Mechanics

Ignition Switch Replacement

Ignition Tumbler and Key
How to Replace an Ignition Switch

Your vehicle’s ignition switch is an important component in the electrical system. One must keep in mind, the actual ignition switch is not the tumbler where the key is placed but rather, an electrical switch located on the vehicle’s steering column which is connected to the tumbler through a steel rod or other device. When you turn the key to the start position, power runs through the switch to many electrical components such as the starter, fuel pump, computer, ignition system and other items which allow the vehicle to start. When returned to the run position, power stops to the starter and continues to all the other components which are needed.

Although the ignition switch will provide many years and miles of trouble free service, they can go bad. Most commonly, the switch will short out internally and one or many functions will no longer work. For example, in the start position, the engine starts. However, as soon as the key is returned to the run position, the engine stalls. Other items can include problems with the fuel pump, ignition system and other electrical items.

This can be a difficult job to complete, and some may feel it should be handled by a professional. However, if you are confident in your mechanical abilities, the following are general directions for replacing an ignition switch.

Parts and Supplies Needed to Replace an Ignition Switch

1 - New Ignition Switch

2 - Protective Clothing

3 - Eye Protection

Tools Needed to Complete this Project

1 - Socket and Ratchet Set

2 - Small Screwdrivers

3 - Regular / Phillips Screwdrivers

4 - Steering Wheel Puller

Instructions

Step 1 - Park the vehicle on a flat location, place it in park (Automatic Transmission) or in reverse (Manual Transmission), apply the parking brake, open the hood, and disconnect the negative battery terminal. Make sure the front wheels are straight. If your vehicle has an air bag, allow the vehicle to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes with the battery disconnected before starting work.

Step 2 - Next, you need to remove the steering wheel cover. Many are attached from the rear of the steering wheel with screws. Others are clipped into place.

Step 3 - Once the cover is removed, remove the horn wiring.

Step 4 - Next, use a marker or score a mark on the steering wheel and the shaft it is attached to so you can align it when replacing. If you don’t, the steering wheel will most likely not be centered.

Step 5 - Now that the cover is off and the horn is disconnected, you will see a locking nut and washer that holds the steering wheel in place. Remove the nut and washer.

Step 6 - Once the nut and washer is removed, use the steering wheel puller to remove the steering wheel from the steering shaft. NOTE: On some vehicles, this is a better time to make your alignment marks on the steering wheel and steering shaft.

Step 7 - Now that the steering wheel is removed, you need to remove the multi-function switch that operates the turn signals, high and low beam, and windshield wipers. Usually there are two screws that secure it. Remove the screws, disconnect the wiring, and remove the switch.

Step 8 - On some vehicles, there is a spacer ring that will need removed. If your vehicle has one, remove it at this time.

Step 9 - Next, locate the ignition switch on the steering column. There are usually two retaining screws. Remove the screws and carefully unplug the wiring harness that plugs into the switch. Normally, there are two plastic retainers that prevent the plug from coming apart. Unclip them before removing the plug.

Step 10 - At this time, I recommend that you inspect the wiring harness to the switch. Check it for evidence of melted wires, damage to the plug, or anything that could cause an electrical concern.

Step 11 - At this time, you will need to place the key into the tumbler and turn it to the on position.

Step 12 - On the tumbler, locate the lock pin that holds the tumbler in place. Depress the pin with a small screw driver and turn the key to the off position to release the tumbler. Once released, turn the key to the lock position to release the key and the tumbler assembly.

Step 13 - Once it is out, attach the new ignition switch with the tumbler assembly, reattach wiring harness making sure everything makes contact, and reinstall it into position.

Step 14 - Replace the retaining screws into the switch assembly, and reassemble the steering wheel components and steering wheel.

Step 15 - Once everything is replaced, reconnect the battery.

Best Practices

  • Always check the wiring to the ignition switch for damage
  • Always check wiring for evidence of over heating
  • Purchase a quality ignition switch
  • Always allow a minimum of 30 minutes after disconnecting the battery before starting work
If further technical assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready to answer your car questions. For manufacturer specific repair information visit - Car Repair Manuals

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AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2013-08-16)