How to Replace an Ignition Switch on Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

If the mechanical assembly or contact points inside the ignition switch on your Gmc car have worn out, you may have a hard time providing power to the ignition or electrical system, if at all. The switch on your Gmc car is mounted atop the steering column assembly, hiding under the dashboard. You must lower the column to reach it. If you have the replacement ignition switch with you or want to remove it first to make sure you are buying the correct one, follow these steps to remove and install it.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace an Ignition Switch on a Mazda

Open the hood and disconnect the battery. Use the socket wrench and 10 mm socket to loosen the retaining nut on the cable running to the negative battery terminal, and slide the clamp off the terminal.

Use the Phillips screwdriver to remove the two screws that hold the bottom half of the steering column trim in place, and then pull the trim down with your hands to remove it.

Remove the combination switch trim. The stalks coming out of the steering column have a gap at the base where the stalk meets the steering column. Put your fingers into this gap, and gently pull up on the top trim piece to remove it. Remove the three Phillips screws that hold the bottom trim piece in place, and pull that trim piece down.

Remove the air bag assembly by pulling out the rubber screw covers on each side of the steering wheel. Be careful when removing the air bag; you don't want it to deploy accidentally.

Remove the two 12 mm screw bolts that hold the air bag to the steering wheel. Slide the air bag forward, and disconnect the electrical plug running to the back of the air bag.

Remove the large center steering wheel nut with a 21 mm socket and socket wrench. Then pull the steering wheel off the steering column.

Remove the three screws (on most Mazdas) that hold the combination switch to the ignition switch. Then pull the combination switch off the steering column and ignition switch.

Use the Dremel cutting tool to cut a slot in each of the two screws that hold the ignition switch in place. Cut the slot in the screws perpendicular to the steering column. The screws have a breakaway head, meaning that the head of the screw is meant to break off so that all is left is a small dome on top of the screw. This is what you are cutting into to create a surface on which you can apply torque to remove the screw.

Slide the offset screwdriver into the slot you cut, and remove the two screws that are holding the ignition switch in place. Pull the ignition switch off, and disconnect the electrical connector from the switch.

Mount the new ignition switch where the old ignition switch used to be. Orient the new switch in the same way in which the old switch was oriented.

Thread and tighten the new screws with a 12 mm wrench. Try to tighten them evenly onto the ignition switch. Alternate your tightening pattern until the screw heads break off. Then reattach the electrical connector.

Reassemble the steering column in the reverse of disassembly.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • 10 mm socket

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • 12 mm wrench

  • 12 mm socket

  • 21 mm socket

  • Dremel

  • Offset slotted screwdriver

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a Toyota Camry

Removal

Disconnect the car's negative battery cable.

Insert the key into the lock cylinder and turn it to the Accessory position--turn it to the left. Make sure the front wheels are facing straight ahead before you do this.

Pry off the covers on the sides of the steering wheel concealing the air bag's mounting screws. Remove the screws with a Torx wrench, pull the air bag off the wheel and disconnect its electrical connectors.

Remove the steering wheel--unplug the electrical connector to the horn and cruise control, remove the wheel's retaining nut with a wrench, mark the hub's relationship to the steering shaft with tape and remove the wheel with a steering wheel puller.

Remove the steering column covers by removing the two Phillips screws on the sides and separating the two halves of the covers.

Unplug the electrical connectors for the ignition switch.

Unscrew the retaining screws for the ignition switch with a screwdriver and pull the switch out of the lock cylinder's housing.

Installation

Insert the replacement ignition switch into the lock cylinder housing--the lock cylinder must still be in the Accessory position--and secure it with the retaining screws. Connect the electrical connectors to the switch.

Connect the steering column covers to the column and secure them with their Phillips screws.

Install the steering wheel to the column, then connect the air bag to the wheel with its electrical connector and Torx screws.

