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Ignition lock cylinder (locked-up)


January 5, 2008
Reaction score
City, State
wichita kansas
Year, Model & Trim Level
'99 explorer 5.0 AWD
Hey all,

Like the title says I'm having a problem with the lock cylinder on my '99 X. The problem is you pop the key in there and the cylinder will not turn at all. I have tried everything that I know of to get it to turn but to no avail.

Now, I have searched on here and I have followed some of the threads. I've removed the three screws and the column cover and see the little button that you depress, but if I can't get the key to turn into the "on" position to get the button to go in all of the way what do I do from there? I'd like to avoid any 5 LB. hammer and screw driver fun if at all possible. :D

Thanks for any help!!

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Looks like there are but a few choices. Call a locksmith, call the dealer or drill out the locking mechanism. BUT if you do drill it out, you will have to recover the chip that is in your existing key and attach it close to the ring that reads it. You will lose the PATS function of the ignition key, however. I think the locksmith may be the way to go to get it out, and have him re-key a new ignition switch to your existing key(s).

Ok. When talking about drilling out the lock, do you mean drill out that little button? If I were to do that, that should free up the lock cylinder right?

Maybe I'll just hire the locksmith lol.

Have you tried a tube of graphite in the lock?

My 99 Explorer also had a problem with the key not wanting to turn until I wiggled it a bit...I had a tube of lock graphite that I squirted into the lock and I have had no issues since...

The PATS transceiver unit I believe is in a ring around the outside of the lock cylinder...This picture is of a Focus column in a Ford Ranger but it is the similar location in the Explorer in case you have to replace the lock cylinder...


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Ok, I see that ring. Thanks!

If you have the new cylinder "keyed" to your existing key, you should have no PATS issues.
And to answer your question about where to drill: No, not the little pin, but the actual ignition. You would have to drill out all the tumblers on both sides of the ignition switch and stop before going too deep. Even if you do this, you still need your existing key to start the truck (and/or get the chip that is in the key in very close proximity to that ring around the switch). Then when you get a new switch, you would have to have it keyed to your existing key anyway, unless you want to get the chip out of the key and ziptie it inside the column so that the PATS system is fooled into thinking the correct key is being used.
So much easier to use a locksmith.

Well, guys thank you for the responses! :thumbsup: Lock-smith it is then.

I love working on cars, but I don't think I want to tackle this one. I'd probably drill right through some wiring or something. :p: Coupled with not really knowing where to drill I would probably end up with a new column lol.

Well, Thank God I was able to free up the lock cylinder this afternoon. Popped the key in and used my 12" adjustable wrench and "snap" broke it free! Everything works as it should. Going to replace the lock anyway, but I at least can drive it and get the cylinder out. I'm at a loss of what was holding it up though.

Here is a pic of the "fix" and the truck. Only mods being cut-open air box and removed roof-racks and clear corners. As of this writing I have 249,323 miles.



I was experiencing similar problems with my 95 Explorer XLT. The hard to turn key nearly required a 12inch wrench to turn it. I decided that the first step in resolving this was to replace the ignition lock cylinder assembly. Since the vehicle has 90K on it I presumed based on some of the previous posts that this would resolve my problem.

What I learned:

1: 9 out of 10 locksmiths don’t have stores. They come to you and in doing so you incur a steep trip charge. Average quote for this job $150. To find the 1 in 10 locksmiths that does have a facility you can go to the yellow pages and search under “Safes and Vaults”. All of these guys are locksmiths and you can go to them to rekey your new replacement lock cylinder. You can also check out their nifty safes while your waiting.

2: You can do it cheaper if you can wait. Replacement ignition lock cylinder assemblies can be ordered on the web for $20 to $30 dollars for the Explorer. They will come in a couple of days with two keys which won’t match your doors. If you want to get them to match you’ll have to go to a locksmith to rekey the new cylinder….see step 1. Locksmiths consistently quoted the replacement ignition lock cylinder at $60 including rekeying so you end up with the same key for the ignition as the doors. I choose this route because of step 4.

3: Even though my Chilton’s manual says I needed to remove my steering wheel to remove the lock cylinder, nothing could have been further from the truth. On my tilt wheel the bottom shroud of the steering column is held in place by 3 Philips head screws. Once removed you can clearly see the button at the 8 o’clock position which is required to be pushed with a brad like punch (I used a small Allen wrench) while the lock is in the ignition on position, and presto the lock pops out. In fact upon closer examination there is a hole located in the shroud beneath the lock cylinder that is designed to push the release button with out removing anything. I’m sure the dealership knows about that.

4: The lock cylinder reminded me of a carburetor rebuild exercise. Once out of the steering column the cylinder can separate and POW you have tiny springs and pins everywhere. Yes this happened to me. The locksmith who keyed my new ignition lock cylinder told me to hold the top and the bottom of the cylinder together or the new one would separate and pow more springs and pins.

5: Ford wanted $95 dollars for the ignition lock cylinder at the parts desk. That’s you go and pick up the part and install it yourself. I have no idea what they want to R&R. Ford can’t rekey the new ignition lock cylinder (at least my local dealer can’t) unless you have the original key code that was provided to the original owner by the original dealer. Lots of luck in having that one laying around. So if you go the dealership route you’ll end up with two keys for your car one for the ignition and one for the doors. To resolve the two key problem go to step 1 and pay the locksmith for the rekeying.

Lastly and probably most importantly this did not fix my problem. :mad: When I installed the new ignition lock cylinder my problems remained. In picking the locksmiths brain he told me that my problem may be related to linkages which connect to the ignition lock. I believe that he is correct in my case. My problem occurs when the vehicle is turned off and the steering lock engages. Once engaged it is very difficult to turn the key. By turning the steering wheel away from its locked position the ignition lock frees up and the mechanism moves freely. :thumbsup: