Changing the Ignition Switch

On older cars, the ones from the days before RFID based ignition interlocks, ignition, starting the car usually involved a physical switch that would close the circuit to the starter motor. This switch was connected to the lock mechanism which would turn only when the key was inserted. Pretty simple. My car has one of these mechanisms, and ever since I bought her this switch, while functional, is touchy. “Touchy” here means that it’s possible to over and under rotate the switch and cause it to not fully make contact in the proper places. It’s annoying to say the least, so I decided to fix this.

The switch itself is located inline with the ignition lock tumbler. It’s attached to the back of the lock timber with two slotted screws (indicated in the following photo by the big, red arrows) and has a connector cap attached to it in turn. The cap is kept in place by friction and can be easily pried off with a screw driver.

To get at this assembly I had to remove the knee bolster under the steering wheel as well as the side panel of the middle dash. And in an ideal world that would be all I had to do. It is possible to get underneath the dash and reach up to get to the switch. However when you’re like me, a middle aged man with abnormally large hands, it gets a lot more complicated. Twisting and turning to get in position quickly had my back aching, and while my hands could get to the bottom screw with some effort the top was just not happening. If I had any chance of getting my hand in there I would need to get to the switch from the top. This meant taking out the instrument cluster.

Once that was out of the way I could clearly see the screw I was after, but there was still a number of cables and wire bundles that made my job more difficult. I tried hard to get my hands and a stubby screwdriver into position, but it was very slow going. Luckily for me, my youngest son came out to see what I was doing and was more than happy to jump into the driver side foot well and put his much smaller hands in a place that allowed him to unscrew the screw the last bit.

The switch as seen through the hole where the instruments used to be

Examining the old switch I found that, as I expected, it was not stopping where it should have in its rotation. There was way more “wiggle” than should have been there. I replaced it with a new switch, and with further help from my son had it back in place in minutes.

Everything back in place

After everything was back in place I turned the key and, sure enough, the car started as expected and everything worked as expect. I should say that while the car started it did not stay started. I’m still experiencing that rough start and stall condition I’ve mentioned in the past. I think that’ll have to be the next thing fixed as everything else is just working around the edges.