Last night, as I walked into the house from the garage, I passed the lovely Loriann and said to her, “at least I got a good story to blog.” With the kitchen mostly functional and no other car requiring my attention, I decided to tackle Ringo’s starter switch issue. Yeah, this is the same problem that was not fixed during my last foray into the garage. When that effort failed, I switched focus to the ignition switch, so that’s what I worked on last night.
Getting an old GM ignition switch out of the dash requires a stiff wire and the ignition key. With the key turned to the lock position, you stick the wire into the tiny hole in the cylinder and push while turning the cylinder counterclockwise. After some jiggling, the cylinder turns past LOCK and will pull out. Once the cylinder’s removed, the retaining ring can be spun off freeing the switch assembly. Note that I put the shifter in LOW to improve access to the ring – this is important later on the tale. Snaking the switch with its harness still connected out from behind the dash is daunting, but doable.
With the switch out, I clamped it into the vise and tapped the little swaged tangs out to free the plastic inner contact retainer from the housing. Being careful to note the orientation, I removed the retainer and inner copper plate. After some light wire brushing all the black nastiness was gone with shiny copper remaining. A coat of dielectric grease and I put the sandwich back together and swaged over the three tangs to make things solid again. The multi-meter confirmed good continuity in both the run and start positions, so I slithered back under the dash and snaked the switch back into its home after first plugging in the mating connector. On went the retaining ring and in went the cylinder. A test-turn of the key and … WHAT? NOTHING? IRRRR!
One thing I noticed when I’d removed the mating plug was that there was some exposed wire at the back of the plug before the wire insulation started. Thinking maybe pulling on the plug had pulled a conductor from its contact, I re-removed the switch and tested continuity between the spade and the exposed wire on the back of the connector – zero ohms is good. So what’s the issue? I then decided to jumper the hot terminal to the start terminal and see if I had 12 volts at the engine bay connector. Nope – zero volts is NOT good. Pondering the places where the wire would be interrupted, it finally occurred to me that the circuit goes through a safety switch in the shifter that prevents starting the car with it gear. And, yes, I’d left the shifter in LOW. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I reattached the plug to the switch, popped the cylinder in, put the shifter in NEUTRAL, and – what do you know – the engine turned when I twisted the key. Success; so back out came the cylinder, and I re-snaked the switch back into its home, put on the retainer, and RE-re-inserted the cylinder. One more test and I’ll be good-to-… WHAT? NOTHING? IRRRR! A search behind the dash and the culprit was quickly found. My snaking the switch into place had pulled one of terminal off the aforementioned safety switch. Plugged it in and THIS time the starter spun immediately with the turn of the key.
The car started right up again when I went to back it down the driveway after putting all the tools away. Great; problem solved I’m thinking. Not so fast. This morning I went out to drive the car to work, and, wouldn’t you know it, the darn thing wouldn’t start with just the key. Thank goodness I didn’t remove the starter switch. Now what to do? NOTHING – just live with the switch.