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Ignition lock problem!!


Well-known member
Feb 20, 2002
Eksjo, Sweden
1974 red coupe, 1969 yellow vert
I decided to replace my ignition lock, since the old one could be operated without a key (not much use then...).

Ordered a new lock from Ecklers, disassembled the steering wheel and the stuff behind (telescopic/tilt, makes it even more fun...), and put in the new lock.
When I had put half of the stuff back together I noticed that the lock couldent be put in the "lock" position. So I tried with the old lock again, and it was the same with that too (and has been always I guess, but since the key could be removed from the old lock in al positions, I really didn't think about it).
So I removed the lock, and operated the rod inside the steering column directly with a wrench, and the problem was the same; I can turn from "off" to "run" and "start", but not fully anti-clockwise to the "lock" position.

Anyone has any ideas about this? Dismantling the whole steering column is not what I am dreaming about...
Is the corvette supposed to have a steering lock that operates with the ignition lock? In that case you propably have to turn the steering wheel a bit in order to lock in the right position, but that doesnt seem to help here.
Mine doe that too. The steering wheel never locks. I read somewhere that the transmission has to be in reverse to lock the wheel!

I've been dieing to try it, but my car is in the shop. Let me know if that is it.

You mean you cannot lock the steering wheel, but you can still remove the key?
That's the problem for me, since I cannot turn the key to "lock", the key cannot be removed...

I doubt that there is a connection with the gearbox, but I'll try it the next time I ge to my car.

ooh. I can remove the key just fine. I seem to remember the lock not going all the way back to "lock" though. Perhaps someone else will chime in?

Curiosity was killing me so I went to try mine. My wheel does not "lock" in any position (neutral or reverse). My key will not come out unless it is in the "lock" position.
If you can remove the key while not in the "lock" position, that means you can operate the lock without using the key att all, right??

Mine was just like that before I bought the new lock; you could remove the key in any position, and the car could be started without inserting the key!

On a functional lock, the key can only be removed while in "locked", but since this doesn't work for me, I now have two options; using the old lock (where the key is not really needed) or the new lock (where the key is stuck)... No difference really..

Sorry for the confussion. It seems my lock is working perfectly. I though the steering wheel should lock when the key was removed. (like on a newer car)

The key only comes out when the ignition is in the lock position.

There is (or was originally) a cable from a lever on your steering column to the selector lever on your transmission (automatic) or to the reverse shift lever (manual) - it was called a "backdrive" or "interlock" cable, and prevented the lock cylinder from rotating into the "Lock" position unless an automatic was in "Park" or a manual was in reverse, so the key couldn't be removed unless the car was in park/reverse. If the cable is gone or improperly adjusted, the cylinder won't rotate to the "Lock" position; usually when people remove the cable and linkage, they do some kind of "Bubba" rework to trick the column into thinking that the transmission is in park/reverse.
Most GM cars with Saginaw Steering columns require an extra procedured step to get the ignition key to turn to the locked position.

This extra step should stop someone from turning the key to the locked position while the car is in motion.

Most GM Saginaw steering columns will lock the steering wheel once the key is turned to the locked position (even without removing the key.) That's bad news for the guy who's trying to save gas by turning off the engine while coasting down a mountain. He'd probably turn the key a little to far, lock the steering wheel, panic and jump out of the car without his mother-in-law. What a loss. The car- the car- the car....:)

The extra steps are safety interlock procedures.
Automatics must be in park while standard trans must be in reverse or at least a special button pushed that'll allow turning and removal of the key thereby locking the steering wheel.

If your key comes out in the wrong position don't allow Bubba to force it back to the locked position as he's checking things out or you may go no where for a while.

Someone has forced the key to come out of the lock because they couldn't get the key/lock turned back to the locked position where the key is supposed to come out. They couldn't get it back to the locked position because they didn't defeat the special interlock safety device mentioned earlier. Bubba has done his job so now the lock and column never actually get locked. No key required. Bubba can borrow your car anytime..

Most quality imports will allow the steering wheel to lock only when the key is actually removed. Witnessed by a heavy Clunk sound as the key is withdrawn.
JohnZ, MotuVette;
Thanks for this information, trhat is completely new to me.
I haven't tried to lock with the gear in reverse, nor have I tried the button on the steering wheel, so I'll guess this is the first steps... (have to wait until the weekend though, when I get back to my car.)

