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 How to remove and replace the ignition lock found on most GM cars from 1969 to the mid 1990's.

We used a steering column from a Pontiac Firebird to illustrate replacing the ignition lock, and this particular type ignition lock is used on most GM cars from 1978 to the mid 1990's with the Saginaw steering columns. For the most part, GM used two different type locks from 1969 and well into the mid 1990's on some models. The locks are identical except for the way they are secured to the steering column. The first type lock simply snapped into the steering column using a retaining clip under spring pressure and was used on all GM cars from 1969 to 1977. A different and more secure method was used to secure the lock to the steering column starting in 1978 by using a bolt that ran through a groove in the lock, thus securing the lock to the column. Regardless of which type lock your GM car uses, the same procedure is used to get to the retaining clip or bolt that secures the lock.  All replacement lock cylinders can be found at carlocksandkeys.com.

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Pontiac Firebird Ignition Lock Replacement Procedure:

  1. The ignition lock is connected and held into the steering column using a retainer bolt. The first step in removing the ignition lock is to remove the steering wheel. This requires removing the steering wheel nut and using a steering wheel puller tool to pull the steering wheel off the steering wheel column shaft. The following photos show the steering wheel, steering wheel nut and steering wheel puller attached and ready to pull the steering wheel free from the column shaft.

  2. After the steering wheel is removed the next step is to remove the pressure plate. The pressure plate is held under spring pressure by a retainer ring and a special tool called a Lock Plate Tool is required to press the pressure plate away from the retainer ring so that the retainer ring can be removed. There must be a special tool made to remove the retainer ring, but I have always been able to maneuver the ring out of its groove using two screw drivers and sometimes using a tool that looks like a dental pick. Maybe snap ring pliers can be used to help remove the ring. Removing the retainer ring is probably the most difficult part of the procedure to remove the ignition lock.

  3. After the pressure plate is removed the next step is to remove the screws holding the turn signal mechanism, so that it can moved out of the way to gain access to the ignition lock retaining bolt. In the first photo below you can see the three screws holding the turn signal mechanism in place and one screw securing the turn signal arm or lever to the turn signal mechanism. All screws were removed. With the turn signal mechanism out of the way you can gain access to the ignition lock retaining bolt. After the ignition lock retaining bolt is removed the ignition lock can be pulled out of the steering column. If your Saginaw steering column is from a GM vehicle built between 1969 and 1977, than your ignition lock is secured to the steering column using a retaining clip under spring pressure. You must gain access to this clip to apply pressure to the clip and pull the lock out of the column. GM didn't always provide a slot or hole in the column to reach the ignition lock retaining clip, and this required making your own hole using a screw driver or punch and lightly tapping it with a hammer. Where to make the hole should be determined by a mechanic or you can hold the new ignition lock up to the column to gauge about where the retaining clip on the old ignition lock should be.

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