A question about ignition switch locks

Before I get to my question, a bit of background: I drive a 2000 Ford Focus SE. About a month ago, the ignition switch jammed up on me. I could insert my key, but no amount of steering wheel jiggling/gear shifting/brake pressing/brute force could get the thing to turn. End result: $90 for a new switch, and a big fat waste one day of my time drilling the lock and installing the new part. From what I understand, the dealership would have charged me upwards of $300 to do the same thing.

Yesterday, I had a bit of a scare when the switch jammed up yet again, but fortunately, I was able to coax the key into turning with a little bit of elbow grease. Nonetheless, I’m hoping to be able to prevent this from happening again. My research indicates that this is a fairly common problem with this model, caused by a defect in the revolutionary (read: stupid) “sliding-bar-and-tumbler” design for the Focus’ lock.

My question is this: would it be possible for anyone – myself, the dealer, or a locksmith – to remove the tumblers from the lock altogether, thereby preventing the thing from being able to lock up? I understand that doing this, if it’s possible, would allow anyone on Earth to start my car with their own key (or a popsicle stick for that matter), but I’d rather take that risk than have to deal with being unable to start my own car. Besides, I doubt if car thieves go about inserting random keys into ignitions “just in case”. So, does anyone know if this is possible? Thanks in advance for your responses.


Maybe I misunderstand, but ripping out the steering lock and fiddling about with it is one of the main ways thieves do what they do. I doubt he’d even notice yours was modified, should you be able to do it.

A couple old threads with some useful information on ignition locks:
Why does the key get stuck in the ignition?
Help! I cannot turn the key in my previa.
I’ve ripped ignition locks apart, and fixed them as described in the OP. YMMV.

If your Focus has PATS like my 2000 Contour does, someone else starting your car is a non-issue. Do you have the plastic-head key with a chip in it? I had my ignition lock ripped out the hard way so I can now turn it with my finger, but the car won’t start without the key present.

YEEESSH. I had thought the ignition switch was recalled for fords, but I can’t seem to find anything for a 2000 focus. However I did find several scary recalls including one that would stick your throttle. Random engine stalling. Etc


What A2Steve said. The manufacturers have begun putting chips in the keys. Even if you have an exact duplicate key without a chip, the car won’t start.

Aha! you say. If I disable the ignition lock, but use the key with the chip, I should be able to start the car.

I dunno. The key and the lock have to make an electrical connection or else the car wouldn’t know there’s a chip there. If you mess around with the lock, the tumblers and whatever other crap they have jammed in there, you may not be able to make a connection.

The key’s chip says hello to a sensor near the ignition switch. the sensor gives a suspicious look to the key and checks with a computer located…elsewhere in the car. The computer checks the code in the chip and gives a friend or foe response to the sensor who authorizes the ignition process to continue…or not.

In several models using chip keys, this system has already been defeated by car thieves. it’s not hard to do if you know how. But messing with the tumblers shouldn’t affect it at all.

Hi simple enough to have done maybe even do yourself. The 200o Ford Focus should be an 8 cut ford system. The real problem your having is the spring cap is coming up and jamming up the lock, not actually the sidebar. Does not matter. Look at your key, if the keying hole is offset then it should be a transponder key. Transponder system will keep a screwdriver working a waferless lock.
If not, well removal of the wafers will allow anything to turn it.

Pull the lockswitch out and take it to a locksmith who can pull the wafers for you with minor problems. As I cannot recall which of the styles used by your focus without seeing it I cannot be 100% sure. (escorts in that time frame have a switch that will drive you to drink if you have to work on them).

YMMV and such.


Thank you all for your responses. I did some checking, and my key does indeed have an implanted transponder, which effectively removes any worries I was having about the procedure making my car extra-stealable (making up words is fun).

My main question was whether the lock could be tampered with in the manner I described; I knew that an ordinary lock could, but I was unsure about ignition switches, having never fiddled around with the things enough to be sure about anything. The responses here seem to indicate that it’s doable, so I’ll be taking it to a locksmith forthwith. Hopefully this will prevent the reoccurence of what is surely the most ridiculous car problem I have ever had (and believe you me, that’s saying something).

Silly? is a gravy train I tell you. Actually, the spring cap issue has been a GM switch (Manufactured by brigs and stratton) problem for many years.
If an Ignition lock fails (GM brigs and stratton) 95% of the time it is the spring cap which is not staked down.

I see little problem with your security since you do have a transponderkey.

The other computer you talk about is the engine’s ECU. If the ECU and ignition key codes don’t match, the ECU won’t turn on.

This measure works against hot-wiring a car. A thief will still be able to crank the engine by connecting the wires, but since the ECU is offline, it won’t start, no matter how long you crank it. They have found ways to get around it though, so do not get too confident and use additional security.

The same thing happens when you use an unauthorised key.

I think that maybe I should start a “Ask the car thief” thread :smiley: