How to Change the Ignition Switch on Ford Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

The ignition switch is a small but essential component on your Ford car. It allows you to start the vehicle using your key. Once inserted into the ignition cylinder, the key can be turned to five positions: Lock, Off, Run, Start and Accessory. When you turn the key to the "Start" position, power is sent to the starter to turn the engine and start the vehicle. If your ignition switch jams or fails to work correctly, it may need to be replaced. You can accomplish this straightforward task with a few basic tools.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change the Ignition Switch on a 1985 Ford Ranger

Remove the Ignition Switch

Detach the ground (black) battery cable using a wrench.

Make sure the ignition lock cylinder is in the Lock position and remove the key.

Remove the upper extension shroud from the steering column, if your Ranger model comes equipped with a tilt column. Squeeze the upper and lower part of the extension shroud by hand to allow the shroud pop free from the retaining plate on the right side of the shroud.

Remove the 2 trim shroud halves from the steering column. Unscrew the two mounting bolts using a Phillips screwdriver.

Unplug the ignition switch electrical connector.

Remove the two switch mounting bolts. Use an electric drill with a 1/8-inch (3mm) drill bit to drill a hole on the center of the brake-off head screws. Then use an Ex-3 Easy-out tool to unscrew the two mounting bolts.

Disengage the ignition switch from the actuating pin by hand and remove the switch from the steering column.

Install the New Ignition Switch

Engage the new ignition switch on the lock-cylinder actuating pin on the steering column. Note that the new switch comes already set in the Run position and it should remain in that position when you install the new mounting bolts.

Align the switch mounting holes with the two mounting holes on the mounting base of the lock cylinder housing.

Start the two new switch mounting bolts bay hand. Then use a Phillips or standard screwdriver to tighten the two mounting bolts until the heads shear off says Alan Ahlstrand in "Ford Ranger & Bronco II: Automotive Repair Manual."

Plug the ignition switch electrical connector.

Install the 2 trim shroud halves on the steering column using the Phillips screwdriver.

Install the upper extension shroud by hand, if your Ranger comes equipped with a tilt column.

Attach the ground (black) battery cable using the wrench.

Test the ignition switch for proper operation.

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Electric drill

  • 1/8-inch (3mm) drill bit

  • Ex-3 Easy-out tool

  • Standard screwdriver, if necessary

 How to Change the Ignition Switch on a 1984 Ford Pickup

Removal

Open the hood and disconnect the ground (black) battery cable, using a wrench.

Make sure the ignition key is in the "Lock" position and the shift lever is in "Park" (automatic transmission) or "Reverse" (manual transmission).

Remove the upper and lower steering column covers, using a Phillips screwdriver.

Detach the steering column from the instrument panel, using a ratchet, ratchet extension and socket, and carefully lower the column.

Unplug the ignition switch electrical connector.

Unscrew the ignition switch by unscrewing the two retaining nuts. Use the ratchet, ratchet extension and socket.

Lift the switch upward from the steering column to disengage the switch from the actuator rod and remove the switch from the steering column.

Installation

Locate the metal pin installed on a small hole through the side of the new ignition switch. This pin secures the switch in the "Lock" position for installation.

Engage the new switch on the actuator rod on the steering column.

Screw the switch's two retaining nuts finger-tight, using the ratchet extension and socket, but do not tighten the nuts yet.

Move the switch up and down, and notice the switch's amount of free travel on the actuator rod. Now position the switch so that there is the same amount of free play in both directions.

Tighten the switch retaining nuts, using the ratchet, ratchet extension and socket.

Remove the metal pin that secures the switch in the "Lock" position, using a pair of nose pliers.

Plug the switch electrical connector.

Connect the ground (black) battery cable, using the wrench.

Test the ignition switch and make sure it starts the engine only in "Park" or "Neutral." Try to start the engine in "Drive" and "Reverse." If necessary, readjust the switch by finding the middle point of free play as you did in Step 4.

Attach the steering column to the instrument panel, using the ratchet, ratchet extension and socket.

Install the upper and lower steering column covers, using the Phillips screwdriver.

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Ratchet

  • Ratchet extension

  • Socket

  • Pair of nose pliers

 How to Change the Ignition Switch in a 1987 Ford Ranger

Turn the key to the "Lock" position, if it isn't already. Disconnect the battery cables from the battery using a wrench. Remove the key from the ignition and put it in a safe place.

Place one hand on the top and one hand on the bottom of the upper extension steering wheel shroud and squeeze to remove it from the retaining plate. If your Ford Ranger does not have tilt steering, this step is not required.

Remove the two screws securing the two trim shrouds and then remove the shrouds from the steering column. Unplug the wiring from the ignition switch by removing the connector that is plugged into the switch.

Remove the switch from the lock-cylinder housing by drilling out the break-off bolts with a 1/8-inch drill bit. Once the bolts are drilled, use a bolt extractor tool to pull out the bolts. Remove the ignition switch from the actuator pin and pull the ignition switch from the vehicle.

