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Ignition Key Lock Cylinder

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Ignition Key Lock Cylinder

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What is an ignition lock cylinder and where is it located?

The ignition lock cylinder is where it all starts—it’s the actual part that you insert the key into to power the vehicle. In addition, an ignition lock cylinder also serves as a vehicle’s most basic theft deterrent because it makes it harder for other people to drive it without the proper key.

Your vehicle’s ignition key lock cylinder is mounted either in the steering column, on the dash, or the center console. Most ignition lock cylinders have four positions: "off," "accessory," "start," and "on." When you turn and hold the key at the “start” position, power is supplied from your vehicle’s battery to the starter motor to start the engine. Once started and the key is released, the key will then return to the “on” position as a result of the “start” position being spring loaded, power supply to the starter is cut, and this then allows for all of the vehicle’s electronics and accessories to be powered. The “accessory” position of the lock cylinder allows for power to be supplied to other accessories such as the radio without powering the components necessary for the vehicle to run. So while the ignition switch is essentially responsible for making the electrical connection that makes all of this possible, the ignition lock cylinder is what actually gets it all started by activating the switch.

The lock cylinder is a fairly simple mechanical device. Within the ignition cylinder is a series of springs and different size tumblers; the notches of your key will line up with these tumblers. When the correct key is inserted, the cylinder is able to rotate within the housing, allowing for it to activate the ignition switch. Some applications have the lock cylinder and switch incorporated into a single unit rather than simply being connected to each other, and many vehicles use a small transponder chip inside the key as part of the vehicle’s anti-theft system. Vehicles that use these anti-theft key chips may need additional programming for the new lock cylinder to work and replacement is generally a bit trickier. Most ignition lock cylinders however can be replaced using simple hand tools and a little bit of mechanical ability.

How do I know my ignition lock cylinder needs to be replaced?

A properly functioning ignition lock cylinder is often taken for granted, only to be thought of once it begins to cause issue. Lock cylinders can fail for a variety of reasons, including age and countless key cycles which can take their toll on the lock cylinder. Often, the tumblers can stick, preventing the key from turning the cylinder, which may result in a bent or broken key. Other times the tumblers or the key can wear down allowing for the cylinder to turn freely which poses problems because in this case any key may be able to turn the cylinder, or you may be able to simply remove the key while the car is turned on. Attempted theft can also leave a cylinder inoperable or missing. No matter what the cause is, a malfunctioning ignition key lock cylinder can be a major inconvenience, and may result in an inoperative vehicle. It’s a wise move to address any problems with your lock cylinder before it leaves you stranded.

Can I replace the ignition cylinder myself?

Removing the ignition cylinder should be within reach of the average do-it-yourselfer. Modifying the key to fit your cylinder can be a bit more challenging and requires quite a bit of patience. The key ignition cylinder will vary from vehicle to vehicle, so we recommend seeking out a repair manuel specific to your vehicle, but the steps usually include disconnecting the negative battery terminal and either removing the lower dash panel and the lower and upper steering wheel panel or sometimes, depending on the layout of the car, the trim cover or the center console trim panel. If you have an ignition light you can remove it from the cylinder. Then disconnect the wiring harness if there is one. Then you want to turn the key to the accessory position and press the spring release button, which can be found either atop or below the cylinder. The cylinder should then pull out.


To keep from having to get a new key, you can switch over the tumblers from your old ignition switch to your new ignition switch. This can be done by applying white grease to each side of the old cylinder to keep the tumblers in place while you remove the locks. Then remove the retainer with an awl. It’s a good idea to create a diagram so you can identify which tumblers are which when it comes to removing them. Then carefully remove the first tumbler and mark its location. Once the tumblers are removed, the springs should pop out.

To prepare the new cylinder, gently insert each tumbler into its slot. Then replace each of their accompanying springs and replace the retainer. Place the key in to test, and if you are able see the tumblers moving, watch to see if the keyway is down when you turn the key. This is one way to tell if it’s working. Once that’s completed, simply apply some lubricant to the cylinder and insert it into place. Reinstallation is just a reversal of the first steps.

Need an ignition cylinder replacement?

An ignition key lock cylinder is an essential feature on most vehicles, and if happens to stop working properly or at all, you will probably have a hard time starting or driving your car, or not be able to do so at all. Therefore, if you are in need of an ignition cylinder replacement, it is imperative that you obtain one and install it as soon as possible so that you can get your vehicle back to working properly again. At 1A Auto, we have a large selection of aftermarket ignition key lock cylinder replacements for many cars, trucks, and SUV’s to meet your needs so that none of these inconveniences occur.

Shopping for an aftermarket ignition cylinder replacement for your car, truck or SUV is also incredibly easy at 1A Auto - we're here to help you select the right part for your vehicle! Call our customer service toll free at 888-844-3393 if you have any questions about our cylinders, warranty, compatibility or to purchase, or you can buy online right here at 1aauto.com. Order your replacement today and get your vehicle back on the road!

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