But if I have understood you right, the device that prevents the key from being extracted must be electrical operated (since the cables from the gear selector).
What happens if the battery is disconnected (as I have done during the installation of the new lock)?? Do I have to have the battery in order to remove the key? If so, it surely sounds a bit odd...
Most are a mechanical linkage or a flexible bicycle brake type of cable.

Keep in mind that this interlock safety mechanism only prevents the lock from returning to the locked position which is where the key can be removed. The lock retains the key.
Same as your house or apt lock. Just try to pull that key out in the wrong position. Well, your car's ignition lock had it's key pulled out in the wrong position.

If your key can be removed in any other position, the lock tumblers have been damaged. Chances are good that if that lock ever gets turned back to the actual lock position it will never turn in any direction again.

Suggestion to all. Don't mess with it. If your key is coming out without locking the wheel or no key is actually required to start the vehicle. Leave it as is. Nothing further should go wrong and your car will stay happy as long as Buba doesn't touch it.

To fix this problem you must first find and permenantly defeat the interlock so the lock/key can be put into the locked position. You can do this yourself. It's the easy part.

Once in the locked position the key or lock may not function properly since the key was yanked in the wrong position thereby distorting the tumblers.

The hard part:

Now the lock must be replaced. A locksmith should be your first call. He'll need to know about tilt and telescopic Saginaw GM columns. Most seasoned locksmiths are quite familiar with these columns. Make sure he has a replacement turtle for the horn mechanism. The turtle (plastic piece looks like a turtle) isolates the horn from ground which makes the horn blow continuously without it. The turtle is usually destroyed during the disassembly process. Without the turtle replacement the horn must be disconnected and most of the disassembly procedure must be performed again to replace it later. It'll cost you the labor again.

A locksmith should be able to perform the procedure in less than an hour. Some claim they can do it in twenty minutes. Only with the correct tools and knowledge of course.

Schedule the jpb so the locksmith doesn't have you over a barrel in an emergency. Take your car to his shop to save service charges. Call around and get the best price and feel comfortable that this guy isn't a Buba.

Best advice is to leave it alone. If your car is happy then leave it alone. For more info you can email me and I'll walk you through the ignition lock replacement steps for 68-82 vettes.
Thank's for your time,

It seems that I have completed the hard part, but failed the easy part then... :)

I have bought and installed a new lock, since the old one was damaged. The installation is a bit of a mess, and yes, I managed to destroy the turtle (it fell in two parts when I took it off, and even more parts when I managed to drop it on the ground....), but some epoxy plastic made it like new again.

Now I only have to defeat the interlock, in order to put the key in "locked", and remove the key...
But maybe I have no problem at all. When I was in my garage and struggeled with this, I didn't know about the link to the gearbox, and the gears was in neutral I guess...

But what IF the interlock is damaged, do I need to disassebly the whole steering column in order to permanantely override the interlock??

Read JohnZ's earlier post. He seems to have experience in that area.

I'm not familiar with the interlocks. You shouldn't need to disassemble the column again. It must be a basic push pull type of mechanism. Find either end of the thing and push or pull as required and then lock it in place with a Buba gizmo.

Sounds like you don't actually need to defeat the thing but simply adjust it so that it operates as GM intended.

The wheel locking bolt is usually a round spring loaded 3/8" pin located at 12 o'clock protruding from the column straight at your eyes. Can be seen with the wheel removed. The locking plate is a heavy black metal disk that's held on the steering shaft by the giant "C" clip which is located under the turtle. This locking plate has numerous large notches around it's circumference. When the ignition is in the locked position the spring loaded pin will pop into one of the notches of the locking plate. Often you must wiggle the wheel to get a notch lined up before the wheel is actually locked. Click.

This same locking pin and plate is what causes some weaker folks to not be able to turn their ignition key when their front wheels are up aainst a curb. They get the streering wheel bound at the locking pin when they use the streeing wheel to help pull themselves out of the car. Their body weight is applied to the wheel causing it to turn just enough for the pin to pop into the plate under the resistance of the front tires against the curb.

When they return to start the car they can't overcome the resistance applied by turning the ignition key with two fingers. The steering wheel must have pressure applied in the opposite direction to overcome the resistance and allow the locking pin to slide out of the locking plate.

Hey, you know what I'm talking about cause it's happen to you.

Good Luck guys. I'm not a vette owner. I'm a Miata Turbo man helping out a friend with his project vette.

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