Insert your car key into the replacement ignition switch and turn it to the "Run" position. Place the new ignition switch on the actuator pin and make sure the holes on the switch base are lined up with the holes on the cylinder housing. You may have to adjust the cylinder slightly to align it with the U-shaped slot on the actuator.

Screw in the new break-off bolts until the bolt heads break off. The bolt heads will break off at about 3 to 4 foot-pounds of torque. Plug the electrical wiring into the new ignition switch.

Reconnect the battery cables and turn the key in the ignition switch to test it for proper operation. If the ignition works properly and your Ford Ranger starts, turn off the engine and reinstall the shrouds onto the steering column by screwing in the two screws that you removed earlier. Snap the upper-extension shroud onto the steering column.

Items you will need

  • Drill

  • 1/8-inch drill bit

  • Bolt extractor tool

 How to Replace an Ignition Switch on a 2001 Ford Expedition

Turn the steering wheel in the straight-ahead position. Turn the ignition key to the "Lock" position and remove the key. Remove the 10-amp fuse in position 19 of the fuse block, which is located under the driver's side of the dash. Disconnect the negative battery cable using a 10 mm wrench. Wait at least 1 minute for the residual charge in the airbag system to dissipate. This will safely disable the airbags.

Remove the lower driver's side trim panel located below the steering column near the driver's knees using a T-10 size Torx driver or 7 mm socket and ratchet. Unscrew the tilt steering wheel lever using an adjustable wrench. Remove the screws that connect the lower steering column trim to the steering column using a T-15 Torx driver. Unsnap the lower trim from the upper trim and lay the two trim pieces aside.

Unbolt the electrical connector from the ignition switch using an 8 mm socket and ratchet. Unplug the electrical connector from the switch. Remove the two T-15 size Torx screws that attach the ignition switch to the steering column module and remove the switch.

Install the new ignition switch onto the steering column. If the slot in the switch does not align with the key lock cylinder linkage, use a screwdriver to rotate the slot until it does. Reinstall the retaining screws and torque them to 53 inch-pounds using a torque wrench. Reinstall the electrical connector and trim panels in reverse order of disassembly.

Items you will need

  • Torx driver set

  • Screwdriver set

  • Socket set

  • Adjustable wrench

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a Ford F-150

Open the hood. Loosen the nut on the negative battery cable with an adjustable wrench turned in a counterclockwise direction. Do not remove the nut. Lift cable off of the battery post and push it aside. Wiggle the cable in a back and forth motion to release it from the battery post if necessary.

Insert the key into the ignition switch and turn it to the “run” position.

Straighten out a small paper clip and insert one end of it approximately 2 inches into the small hole located in the steering column directly below the ignition switch.

Pull the ignition switch from the steering column and remove the key.

Insert the key into the new ignition switch. Insert the ignition switch into position in the steering column. Turn the key to the “off" position to lock the switch into place.

Push the negative battery cable back onto the negative battery post until it is fully seated. Tighten the nut in a clockwise direction. Close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Small paper clip

  • Replacement ignition switch

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch in a 2002 Ford Explorer

Disable the airbag system by parking the Explorer with the wheels straight. Turn the key to "Lock." Wait at least two minutes for backup power to drain.

Remove the plastic knee bolster panel by detaching the two Phillips screws at the bottom of the panel. This is the plastic panel under the steering column. Carefully pry the top of the panel loose at a point directly above the lower-left screw, using a flat-head screwdriver.

Remove the three Phillips screws from the lower half of the steering-column cover. Lower the cover and set aside.

Remove the screw that holds on the upper cover. This screw is exposed when you remove the lower cover. It is below the turn signal arm towards the dash. Lift off the upper cover and set aside.

Detach the ignition switch connector from the ignition switch. It is mounted on the driver's side of the steering column.

Remove the ignition switch by pressing on the release clips on the top and bottom of the switch and pulling it out of the steering column. Take careful note of how the spring under the switch is positioned because you must put it back the same way when you install the new switch.

Push the electrical connector onto the switch. Engage the ignition switch with the spring and snap it into place on the steering column. Replace the screw for the upper steering-column cover and reinstall the lower cover. Reattach the knee bolster panel by securing it with the two Phillips screws.

Items you will need

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Flat-head screwdriver

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch in a 1998 Ford F-150

Insert the key for your F-150, and turn the ignition switch to the "Run" position without starting the truck.

Push a 1/8-inch drill bit into the hole beneath the ignition switch, and push upward until it depresses the ignition switch retaining pin.

Pull the ignition switch out of the steering column.

Insert your key into the new ignition switch, and set it to the "Run" position followed by pressing the retaining pin with your finger.

Push the ignition switch into the steering column until seated, and turn your key to the "Off" position.

Test the new ignition switch by starting your F-150.

Items you will need

  • 1/8-inch drill bit

  • Ignition switch