How to Fix the Ignition Switch on Vehicles

by Contributing WriterUpdated June 12, 2017

The ignition switch on your Vehicles allows you to start the engine by providing a signal to the starter motor. When the switch is malfunctioning, it is usually because the pins in the cylinder of the ignition are stuck or jammed. The ignition key has ridges on it that move pins inside the cylinder of the switch assembly. When the pins are properly aligned, the ignition can be unlocked and the switch is activated. Since replacing the ignition switch is an expensive process, you should first try to fix your existing switch assembly.

Under The Hood:

 How to Fix the Ignition Switch on a Pontiac Grand Prix

Spray the ignition cylinder in your Pontiac Grand Prix with a lubricant such as WD-40 to minimize resistance from metal-on-metal friction. Then, insert your key and try turning the switch to see if it will work. If not, go on to the next step.

Insert a wire into the keyhole to dislodge any loose debris that might be restricting you from inserting and turning the key in the cylinder. Try turning the key again. If the cylinder still won't turn, go on to the next step.

Remove the dashboard panels around the ignition cylinder to see if there is anything impeding the movement of the cylinder. You can remove the panels by popping them off with a straight blade.

Remove and replace the cylinder. You can remove the cylinder by inserting your key and then inserting a straightened paper clip into the small hole just to the left. Turn the key to the "ACC" position and pull out the cylinder. Clean the cylinder and brush away any visible debris. Reinsert the cylinder or install a new ignition switch in place of the old one.

 How to Fix a Ford Ignition Switch on a Ford Escort

Insert your key into the ignition keyhole and jiggle the wheel back and forth while trying to turn the ignition switch. Sometimes, the steering wheel lock prevents the ignition from being turned properly.

Spray brake parts cleaner into the ignition key hole. This will clean out any small or loose debris that me have gotten stuck in the ignition key hole. Make sure you flush the ignition assembly and catch any fluid and debris with a shop towel.

Spray WD-40 into the ignition keyhole to lubricate the ignition pins. The brake parts cleaner is a solvent and will have removed any lubricant in the ignition switch assembly, therefore you need to lubricate the assembly again.

Push the key into the ignition switch and cylinder. Work the key back and forth to lubricate the pins in the switch assembly.

Turn the ignition key to see if you can turn the switch. This should fix the ignition switch if there is no critical failure of the switch assembly.

Items you will need

  • Brake parts cleaner

  • WD-40

  • Shop towels

 How to Fix the Ignition Switch on a Nissan

Disconnect the negative cable from your Nissan's battery. If your Nissan is equipped with an airbag, disconnect the electrical connection leading to your airbag so that it will not inflate while you are working on your steering column. Look for a small panel on the bottom of your steering wheel where the airbag electrical connection is located. Wait 10 minutes for any built-up charges to dissipate before continuing.

Use a screwdriver to remove the steering column covers and panels from your Nissan. Use a screwdriver or socket wrench set to remove the knee bolster and other coverings from underneath the driver's-side dashboard. Keep all screws and connectors for each of the panels with the panels.

Disconnect the electrical connections to your ignition switch. There will be one or two, depending on your year and model. One of the connections is always located directly on the outside assembly of the ignition switch. The other connection, if you have one, will be located behind the knee bolster. Maxima models between 1993 and 2004, for example, have this second connection. If in doubt, disconnect all electrical connections that you see on the underside of your dashboard and steering column.

Unscrew the mounting screws or bolts for your ignition switch. Some models use a removable lock cylinder, which has a pinhole that needs to be depressed before sliding out the lock cylinder from the ignition switch. If you have this ignition switch design, you also need to rotate the key to the accessories position. However, other models require the removal of the entire ignition switch assembly. Look at the top of the ignition switch housing for the mounting bolt holes. Some models, such as Maxima, use snap-off bolt heads as a security measure against auto theft. Use a power drill and screw extractor to remove the snap-off bolts from the mounting assembly of the ignition switch.

Install the new ignition switch assembly. Use a socket wrench to rotate the bolt heads until they snap off by themselves. Reconnect all of the electrical connections and the negative battery cable. Try your new ignition switch using the new key for your lock cylinder. If the Nissan turns on, then you have installed the ignition switch correctly.

Reinstall the panels, covering and knee bolster to the underside of the dashboard. Reconnect the steering column covers last. Reconnect the electrical connection leading to your airbag.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • Socket wrench set

  • Power drill

  • Screw extractor bits

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