Re-connect the battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Flat screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Torx wrench

  • Steering wheel puller

  • Tape

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a Dodge Grand Caravan

Detach the negative battery cable from the battery of your Dodge Grand Caravan with an open-end wrench and move the cable out of the way. Be careful that the cable does come into contact with any metal parts to avoid creating a spark.

Unfasten the lower dashboard of the vehicle with a screwdriver and take the dashboard out of the way. Undo the cover plate on the underside of the steering cover to expose the electrical wiring.

Locate the fuse box that sits underneath the dashboard between the steering column and driver's side door. Remove the fuse box cover and find the electrical wire that runs to the ignition switch on the steering column. Use a screwdriver to unhook the connector that holds the wiring together and pull the wires from the connection.

Detach the ignition switch from the steering column by placing a screwdriver under the lip of the ignition switch and using a hammer to gently tap the screwdriver and dislodge the switch from the steering column. Pull the switch out of the column and thread the electrical wiring through the steering column until it is completely free of the column. Watch to see how the wiring is threaded through the column, so you can replace it correctly.

Thread the electrical wiring of the new ignition switch through the steering column of your Dodge Grand Caravan. Pull it down until all the slack is out of the wiring and lay it on the floorboard, next to the fuse box. Place the ignition switch in the steering column and set it in place by laying the handle of the screwdriver across the switch and tapping the screwdriver with a hammer until the switch clicks into place.

Connect the ignition switch electrical wiring to the connection leading to the fuse box. When the wiring is connected, put the cover back on the fuse box. Put the lower dashboard back in position and secure with screws. Reattach the cover plate on the bottom of the steering column and then attach the negative battery cable to the Dodge Grand Caravan battery.

Items you will need

  • Open-end wrench

  • Screwdriver

  • Hammer

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a Dodge Intrepid

Remove the Switch

Detach the black battery cable (the ground) using a wrench. Wait at least 2 minutes before attempting to remove the ignition switch. Disconnecting the ground cable will disable the air bag system on your Dodge Intrepid.

Remove the tilt lever from the steering column using a Phillips screwdriver.

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

Remove the Sentry Key Immobilizer Module (SKIM) from the top of the steering column using a ratchet and socket.

Unscrew the multifunction switch blocking the ignition switch. Use the ratchet and socket.

Note the exact mounting position of the ignition switch. Then proceed to unplug the switch electrical connector.

Remove the ignition switch using the ratchet and socket.

Install the Switch

Set the new ignition switch in its mounting position. Note that the switch has a tab that fits into a notch on the ignition-lock cylinder housing. Also, the switch has a slot at the end that fits over the shaft at the end of the lock cylinder housing. Turn the ignition switch with the key to align these two switch features with the cylinder.

Tighten the ignition switch with the ratchet and socket.

Plug the ignition switch electrical connector.

Install the multifunction switch using the ratchet and socket.

Install the SKIM module using the ratchet and socket.

Attach the upper and lower steering column covers using the Phillips screwdriver.

Mount the tilt lever to the steering column using the Phillips screwdriver.

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

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Ratchet and socket set

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a Saturn

Remove the negative battery cable from your Saturn's battery. If you want to be doubly safe, remove the positive battery cable as well. Wait for at least 15 minutes before touching any electrical parts or connections.

Unscrew the steering column casings that surround the ignition switch assembly. Different models and makes require you to take off different parts to expose the steering column and the ignition switch assembly; however, doing so is a relatively easy part of the job. Be sure to keep track of all of the parts, how they go together, and their screws or bolts. Also, expose your air bag enclosure by removing the paneling that reveals the connection from the electrical system to your air bag.

Unclip the connection for your air bag. Even if your battery is disconnected, your air bag can still engage, potentially causing injury along with requiring the cost of having to reset your air bag.

