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Old 06-06-2013, 11:12 PM   #1
sarahlynne
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Default Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

Hi, I've been having some trouble with my ignition in my 2002 SL1 for over a year now, but it's started to get really bad and I'd like to have it fixed. I was told in the past that I might need a new ignition switch/tumbler and that only the Chevy dealer could do the work since it required a new key for the car. Chevy quoted a price of about $300, which seems high...

Basically when I turn the key it doesn't always start. All the lights and accessories go on, and there's a click at the end of the turn, but the engine doesn't turn on. I used to be able to jiggle the key a bit as I turned it and that would make it work. It's gotten a lot worse though and the key itself is worn down from being turned in the ignition (the key is only about a year old but it's visibly worn). A few times it has taken an hour of trying to get it to work, and tonight I gave up and left it in a parking lot. I'd like to get it fixed but also can't much money into the car because it has a lot of other problems. So I'd like advice on what the problem seems most likely to be and if it does sound like it needs a whole new ignition switch, is it true that only Chevy can do that and does $300 sound right?

Also, I've been reading other posts on the forum and I see people talking about cylinder problems too. How would I know if my problem is the switch or cylinder? What is the difference in how they act up?

Oh, I did have a new key made by Chevy about a year ago. It didn't stop the problem, but that key does work better now than my older, more worn original key does. That older key actually seems to get kind of stuck in the ignition and won't turn very well.

Thank you!
Sarah

Last edited by sarahlynne; 06-06-2013 at 11:26 PM..

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Old 06-07-2013, 12:02 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

Well, some will want to 'steer' you into replacing the ignition switch when it may something else entirely..................like a worn out starter(?) The only hint from your description is the 'click' heard with the ignition switch in the START position.

Before making any conclusions about a possible worn out starter, there are several things to rule out first; battery, battery cables and their connections. Since the starter requires the most battery power, the battery/cables/connections need to be eliminated completely before a starter is considered the problem. Ignition switches hardly wear out and there is a specific procedure to test it requiring the ability to crawl under the engine and measure voltage on the starter terminal.

Mileage, maintenance, parts replaced? BTW, if the key turns normally, the lock cylinder is fine. The ignition switch is the electrical/mechanical connection to the lock cylinder, a separate part that rarely wears out.

Last edited by fdryer; 06-07-2013 at 12:14 AM..

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Old 06-07-2013, 12:16 AM   #3
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Default Re: Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

Why does that click in the start position make it seem like the starter?

It really seems to be related to the ignition itself. I'm really leaning more towards the cylinder than the switch. I never have any problem with losing power when driving or anything like that, which are problems I've read about with bad switches. And it will always start, I just have to get the key to cooperate with the ignition, and it's getting harder for that to happen. Lots of just jiggling the key, pulling it out, putting it in, and playing with it like that, and finally it will feel a little different and the car starts.

I'm mostly looking for advice on cylinder replacement - who can do it and how much it should cost on a 2002 SL1.

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Old 06-07-2013, 12:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

Any licensed locksmith should be able to replace the lock cylinder to use the existing key. Preferably one made recently from the VIN.

You can search the threads within Saturnfans about descriptions to replace lock cylinders, battery testing, cable checks, and testing for a specific 12v signal at the starter terminal to diagnose a faulty starter. Its been covered here.

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Old 06-07-2013, 01:50 AM   #5
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Default Re: Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

Ok, that's good to know that the cylinder is such an easy thing and a locksmith can do it. I guess it's possible I'm having two issues - a cylinder/key issue and a starter-related issue, so I'll take it to a garage and have that looked at. Thank you,
Sarah

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Old 06-07-2013, 03:09 AM   #6
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Default Re: Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

If you have to jiggle the key to get it to turn, it's a key problem. The fix for this is taking your registration to the GM dealer and getting them to cut a new key off the VIN.

If the key turns with no problems but then nothing happens, it's another issue. Fdryer listed the possible problems.

As for troubleshooting, we can do that here and you won't have to take it to the garage.

The first thing to look for is if there is a drain on the battery when you hit start and nothing happens. Turn the headlights on and see if they dim as you turn the key to start. If they do dim, that means your battery, battery connections, or ground connection is suspect. If your dash lights all go out when you hit start, this is also a sign to battery & connections.

If the headlights don't dim and you get any click at all, then the starter is highly suspect. At this point, jack the car up and tap lightly on the starter with a screw driver handle, small hammer, or block of wood then quickly try to start the car again. If it starts right up, replace the starter. This is the classic test for a going-bad-starter.

Good luck



Shawn

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Old 06-07-2013, 08:18 AM   #7
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Default Re: Ignition Switch - car won't turn on - intermittent

Where does the click sound appear to be coming from? Does it sound like it's under the hood?

Oh, one important detail - automatic or manual transmission?

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