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Steering Column Repair/Key Cannot Be Inserted into Ignition of Domestic Sedan


Please assist me with an apparent ignition lock problem. I have a Ford Contour with about 55,000 original miles. I think it has an adjustable tilt column, but that is not something I have adjusted or use. Today, after using the vehicle once, I went to start it and could not insert the key completely into the ignition. I tried cranking the wheel to get it out of the locked position while simultaneously inserting the key without success. I used the spare key (both keys are original from the manufacturer) and that too was unsuccessful. I tried spraying some WD-40 on both the key and inside the lock cylinder, and aside from getting some grime out of the cylinder, there was no positive results from that either. What kind of problem does this sound like to you? Is this something that would generally be handled by an auto mechanic or a locksmith? Is this a repair that could be attempted by a private individual? Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

Hi Alex:

Sorry about your car.  Everything you said is right on the mark.  The lock has dropped a tumbler inside.  You can possibly slide a small paper clip or probe inside the lock and wedge the tumbler back up or down into place to allow the key to be fully inserted.  Aside from that, you will need to force the lock to turn, breaking it to allow you to remove it from the column.  These locks are pretty tough to do like that (like surgery) and I would not recommend a novice attempt it  If you err, you will end up needing to replace the entire column and that's not really necessary right now...just getting the key in and able to turn.

Working with WD40, a small tap hammer and patience--- possibly even grinding a small point on the tip of the key to create a wedge effect, may allow you to slide that errant tumbler back into place.  Once it does turn, I would highly recommend having a locksmith replace the lock before it happens again.

Good luck


Steering Column Repair

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Douglas Gan


My specialties are stolen vehicles, steering column and ignition locks repair, airbag service and installation and diagnosis. My work includes both domestic (USA) vehicles and foreign designs.


30 years owning a company that specializes in steering columns, ignition & airbag related problems

GM certified, ASE certified, 4 yrs college, Mech Tech degree
I own multiple auto repair companies and can help you professionally through any of our websites at: ---- we stock many older steering column parts and can rebuild your column if you ship it to us --- we sell airbag replacement information (no parts) -- we perform investigations for many types of vehicle claims
Please feel free to contact us through any of our websites for more information or help

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