Remove the bolts securing your ignition switch assembly to your steering column. Most Saturn models require only that you undo some bolts; however, some may come with more advanced features that help to keep your car from being stolen. One such feature includes bolt heads that break off after being screwed tight. To get past this feature, you will need a power drill and a bolt extractor set, which you can get for $15 to $20 at local hardware or auto parts stores.

Unclip the electrical connections to your old ignition switch assembly. Some Saturn models have a connection behind the ignition switch, which will be revealed only when you slide out the entire assembly. Other models have a connection below the ignition switch that can be unclipped prior to sliding out the old ignition switch assembly.

Assemble your new ignition switch assembly by sliding the lock cylinder into the ignition switch housing. Some ignition switch assemblies come already assembled. Others come with the two components separated; you will have to unite them while manipulating the "Lock" and "On" positions on the lock cylinder of the new ignition switch to fit into the housing properly.

Slide the new ignition switch assembly into place, making sure you reconnect all of the necessary electrical connections and put the new ignition switch in exactly the same location as the old one was located. Tighten the bolts to securing it in place.

Reconnect the negative and positive battery terminals and try your new ignition switch. If it does not work properly, you will need to remove it and put it in again. If you had to assemble the lock cylinder with the ignition switch housing, you may also need to reconnect those pieces again if the key is not turning all the way through to the ignition position.

Assemble the rest of the steering column housing pieces back into place on your Saturn. Be sure to reconnect the electrical connection for the air bag as well.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • Socket wrench and adapters

 How to Replace an Ignition Switch on a Nissan Sentra GXE

Remove the screws that hold the upper and lower steering column shrouds together using a Phillips screwdriver. Remove both pieces from the Nissan's steering column.

Unplug the wiring harness from the ignition switch. The wiring harness has a lock on each end of the harness. To release the lock, pull up on the tabs.

Remove the screws that secure the ignition switch to the steering column. The screws have tamper-proof Torx heads on them. You can get a screwdriver to remove these screws from most automotive part stores.

Place the ignition switch on a workbench. Insert the ignition key into the lock cylinder and turn it one click clockwise.

Locate the metal spring pin on the bottom of the ignition switch. Push the pin into the switch and pull the lock cylinder halfway out of the ignition switch. Turn the key to the "Off" position and pull the lock cylinder out of the ignition switch.

Place the lock cylinder into the new ignition switch. It will only go in halfway.

Place the ignition key into the lock cylinder, turn it one click clockwise, push in on the metal spring pin and slide the lock cylinder all the way into the ignition switch. This locks the lock cylinder in place.

Secure the ignition switch to the steering column using the tamper-proof screws and the Torx screwdriver.

Plug the wiring harness back into the ignition switch and push down on the locking tabs.

Place the upper and lower shrouds onto the steering column and secure them using the Phillips screwdriver.

Items you will need

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Tamper-proof Torx screwdriver

  • Ignition key

  • Replacement ignition switch

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch in a GMC Jimmy

Removing the Switch

Set the ignition key to the off position.

Detach the negative battery cable using a wrench.

Remove the steering wheel column lower trim panel using a Phillips screwdriver.

Detach the steering column from the under dashboard frame using a wrench or ratchet and socket. Support the steering column to keep it from falling.

Locate the ignition switch on top of the steering column. The switch is a small rectangular box connected to the lock cylinder---where you insert the ignition key---through an actuating rod.

Unfasten the two ignition-switch mounting bolts using a wrench or ratchet and socket.

Slide the ignition switch off the actuating rod and remove it from the steering column.

Installing the Switch

Make sure the new ignition switch is in the off position. Some aftermarket switches will have a pin on the switch slider, close to the base of the switch, to lock it in the off position to ensure proper installment. Verify whether your new switch has this pin.

Slide the new ignition switch into the actuating rod, making sure not to push the slider inside the switch.

Set the new ignition switch in place on top of the steering column, and start the two mounting bolts by hand. Then tighten the mounting bolts using the wrench or ratchet and socket.

