OFFICIAL DIY: How to replace ignition and/or unlock steering column


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How To Replace Your Ignition, Tumbler, and Unlock Your Steering Column

This DIY is a step by step on how to remove and replace your ignition (and tumbler) with a bonus on how to unlock your steering column permanently. The reason for this happened as I was at the end of my engine swap and as I go to start the car, my ignition will not turn out of the off/zero position. Nothing I could do would break it free. I shook, pounded, rocked, and did everything I could until my wheel locked on me too! Great, now I have a locked steering wheel and a locked ignition. The various “how to” threads I found doing a google search gave me rough ideas on what I was doing, but here is everything you will need to know from start to finish in detail. If anyone is as unfortunate as I, here is a quick and easy step by step on how to solve a similar problem.

Applicable Years: 92-95 for sure. Though as you read on, you'll see I took apart a 96 Integra ignition in the exact same manner as the 92-95 so I imagine this will work on a couple other models too.

Difficulty: Out of 5 I give this a 2

Estimated Time: A conservative 3 hours.

Required Parts: Replacement ignition w/key. Depending on your reason for doing this, you could probably just reuse yours after modding/fixing it. I found a 96 Integra ignition a few miles away for $20 I chose to use that and avoid spending any time or money on getting the tumbler fixed/re-keyed.

Required tools:
- Screw driver (Phillips and flat head)
- Dremel w/ long skinny attachment and a large metal cutting wheel (These are what I used from Lowes. Dremel Item #: 225167, “skinny attachment” Item #: 94685, wheel kit Item #: 116781)
- needle nose pliers will help, but I think you could manage with out them
- Safety glasses for the sparks and metal bits you’re pretty mug will be inches away from!
- Drill with bits (3/8’s bit is as big as you’ll need to go). Unless you plan to just drop your ignition and replace it, you won’t need this. The drill is only used to unlock your steering column but leave your ignition in place.
- I would suggest getting a towel or something to put down on the floor so you don't have to deal with metal flakes all over the place.

Alright, let the fun begin!

Step1: Pull out the screws marked here with red dots. They should all be phillips from factory. Once the large plastic panel is released, you’ll notice the metal bracket right behind it. It’s held in by two #10 bolts. I removed it because I thought I had to but after doing this, I think you can work around it.

Step2: Remove the plastics that surround the ignition. They’re held on by a couple tabs marked with red dots.

Step 3: Lower your steering column as far as it will go with the column adjustment lever and get a good look at everything.

Step 4: Depending on your intent here, this could be your last couple steps. Because my key was locked in the ignition and I couldn’t turn it to ACC to unlock the tumbler and pull it free, I thought freeing the steering wheel would help me get another crack at getting the key loose. So with that, here is what you do.

Step 4a: First, take the long flat harness loose that goes into your steering wheel because it’s in the way of your drill. I would not recommend just holding it out of the way. The last thing you want to do is have it fall while your drilling and chop it up.

Step 4b: As you can see here, it’s held at the yellow connector with two blue tabs. Just push your flat head (or needle nose) in there and squeeze them out. I only did just the far left one and when the harness fell out, the other blue tab came out too.

Step 4c: Now disconnect it and tuck it away or loop it through your steering wheel so you can see that round gold disc.

Step 4d: Start with a couple small drill bits and work your way up to the 3/8’s drill bit which is just big enough for the spring holding your steering column lock in to fall out. Once it’s out (It may just fall on its own or you may need to work it out), the steering will be free forever though I really REALLY recommend figuring out some way of holding it down or removing it all together. I replaced it so I didn’t have to worry about it, but if I could have unlocked my ignition, I would have just reused everything you see here and probably drilled a hole through the steering lock (pictured below) and put a pin through it just in case you hit a bump and it locks your wheel. YIKES!

Step 4e: Ok, so if all you wanted to do was free your column forever, this might possibly be the end of the road for you. Though I would strongly recommend pulling the ignition off anyway and figuring out a good way to make sure it never accidentally locks your wheel while you’re driving. See pictures below for what you’ll be dealing with once you pull it free.

Step 5: Now that we have the upper steering column cover off, we can now see the two screws holding the ignition and steering column lock to the column. Of course when you see them, they will have no way of unthreading. That’s where the dremel comes into play. In this picture, you can see I already made the cuts. (See below this photo for uncut screws and the Dremel attachment with metal cutting wheel) Notice how there isn’t much room for movement. This is why I recommend using the Dremel attachment piece. It’s pretty skinny and still will be tricky to get at. The big bulky main Dremel piece I don’t think would work though I didn’t try it. I didn’t want to waste my time and I already had the attachment so that’s what I used.

Step 6: Pictured here is what the uncut screws look like. There is no way to unthread them so we’ll do that by very carefully Dremeling a slit in them so your flat head screwdriver can turn them out.

Step 7: Now that you have your cuts made, just stick your flat head in there and turn them out. Your ignition will drop and you can now easily disconnect everything and plug them into your new ignition! Pretty simple

Step 8: To reinstall, just reverse the steps and you’re done! I just reused the cut screws and it seems to be holding just fine. They didn’t turn out before you cut them so I didn’t feel it was important to replace them. Plus I did a pretty good job making the cuts so they were very reusable.

A few extra Bonus photos

For those of you doing a swap, you may or may not know about the interlock system that holds the key in and won't let it loose unless you disable it or take your negative terminal off your battery. Here's what it looks like. You'll notice I pulled the white cover off already (set aside but still shown in the photo) to expose the "gold box" with plunger. Just pull the box off and the plunger will just slide right out.

Here is a picture of the steering wheel lock held in so your wheel is free to turn.

And here it is pulled out and in the lock position. Like I mentioned above, I would seriously consider finding a way to get rid of it all together or keep it locked down forever if you remove the spring. I've read that people have Dremel'd it off, glued it down, or taped over it. Some have said that once the key is in, it can't slide up anyway so no need to worry. I feel it's better to be safe than sorry. My thought was just to get a drill bit and drill right through the middle of it (where my pointer finger is) and pin it down similar to a trailer hitch with a pin/latch system (Or a cotter pin). Then you never have to worry about it.

What a drilled and non drilled ignition look like side by side. The drilled one in this photo I took up past a 3/8 bit to see if I could drop the lock out but couldn't. After looking it over, I think if you removed more of the gold disc, you may have a shot of getting it completely out. I didn't bother because I replaced the whole unit anyway.

Review: So after doing this, I don't think it can be done any faster or easier or that I could have done anything different. My wheel was locked and my key would not turn out of OFF position which is required if you want to remove the tumbler. One thing I noticed is that the 96 Integra ignition is just slightly different in the way one of the connectors screws on. Other than that, it was pretty simple and fairly painless. 3 hours is probably over kill but I figured some people would probably spend most of their time getting a good long look at the two cuts you have to make.

If anyone has anything to add, correct, show a better pic of, or anything that will make this DIY better, please let me know and i'll make the changes. Thanks!!

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looks good and really detailed
Thanks man! I have a butt load more pics from this, but thought these here described it pretty well. I've got to do a bunch more of these DIY's. I'm tired of googling for every damn thing. LOL

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