward slant to the steering column.
Sometimes the ignition lock cylinder and the parts that it operates may become jammed. The only remedy I can recommend short of disassembling the steering column is to try working the key in and out, back and forth, while working the steering wheel from side to side at the same time in order to dislodge any binding parts from operating.