How to Remove Ignition Key Cylinder

There is no single way how to remove an ignition key cylinder. Your technique is going to vary with the type of vehicle you are working on.

Ford vehicles are the easiest to work on. All that is needed is a stiff coat hanger wire or a pick. Insert the key and move it back partially toward the accessory position. There is a small hole in the plastic cover close to the steering wheel, directly under the ignition tumbler. The tumbler has a button that holds it in. Insert the wire vertically up in the hole and move it around while pushing up slightly. Once the button is pushed in, turn the key clockwise and the tumbler will pull out. Installing it is simple also. With the key in the tumbler, line the top protruding ledge up with the recess in the tumbler housing and push the tumbler straight in until the button engages. A slight rotation of the key and it is locked in place.

A GM product is much more complicated. For this procedure some specialty tools are necessary. The following is a list:

  • Wheel puller kit
  • Steering wheel spring compressor
  • Set of torx screwdrivers
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Small pocket screwdriver
  • Pick
  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet and 3" extension
  • Set of 3/8-inch drive sockets
  • Set of wrenches


Disconnect the negative terminal on the battery. Allow the vehicle to sit for twenty minutes to let all the circuits to go to sleep. This is to avoid having the air bag go off while it is being removed.

Remove the air bag by using the torx and taking the two screws out of the back of the steering wheel. Very carefully, and always keeping it facing away from you, lift the air bag up off the steering wheel enough to see the wires. Carefully remove the wire connectors on the air bag. Remove the horn ground connector from the air bag followed by the plastic tube the second wire goes in located to the left of the steering wheel nut. Push this tube down and rotate it counter-clockwise a little and pull it out. Carefully place the air bag face down on the passenger floor.

Remove the large steering shaft nut securing the steering wheel. Slide the wheel puller in the holes provided in the steering wheel. Remove the wheel.

Remove the steering wheel locking hub using the steering wheel spring compressor. Install the compressor on the steering shaft and thread it down. Turn the nut down, which forces the fork down on the hub. When the hub has been compressed enough to see that the snap ring retainer is loose, remove it with the small pocket screwdriver and the pick. Lift the hub along with the horn collar and spring off the shaft. Do not loose the parts.

Remove the emergency flasher with the Phillips screwdriver. It will come off with a tiny spring behind it and the screw. Remove the screw in the turn signal lever where it is secured to the turn signal switch. Remove the lever.

Remove the three screws in the switch. There is one on the bottom left and two on the top and bottom right in the switch. It will be necessary to use your finger to flip the top part of the switch to remove the bottom screw and the opposite for the top. Carefully, and with just a little force, grab the turn signal switch on the left side and pull it out just to the top of the steering shaft. It does not need to be completely removed. It is just necessary to get below the switch. If it does not want to pull out easily, use your other hand to help feed the harness upward from the bottom of the column.

Look to the right side where the key tumbler enters the column. You will see a little plastic piece with two short metal arms slanting at about the eleven o'clock position. This is the key reminder button. This is a pain in the neck if not done correctly. Look at how it is inserted carefully. It has a separate flat spring under it. This spring must go under it when replaced. When you take it out the spring will take off if you are not careful. Use the small pocket screwdriver and easily and carefully pry this out. Remove the long securing screw on top of the tumbler, which will allow the tumbler to be removed.

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