How to Replace an Ignition Lock Cylinder

by Thomas West
Hemera Technologies/ Images

The ignition lock is usually located on a motor vehicle’s steering column, dashboard or center console. When a key is inserted in the cylinder and turned, the vehicle’s engine will start. The ignition-lock cylinder is slotted to hold a unique ignition key so that another key cannot be used to start the vehicle. The ignition key also allows some automotive accessories to operate even though the vehicle may not be running. When the key is turned to the “accessory” position, a circuit becomes active that operates the radio, windshield wipers, cigarette lighter and so forth. On older vehicles the ignition lock cylinder will wear over time from the constant action of inserting and removing the key and will need to be replaced.

Step 1

Pop the hood and remove the cable from the negative battery terminal by turning the clamp nut in a counterclockwise direction with an adjustable wrench. Push the cable aside and away from the battery.

Step 2

Insert the ignition key and turn it to the “accessory” position.

Step 3

Straighten out a paper clip and stick one end into the hole on the cylinder at the base of the key slot.

Step 4

Hold the paper clip into the hole while simultaneously turning the ignition key to the “off” position.

Step 5

Pull the lock cylinder out of the ignition switch and discard the paper clip.

Step 6

Place the key into the new ignition lock cylinder and insert the assembly into the ignition switch cavity. Turn the key to the accessory position and then back to the “off” position to secure the cylinder into place.

Place the cable back onto the negative battery terminal and tighten the clamp with an adjustable wrench in a clockwise direction. Close the hood.


  • Your ignition lock cylinder may be worn if your key is loose when inserted.
  • If you need to replace your ignition lock cylinder because you have lost your keys, the cylinder will need to be drilled out with a ½” drill bit attached to an electric drill. Place the drill bit over the key slot on the cylinder and begin drilling. Drill only far enough into the cylinder so that the cylinder can be removed. The ignition switch may need to be replaced when removing your lock cylinder in this fashion since the drill bit may destroy it.

Items you will need

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Paper clip
  • Ignition switch cylinder

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