Broken ignition switch help.

On my way home from work tonight when I went to start my truck I felt something break in the ignition. It was about -18F and the ignition was stiff, so stiff that something broke in the mechanism. The good news was that it started up and the steering column wasn’t locked either. Good.

Once I got home I couldn’t turn the engine off using the standard method. Knowing that it would shut off the engine I pulled the center wire out of the distributor. But current was still being drawn from the battery with the ignition being stuck in the “On” position. I pulled the ground off the battery. So I got it home, shut the engine off and stopped the battery from being drained, but now I really have a problem - I can’t turn the truck back on.

I swear I saw a video, or perhaps once I saw someone demonstrate using a cable to connect the battery to (I think) the started solenoid which turned the engine on. Would this work? Can someone confirm this? If not what is the easiest way for me to get it back on?

Oh, truck is an 88 (yes 88) F-150 5.0, automatic, fuel-injected.

Thanks in advance.

Is the steering locked ? If the steering is locked, how can you turn?

Down at the starter motor, there are two wires ,at least.

  1. A big chunky one, running straight from the battery.
    Leave this alone, it carries the large current to drive the starter motor.

  2. A small one from the ignition. When this wire supplies 12 ( or 24 ) volts into the starter motor, the starter motor operates. A solenoid powered switch connects wire 1 to connect to the actual starter motor inside. Its a relay but not being a discrete package, its called the solenoid (of the starter motor.). The reason for the complexity is so that the huge current doesn’t have to run through the switch at key… The key would be too heavy to turn !.
    There may be a third wire, eg a ground strap or something.
    The interesting one is wire 2.

I know that when you operate the key and move it from “on” aka “ignition” (where it sits when driving… ), to “start”, two effects happen

A. All features to do with running the engine the engine remain turned on - this means the fuel pump(s), the injectors, the ignition (spark plugs), the computer,
and you can extend this to any other system like variable valve timing , of course… “start” means the engine will start. I figure throttle and automatic transmissions will also be operating .
B. BUT all the accessories, including head lights, all things “dashboard” , indicators, are definitely off. And perhaps other things like engine cooling fan, ABS/stability controls, electric power steering, perhaps are NOT turned on ! And that means using the starter motor’s start wire is not enough. (Also if it was, it may not be big enough to power other features, such as air conditioning fan.)

Point A. means that that if you remove the wire 2. from the starter motor, join it up to the +ve the battery, the engine is ready to run, and then touch it back to the starter motor terminal to start the motor, it will start. You could drive it.

Point B, what you didn’t mention, means its still not safe to drive. You’d also have to connect +ve from the battery back to one or more placed in the dashboard circuits.,
eg to the fuse box terminals , or to the +ve of the air conditioning fan

The key might drive a couple of switches, so there may have to be more than one wire to the dash area … as the circuits don’t connect back together at the same terminal at the key mechanism… Also the headlights and air conditioning fan may draw a large current, so be careful your temporary jumping doesn’t power them through a too small conductor.

Thanks Isildir. Like I said the ignition is stuck to “On”, or, as like you said where the key normally is when driving. The steering column is NOT locked. Because the ignition is stuck to the “On” position I disconnected cable attached to the negative terminal on the battery to prevent the battery from discharging as some circuits are live with the key in the “On” position.

Can I jump the ignition to the starter solenoid using the positive battery terminal? Any educated guesses to what gauge of wire or cable I should use?

I guess I should just try it. I just want some sort of confirmation of my theory. I am sure I saw a video of someone starting a car engine with a pair of pliers by connecting the positive terminal to . . . something. The starter solenoid perhaps? Would that work?

OK. I found a video of a guy starting a car with a pair of pliers. That is what I need to do. How do I do it?

I used to do this as a kid. Do you have jumper cables?

Using just one wire of the cables, hook say red to the positive battery terminal and then touch the other end on the positive post of the starter motor. It should spark, and then crank the motor.

I started my lawn tractor like this for years when the solenoid was fried.

Be careful. I assume no responsibility for any injuries! Make sure the car is in park, or it could drive away on you!

Missed the edit window: look for starter solenoid bypass on Youtube. On a 1988 you should be able to do this with a screwdriver.

I believe that truck has a starter solenoid under the hood near the battery NOT at the starter itself. Jumping across the two large lugs on the solenoid with a jumper cable will turn the starter(MAKE SURE THE KEY IS IN THE “RUN” POSITION,TRANS IN PARK) it may not stay running if the ignition switch won’t engage in the “run” position.

Yes as “isilder” said a wire from the positive side of the battery to the SMALLER of the connections on the solenoid of the starter will crank the engine.

Any old piece of wire will do as the current is only for the solenoid not the whole starter, that is fed by the big wires on the solenoid. Hold the wire to the battery with temp clamp, a cloths peg would probably do and tickle the other end on the solenoid.

Just be sure the car is in neutral and that there is power to the plugs.

Be sure to take the piece of wire with you if you go out :slight_smile:

This should do it. Scroll down to the picture. The solenoid is top centre.

Yeah, if it’s a Ford (F-150) they have the starter solenoid bolted to the side of the engine compartment near the battery. GM (and a lot of other) vehicles have it built into the starters themselves.

Off the top of my head I don’t recall if an 88 has a solenoid on the starter or a fender mounted unit like this
In either case to get the car to crank jumper the large battery cable to the small electrical terminal using a jumper wire or in the case of a starter mounted solenoid an old screwdriver you don’t care about works. You may have to remove a rubber or plastic cover to access the battery cable at the starter.
Note: on a fender mounted unit there are two large cables use the battery cable that leads to the battery it’s the one that has power. Also on some fender mounted units there are two small terminals. One will cause the car to crank the other won’t. If you jumper one and nothing happens try the other.
Good luck.

Victory! The starter solenoid is mounted on the fender next to the battery. I had to remove a small wire connected to a small terminal and jump that with the large terminal of the solenoid connected to the positive battery terminal with a screwdriver. Easy peasy.

Thanks to everyone for the help.