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Ignition Switch Replacement

Updated on July 11, 2016
Source

An ignition switch replacement job may take about an hour or two. But your mileage may vary, depending on your particular vehicle model. Furthermore, on many vehicle models you can replace a defective ignition switch using a few simple tools.

These differences come mostly from the exact location of the switch and how easy you can access the device. For example, on some car models you can find the switch mounted on top of the steering column. Although not that difficult to reach, you still may have to drop the steering column and perhaps remove the steering wheel. Other times, you'll find the switch behind the dashboard. Some models make it more difficult to access, for example, if you need to reach the mounting bolts by making room around the tumbler, while you can remove an under panel to comfortable reach the switch on other models.

So whether you need to replace a worn out, failed, or broken ignition switch, this guide will help you replace it or give you a close idea of the steps you need to take in order to install it, tell you what precautions you need to take—if any—and save over a hundred dollars or more in repairs.

NOTE: This is a general guide and only applies to ignitions that operate with a key, not modern systems with push buttons. Also, if your ignition switch is part of a security system, consult your car owner's manual or vehicle repair manual before attempting to replace the switch. Check if any reprogramming of the system is involved. You can buy an inexpensive, aftermarket repair manual for your particular vehicle make and model through most auto parts stores or online.

Index
Tools you may need
WARNING Disabling the Air Bag System
How to Change a Steering Column-mounted Ignition Switch
How to Remove a Steering Wheel
How to Remove a Dashboard-mounted Ignition Switch

Tools You May Need

Wrench

Standard and Phillips screwdriver

Ratchet, ratchet extension, and socket set

Torx screwdriver or torx bit

Steering wheel puller (for some car models)

WARNING Disabling the Air Bag System

If your vehicle has air bags, always make sure to disconnect both battery terminals to prevent triggering the impact sensors near the steering column and deploying the air bags. You may need to wait 5 to 30 minutes or more, after disconnecting the battery, before working on the switch. Consult your car owner's manual or vehicle repair manual if necessary.

On some models, you can access the switch after dropping the steering column.
On some models, you can access the switch after dropping the steering column. | Source

How to Change a Steering Column-mounted Ignition Switch

1. Disconnect the negative battery cable first, and then the positive battery cable using a wrench.

2. If your vehicle comes equipped with air bags, wait for at least two to five minutes (30 minutes on some models, see your car owner's manual) after disconnecting the battery to let the air bag system become disabled before starting to work on the ignition switch.

NOTE: Consult you car owner's manual for the proper way to disable the air bags in your particular model if haven't done this before.

3. Remove the lower shroud from the steering column using a Phillips screwdriver.

4. After removing the lower shroud, you can remove the upper shroud from the steering column as well.

5. After removing the steering column shroud can you see the ignition switch assembly? Most vehicles have the ignition switch mounted on top of the steering column, halfway down underneath the dashboard for security reasons, so you'll need to lower the steering column.

NOTE: On some models, you need to remove the steering wheel, and perhaps a multifunction switch as well, to reach the ignition switch. You may or may not need a steering wheel puller for this. Consult your vehicle repair manual, if necessary, and check the next section. Watch the next video so that you have an idea how it's done.

6. Unscrew the two bolts that secure the steering column to the dashboard support bracket and lower down the column to gain access to the ignition switch assembly.

7. Once you gain access to the switch, unplug the switch electrical connector, being careful not to brake the harness locking tab that secures the connector to the switch itself.

8. Turn the ignition key to the RUN position (the position the key is in after you start the engine).

9. Remove the switch two mounting bolts. In most models, you'll need a torx screwdriver, or a torx bit you can use with your ratchet.

10. After removing the bolts, disengage the switch from the actuator rod that connects to the tumbler and remove the switch.

11. Compare the configuration of the old switch to the new one and make sure the new switch is in the RUN position as well.

12. Engage the new switch onto the actuator pin and align the switch mounting holes to the holes on the steering column and tighten the mounting bolts.

13. Turn the ignition key to check that the key can go to the START, RUN, and ACCESSORY positions. Then check that the steering wheel locks in the LOCK position.

14. Plug in the switch electrical connector and reinstall the steering column.

15. Replace the steering column covers and reconnect the battery.

How to Remove a Steering Wheel

These are the general steps to remove the steering wheel.

1. Straighten out the steering wheel (front wheels straight).

2. Disconnect the battery and wait for about 5 to 30 minutes to disable the airbags (check your car owner's manual for the disabling time period for your particular model, if necessary).

3. Pry off the steering wheel cover (some use mounting screws you can access from behind) or the horn button.

4. Unplug and move the air bag and horn assemblies to the side.

5. Unscrew and remove the steering shaft nut.

6. Use a scratch owl to make alignment marks on the steering wheel and shaft so that you can reinstall the steering wheel at its original position.

7. Pull out the steering wheel from the shaft. On some models, you need a wheel puller for this.

Ignition switch connections.
Ignition switch connections. | Source

How to Remove a Dashboard-mounted Ignition Switch

1. Disconnect the negative (black) battery cable and then the positive (red) battery cable and wait two to thirty minutes (on models with air bags - check your car owner's manual if necessary) before you start working on the switch.

2. After disabling the air bags, check to see if you can access the switch from under the dashboard.

3. On some models, you may need to remove an accessory cover, like the heating and cooling controls, or radio, to gain access to the switch mounting bolts; on other models, you need to remove the tumbler bezel to gain access to the switch mounting bolts; on other models, you need to remove the panel cover and reinforcement panel from under the dashboard to access the ignition switch.

4. Once you gain access to the switch mounting bolts, see if you need to remove a cover from the instrument cluster, the upper steering column shroud to gain access and remove the switch itself.

5. If you need to remove a cover from the instrument panel or dashboard, you may also need to lower the steering column to gain access to the cover. Look under the dashboard for the two bolts securing the steering column to the panel structure.

6. On some models, you may need to remove the tumbler first, before being able to remove the ignition switch assembly. To do this, push the tumbler locking pin from the assembly with a scratch awl or similar tool located in the small hole in front of the switch. Insert the key in the tumbler and turn the key to free the tumbler. Pull out the tumbler.

7. Unplug the switch electrical connector and unscrew the ignition switch mounting bolts and remove the switch.

8. Once you've removed the ignition switch, compare it to the new one and install it.

9. After replacing any covers or components you had to removed, reconnect the battery.

An ignition switch replacement job doesn't require special skills. But you still need to follow the proper procedure, take the right safety precautions, and use the right tools for the job. Consult your vehicle repair manual, if necessary. If you find out you can tackle this project at home, you will save over a hundred dollars in repairs.

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