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Old 08-21-2011, 05:33 PM   #1
HerAstraXR
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2008 Astra XR
Default Ignition switch problems

My ignition has a problem sometimes. When I put the key in to start it, the key won't turn, like it's stuck. So I have to sit there and mess with it, turning it back and fourth, until it finally takes and turns so the car starts. This doesnt happen all the time either, sometimes I'll go all week without any trouble, then it happens again. What I want to know is what needs to be replaced, and about what it will cost? I read in a thread a while ago that someone else had a similar problem with their Astra, Is this a common issue for this car? I have an extended warranty, but I'm not sure if this would be covered.

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Old 08-21-2011, 06:55 PM   #2
tallNewfie
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

I'm not sure if this if your problem or not, but if you have your wheels turned while parking it can cause your ignition mechanism to lock up.

Basically, cars are built so that when you take a key out, you can't turn the steering wheel, thus making it difficult for someone to hijack your car without a key, and also allowing people to park on hills and still be safe if their hand brake gives out (the turned wheel should hit the curb and stay there). So if your wheels are turned when you stop the car, once everything settles to a stopped position, the natural pressure from the turned wheels can pull against this wheel lock mechanism and provide resistance that stops the ignition. To remedy this, just turn the steering wheel slightly to take the pressure off of the ignition and it should be fine.

So no, this isn't a problem with your Astra, as it happens to virtually all cars made in the past 20 years (or at least all that I have driven).

If this isn't the problem, or doesn't help, then you may actually have an ignition problem. If we had a normal key, it could be wear on the key causing it to not properly lift the tumblers in the lock. I had this happen several times with my old SC2 and was covered under warranty.

Hope this helps!

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Old 08-21-2011, 09:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by tallNewfie View Post
I'm not sure if this if your problem or not, but if you have your wheels turned while parking it can cause your ignition mechanism to lock up.

Basically, cars are built so that when you take a key out, you can't turn the steering wheel, thus making it difficult for someone to hijack your car without a key, and also allowing people to park on hills and still be safe if their hand brake gives out (the turned wheel should hit the curb and stay there). So if your wheels are turned when you stop the car, once everything settles to a stopped position, the natural pressure from the turned wheels can pull against this wheel lock mechanism and provide resistance that stops the ignition. To remedy this, just turn the steering wheel slightly to take the pressure off of the ignition and it should be fine.

So no, this isn't a problem with your Astra, as it happens to virtually all cars made in the past 20 years (or at least all that I have driven).

If this isn't the problem, or doesn't help, then you may actually have an ignition problem. If we had a normal key, it could be wear on the key causing it to not properly lift the tumblers in the lock. I had this happen several times with my old SC2 and was covered under warranty.

Hope this helps!
Yeah, I already knew about cars having that feature for as long as I have been driving, LOL, That's why when the key won't turn, I am sitting there wiggling the wheel back and fourth and turning the key at the same time. Still it takes several tries.

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Old 08-21-2011, 09:52 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

Hmmm... well in that case I don't know. I don't know if the keys can wear down like the old style, but it shouldn't this quickly.

Perhaps someone might have a more productive suggestion.

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~~ Bryan ~~
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:59 PM   #5
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerAstraXR View Post
My ignition has a problem sometimes. When I put the key in to start it, the key won't turn, like it's stuck. So I have to sit there and mess with it, turning it back and fourth, until it finally takes and turns so the car starts. This doesnt happen all the time either, sometimes I'll go all week without any trouble, then it happens again. What I want to know is what needs to be replaced, and about what it will cost? I read in a thread a while ago that someone else had a similar problem with their Astra, Is this a common issue for this car? I have an extended warranty, but I'm not sure if this would be covered.
What I believe you're describing tends to happen more on the Astra than other cars, which might be why you haven't experienced it before. It's just a quirk of the car, is perfectly normal, and is easy to work around. It usually occurs when the front wheels have been turned "off-center" when the car is sitting on uneven ground just before you shut the ignition cylinder off. The tires want to return the steering wheel back to a more "neutral" position due to something called caster, but can't because the steering wheel lock inside the column automatically engages when you shut off the ignition (which is meant to function as an anti-theft device).

The next time this happens and you find yourself unable to turn the ignition to start the car, gently rotate the steering wheel one way or the other while turning the key (which way should become more obvious through practice, although it is almost always in the direction the wheels are currently pointing). The ignition cylinder should free up immediately.

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Old 08-21-2011, 09:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astra La Vista! View Post
What I believe you're describing tends to happen more on the Astra than other cars, which might be why you haven't experienced it before. It's just a quirk of the car, is perfectly normal, and is easy to work around. It usually occurs when the front wheels have been turned "off-center" when the car is sitting on uneven ground just before you shut the ignition cylinder off. The tires want to return the steering wheel back to a more "neutral" position due to something called caster, but can't because the steering wheel lock inside the column automatically engages when you shut off the ignition (which is meant to function as an anti-theft device).

The next time this happens and you find yourself unable to turn the ignition to start the car, gently rotate the steering wheel one way or the other while turning the key (which way should become more obvious through practice, although it is almost always in the direction the wheels are currently pointing). The ignition cylinder should free up immediately.

