A faulty ignition lock cylinder can be a real bummer. Sometimes, when the lock cylinder starts going out, you can jiggle the key to get it to turn. But eventually, that trick no longer works, and you’re left with a car that doesn’t start.
That means you (or your mechanic) will have to replace the lock cylinder. On some vehicles, this task is relatively straightforward. In other cases, the process requires the removal of additional components, such as the steering wheel—and that can make things tricky.
How to Replace an Ignition Lock Cylinder
The steps for replacing a lock cylinder vary from car to car. Still, the following information should be helpful, because it gives you an idea of what the job might involve.
Tools for Lock Cylinder Replacement:
The tools needed to replace an ignition lock cylinder will vary, depending on what type of car you have.
In general, however, you’ll need:
- Pick, awl, or pocket screwdriver
- Repair manual or access to a repair database
- Safety glasses
Ignition Lock Cylinder Replacement Instructions:
Before we start, keep in mind: all vehicles are different. The information below is generic and for entertainment and educational purposes only. Be sure to follow the repair information for your specific application.
Repair manuals, such as those from Chilton, are useful, but a subscription to a repair database is even better. ALLDATA and Mitchell 1 both have single-vehicle subscriptions for DIYers that provide detailed factory repair information.
You can learn more about accessing quality repair information in this article.
Note: On vehicles equipped with an immobilizer system and a transponder “chipped” key, for the vehicle to run, you will need to perform an anti-theft relearn procedure after installing the new lock cylinder and key. This often requires the use of an OEM-level scan tool or a dedicated key programming tool.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss replacing an ignition lock cylinder.
Ignition Lock Cylinder Removal
- Put on your safety glasses.
- Disconnect and isolate the negative battery cable.
Warning: On some vehicles, when replacing the lock cylinder, you may have to remove components that could disrupt the supplemental restraint system (airbags). Consult the factory repair information for any additional steps for disabling the SRS system as needed. Accidental airbag deployment can cause severe personal injury.
- There will be a trim panel or cover (usually, the upper and lower steering column trim panels) blocking access to the lock cylinder. Use a screwdriver to remove the fasteners holding the trim panel in place.
- Then, remove the trim panels from the vehicle.
- Insert the key and turn it to the ACC, START, or RUN position as specified in the repair information.
- Insert a pick, awl, or small screwdriver into the lock cylinder housing to release the lock cylinder retaining tab.
- Move the key to the ACC, START, or RUN position as specified in the repair information.
- Remove the lock cylinder by pulling it straight out of the housing.
Lock Cylinder Installation
- Compare the new lock cylinder to the old lock cylinder to ensure that both are the same design.
- Turn the ignition key to the ACC, START, or RUN position as specified in the repair information.
- Align the lock cylinder with the keyway in the housing and the slot for the retaining tab.
- Push the lock cylinder in so that the locking tab locks against the housing.
- Reinstall the trim panels you removed to access the lock cylinder.
- Reconnect the negative battery cable.
- If necessary, perform the anti-theft relearn procedure to program the new keys to the vehicle.
The following video demonstrates what ignition lock cylinder replacement typically involves (on a vehicle without an immobilizer system):
And what if you no longer have your key or the key won’t turn in the lock cylinder? This video demonstrates how to remove an ignition lock cylinder without the key:
Ignition Lock Cylinder Replacement Cost
Typically, ignition lock cylinder repair involves replacing the entire lock cylinder, rather than rebuilding it. Expect to pay around $200 to $300 to have a professional do the job for you.