How to Start a Car by Removing the Key Cylinder

by Pat Krueger
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ford mustang"s steering wheel image by Lario Tus from

Starting a car by removing the key cylinder is an illegal act if the car is not yours. However, there may come a time when, for whatever reason, you need to do just that. Perhaps you lost your key, the ignition lock tumbler has failed, or the key is broken or bent. If you find yourself in this situation and need to start the car by removing the cylinder, make sure you have proper documentation to prove you are the car's owner.

Step 1

Remove the steering wheel access cover. There are usually two large plastic panels that cover both the top and bottom of the steering column. They are generally held in place with hidden clips or screws. By removing this housing, you will be able to access the key cylinder and the wires that come into it.

Step 2

Become familiar with the wiring. You should see three sets of wires going into the cylinder. One should be for the car's accessories, another for the battery-only position, and the third should start the car. Unfortunately, there is no universal color code for a vehicle's wiring system, so, if possible, consult your car's manual to determine its specific color code. Usually, however, the red set of wires starts the car.

Step 3

Cut the red wires from the cylinder. Accomplish this task by using wire cutters and wearing insulated gloves. Using wire strippers, remove about one inch of the protective insulation coating from the wires and twist them together. The car will now have power.

Step 4

Find the brown starter wire(s). After cutting them from the cylinder, carefully strip the plastic coating back about one-half inch. If there is only one brown wire, touch its end to the tips of the red wires. If, however, there are two brown wires, touch the ends of these wires together rather than touching the red. There will be a spark and the car's ignition will start. After the vehicle is idling, separate and cover the ends of the starter wires with electrical tape.

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