How to Replace the Ignition Switch on a Saturn

by David McGuffin
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What happens when you try to start your Saturn but the ignition cylinder will not budge? You try wriggling your steering wheel, to no avail. It appears your lock cylinder is broken, which means you must replace it and your Saturn's entire ignition switch assembly. Fortunately, as far as car repairs go, it is a relatively easy fix.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

Step 7

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.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

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.

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