Remove the pin (if the new switch came equipped with it) from the switch slider by hand or with pair of needle-nosed pliers.

Insert the key into the ignition lock cylinder; turn the key to make sure the rod is actuating the new ignition switch. Then turn the key back to the off position.

Set the steering column in position against the dashboard frame, and start the mounting bolts by hand. Then tighten the mounting bolts using the wrench or ratchet and socket.

Install the steering wheel column lower trim panel using the Phillips screwdriver.

Attach the negative battery cable using the wrench.

Start the engine to make sure the new ignition switch is operating properly.

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Ratchet and socket set

 How to Change an Ignition Switch on a Cutlass

Remove the screws on the underside of the steering column cover.

Pull down on the steering column cover to remove it.

Slide the punch pin into the access hole on the underside of the steering column.

Turn the ignition key to the "II" position.

Push in on the punch pin and pull the ignition switch and cylinder assembly out of the steering column. Then remove the pin from the access hole.

Slide the new ignition switch assembly into the steering column and orient the switch and cylinder assembly so that it can be pushed all the way into the steering column. The assembly will snap into place when it is properly oriented.

Items you will need

  • 1/8-inch punch pin

  • Screwdriver

 How to Change the Ignition Switch on a Jetta

Loosen the nut on the cable running ot the negative battery terminal and slide the cable off the terminal.

Wait 20 minutes after the battery has been disconnected (if your Jetta has an airbag assembly) and pry off the center cover of the steering wheel. If your Jetta has airbags, remove the rubber screw covers on the steering wheel and remove the screws holding the airbag in place. Then pull the airbag assembly forward and disconnect the electrical plug running to the assembly.

Remove steering wheel by removing the center retaining nut and pulling the steering wheel off the steering column.

Remove all of the screws holding the turn signal and combination switches in place.

Remove the steering column covers by pulling them off. There are 2 screws on the bottom half of the cover that hold the bottom half in place. Once these are removed, pull off the bottom half of the cover and then pull off the top half.

Draw a line 10 mm from the end of the aluminum housing going down the length of the housing. Draw the line on the side of the aluminum housing that faces the steering wheel and column shaft.

Set the ignition key alongside the outside of the cylinder housing and place it against the housing as though you were inserting the key into the ignition (without actually doing so). Alternatively, you can measure the length of the key up to the face of the key so that you know how much of the key actually goes into the cylinder and where the tip of the key sits once it is inside the ignition switch.

Draw a line perpendicular to the first line you drew indicating the length of the key once it is inside the ignition cylinder. This should form a cross where the two lines intersect.

Drill a 1/8" hole where the two lines meet on the aluminum housing.

Insert small center punch, or an Allen wrench inside the hole. This will press the retaining clip in and allow you to remove the ignition switch assembly.

Remove the punch or Allen wrench and slide the new ignition switch and lock assembly into the aluminum housing until the release tab clicks into place-locking the switch into the housing. Reassemble the steering column.

Items you will need

  • 10mm socket/wrench

  • Philips screw driver

  • Flat tip screw driver

  • 1/8" drill

  • Center punch

  • 24 mm socket/ratchet

  • 10 mm wrench/socket

  • 5mm Allen wrench

  • Ruler

  • Marking pencil

 How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a 2002 Chrysler 300M

Disconnect the negative battery cable with a ratchet and socket, then move to the cabin and remove the screws from the bottom of the dash panel beneath the steering column with a ratchet and small socket, and carefully remove the dash panel.

Locate the white ignition switch at the bottom of the column and remove it by applying the Torx driver to the Torx mounting screws, and unscrew the ignition switch plug using a flathead screwdriver.

Insert and tighten the plug into the new switch using a flathead screwdriver.

Insert the new switch pin-first into the mounting hole on the column, and follow the previous steps in reverse to complete the procedure.

Items you will need

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Ratchet and socket

  • Torx driver

  • New ignition switch

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.