Ignition Lock Assembly Repair
January 11, 2008 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Apparently the ignition lock assembly on my 1999 Honda Accord is fried...

It's become very hard to turn the car on. I took it to the local Honda dealer - who I don't sense is bilking me - and he thinks it will be around $400 to get a new one ordered and installed. We initially tried a new key, and that didn't work. I simply don't have that money right now. To start the car you need a fair amount of jiggling of the lock and some serious luck.

Is this something I could order online (a quick google search places them at about $200) and install myself? Where should I order from? Or order online and take to a local dealer? Would they be able to install it easily and cheaply?

I've never really done any auto work, but am certainly handy.

Basically, how do I spend as little money as possible on a car that already has 140,000 miles on it but is running great.

posted by jtajta to Technology (12 answers total)
Is it that you can't properly turn the lock, like the key isn't in the ignition 100% of the way? That happened to my Ford Focus 2003 recently -- I consider myself lucky if I can get the key turned, and the wheel locks if I turn it while messing with the key. My extremely car-savvy father told me to try WD-40 in the ignition just this morning. I haven't yet, but he said he's done it with other cars with this problem and it always works.
posted by k8lin at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2008

I'll 2nd the WD40 suggestion, it just might work.

There's a recall, is your car affected?

Here's a video that shows how to replace your switch.
posted by Floydd at 12:52 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: Pretty sure it's more serious than that, though perhaps the dealer is really trying to make a buck by replacing the whole ignition lock assembly.
posted by jtajta at 12:52 PM on January 11, 2008

Whoa! Hold the phone!

I had a '94 accord with about 113,00 miles on it and the ignition switch seemed to stop working intermittently for a while, and then failed to work altogether. I'm a bit of a car person, so I dorked around with the ignition switch and everything was working as it should... It wasn't the switch or the assembly.

As it turns out, the dealer who originally sold the Honda had installed a security system that was wired into the circuit way up under the dash. This little black box had failed. removing it turned out to be a slight hassle since it was stuffed deep and basically dangling in a mess of unrelated wiring harnesses.

End result? Working car, no parts to buy. You may still want to have a shop do the work for you, but be sure to get any and all parts that they pulled out or replaced - just to make sure that you're not getting the shaft.

Also, it should be noted that this "security system" in no way made it's presence known to me before it failed. It wasn't a brand I recognized, nor was it hooked up to the horn, a siren, or any door, tilt, or glass break sensors either, so I assume it was put in by the dealer for the purposes of keeping it on the lot (using a few remotes to disable the ignitions of all cars on the lot at night is the use-case that I came up with).

Just in case this advice has sent you down the wrong path and you're actually experiencing an ignition switch failure - here's some additional advice.
  • Buy a Chilton's or Haynes manual for your car, you'll be given instructions on removing and replacing the ignition switch/assembly - and most valuable, you may even be given instructions for testing whether or not it's actually a failed part.
  • A used assembly/switch should be available from your local auto salvage yard, likely for much less than you'd pay for a new part.
  • Be careful mucking about with the steering column!! They've got airbags stuffed inside those you know. Follow all safety precautions, disconnect the battery first, yadda yadda yadda...

posted by terpia at 1:57 PM on January 11, 2008

Terpia's answer is awesome. I hope it works.

If you do need to take terpia's additional advice, check your local library website for the Chilton manual. Many libraries give access to it online. If yours doesn't, and you turn out to want the Chilton manual instructions for your car, I (or anybody else with access) can send you the instructions/information or post it here.
posted by cashman at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2008

k8lin: the lock cylinder freezing up is an extremely common problem with Focuses. It'll probably fail completely soon, so you may want to skip the WD-40 and get it replaced completely.
posted by zsazsa at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: Terpia - any way for me to check and see if this is indeed the case? The car was bequeathed to me many years ago, and I don't really know where it came from and what the dealer may have installed. Gosh I hope it's something as simple as that.
posted by jtajta at 2:44 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: And thanks for all the advice - keep it coming!
posted by jtajta at 2:44 PM on January 11, 2008

Uh, try squirting some powdered graphite lubricant in it. (Just to eliminate the simple problem).

Funny that Honda has gone from the ignition lock turning freely when it ages to not turning when it ages. :p

Compare the dealer's price to the price at Majestic Honda. Majestic is almost always cheaper. If it's significant, order it from them and either fix it yourself or have the dealer fix it if you're not comfortable doing it.
posted by wierdo at 3:04 PM on January 11, 2008

Oh, and using WD-40 is a good way to gum it up down the line, just in case you haven't used it yet.
posted by wierdo at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2008

Well, the way I found out about the black box was though experiencing what seemed to be an ignition switch failure and moving ahead as one would in this situation - by checking out the switch - once I determined that all was well with the switch, I had two possible further courses of action - one was to use a control/remote starter switch to make sure that the trouble wasn't with the starter motor or solenoid itself*, which I didn't have on hand, and the other was to follow the ignition circuit from the switch to the engine. I chose the latter route, and did this using a manual to tell me where to look for the wiring and which color combinations to follow. This led me to the mystery box. Honestly, once I was on this path and knew I had a "good" starter switch, I was expecting to find a short somewhere behind the dash**.

*There are other ways of testing the starter and solenoid without the aid of an inexpensive, readily available and and easy to use tool, but they involve completing circuits with screwdrivers near large mean things that can spin fast. Silliness to not use a tool if you ask me.

**It's a relatively little known fact that some Honda's route part of the ignition wiring through the Hazard light switch on the dash. If you pop out that switch, pick the right wires and know what you're doing, you can start some Honda's without a key by crossing two wires behind the hazard light switch that will signal to the car that the ignition is set to on (thereby disabling the steering column lock without damaging anything at all) - then you simply have to engage the starter, using the aforementioned tool or a screwdriver and some applied "technique". You'll likely be able to find out if this is possible on your car by looking at wiring diagrams for the ignition circuit. If it is possible on your vehicle and you're able to successfully start your car this way, that means that the problem exists between the ignition switch and the hazard switch, meaning that you've just eliminated looking through the section of ignition wiring from the hazard switch to the engine.

Good luck!
posted by terpia at 3:20 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Okay, wait a minute - I may be sending you down the wrong path...

The way I initially read the question implied to me that you were having a hard time starting the vehicle. Re-reading the question makes me think that possibly you're having a hard time turning the key. If turning the key is the problem, you're almost surely looking at replacing the switch/assembly. In this case, your best bet is to go to a salvage yard and remove one from another Honda of your type and year (the same year isn't always necessary, but the guy at salvage yard counter can probably offer guidance; go for the same year if you can).
posted by terpia at 3:29 PM on January 11, 2008

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