I am going to try this, but I belive I am doing this already. When it won't turn the first time, I will move the steering wheel back and fourth (not far though because it's already locked) at the same time I am turning the key, and even then, it still takes a few good tries.

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Old 08-22-2011, 04:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerAstraXR View Post
I am going to try this, but I belive I am doing this already. When it won't turn the first time, I will move the steering wheel back and fourth (not far though because it's already locked) at the same time I am turning the key, and even then, it still takes a few good tries.
Coincidentally, this happened to me once today. The trick isn't to move the steering wheel "back and forth" multiple times, but to rotate it slightly in one direction only and hold it there while turning the key. Rotating the steering wheel back and forth means that you are only relieving pressure inside the mechanism 50% of the time (which might explain why you sometimes have to struggle). Rotating the steering wheel too far (to the point where you can't turn it any further) will jam the mechanism as well, but this time it is you that is providing the force and not the tires.

This problem usually occurs under the following conditions:

1) (With engine running) Turn steering wheel a few degrees in one direction or the other and hold it there
2) Turn ignition to the "off" position
3) Release your grip on the steering wheel

The steering wheel (by way of tension in the tires) then tries to rotate back opposite the direction you last turned it, but stops when it jams up against the locking mechanism. To unjam things, you'd need to rotate the steering wheel back in the same direction you were doing in step 1, while trying to turn the ignition cylinder.

To prevent this from happening, try this:

1) (With engine running) Turn steering wheel a few degrees in one direction or the other
2) Release your grip on the steering wheel
3) Turn ignition to the "off" position

By reversing steps #2 & #3, there should be no "tension" placed on the locking mechanism and the ignition cylinder should turn freely without fiddling with the steering wheel the next time you want to start the car.

PS: I guess I should also ask: is your car an automatic or a manual? Cars with automatic transmissions often won't let you turn the ignition cylinder unless the transmission is firmly engaged in either park or neutral (due to slop in the shifter mechanism).

...
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:06 PM   #8
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

It is a manual. Yesterday and today I was doing what I believe you suggested, I made sure the wheels were facing straight and the steering wheel was 'loose' before turning the engine off. As far as I noticed, this was working until tonight. I just went out to move my car so I could mow the lawn. The steering wheel was completely straightened out, and "locked" in it's position. I sat there for 15-20 minutes trying to turn the key while holding the wheel before eventually giving up. So I mowed the lawn, then tried again, still nothing. I even tried both times with my husband's key (which isn't used as often as mine) and there was no improvement. So at the moment my car is sitting. My husband is calling the GM dealership tomorrow in hopes of getting something fixed. And of course, we have a drive to take it on next week, so maybe there will be a quick resolution.

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Old 08-26-2011, 06:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

So we called in today, and it turns out this problem is not covered under the extended warranty. I think I have figured out what the trick is to it though, and it may be what was already stated in the above posts. As long as the steering wheel is straight, and it does not lock itself, the ignition is fine. Once the steering wheel is locked though, I seem to be having the problem. So for now we are going to take it on our trip, and if something goes wrong along the way, we'll have it fixed. Otherwise, we are going to drive it and probably have it repaired later on. Thanks to everyone that did give me advise and ideas.

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Old 11-14-2011, 02:13 PM   #10
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

In 2001 I bought a 1999 Saturn SL2.. my first car...I had her for 10 years..I had no complaints..other then the igintion switch problems..I replaced it (3) times...I loved my girl...but yeah the key problem started becoming a real hassle for me,eventually sold her few years ago as I moved out of country.. two years ago I moved back and didnt want another car payment for awhile so I bought a old 95 Mercury Mystique with only 100k miles... Today I am interested in the 2008 Astra...was super stoked, until I've seen issues with the key just as my SL had..I am not sure this is something I want to deal with again...I may just stick with the old girl a little longer cause she has been completely reliable for me and plus even better...no car payments!

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Old 06-04-2012, 08:47 PM   #11
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

I am struggling with the steering wheel lock as well. I am scared to even breath on the steering wheel once I turn off the car...wheels straight, all good then try and start her up...won't budge. I keep thinking there's a method I'm missing. Today I noticed that if I move fast from unlock, press clutch, turn key, I have a better chance of not locking up. Maybe time to take her in?
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Old 06-04-2012, 09:08 PM   #12
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

When this happens to me I turn the steering wheel slightly to the left and turn the key. It has never been more of a problem than that. I'm not even sure if it even is a "problem" to fix (at least in my case, and if it's the same thing you are experiencing).

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Old 06-18-2012, 08:50 PM   #13
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

I have this exact same issue. Just follow Astra_la_vista and tallNewfie's advice. It's a quirk of the Astra. You get used to it.

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Old 06-19-2012, 04:57 PM   #14
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Default Re: Ignition switch problems

I have had this problem too, and would mess around with the steering wheel until it unlocked. However, today, I can't seem to get it unlocked. I am stuck. Not sure what to do. I have tried my spare key as well, and it makes no difference. Time to call AAA??

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