Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Special Possumblog WEEKEND EDITION!

Made special ONLY because of the day of the week, not the content. BUT, you should all be used to that by now.

IN ANY EVENT, I thought I would give you the ignition lock update, mainly because it is a story full of all sorts of interesting invective and vitriol. And BLOOD! Cool!

As you all recall, the ignition switch on our 2001 Focus locked up tight Wednesday night right in the middle of trying to get everyone home and to church. This made me go “Grr.” You might further recall that I consulted the All-seeing Eye of the Internet later that evening to see if I could find a cause and solution to this conundrum. Or keynundrum. After only seconds, I found out that this is a common problem on Foci, and determined that there were three possible courses of action:

A) Call a tow truck and have it towed to the dealer and have them replace the lock--later found out to cost around $185. The only problem is that the new locks are no better than the old ones, and it could go bad tomorrow.

B) Tap the end of the key sharply to cause the internal pieces to unstick themselves, crank it and carry merrily on your way. Problem is that after an indeterminate number of taps and knocks, this trick eventually doesn’t work either, leading to a more permanent disability of the lock, leading you right back to A)

OR C) Open up the steering column, tap the key to get the lock to turn, then take out the cylinder, and take out all the tumblers and springs and the sidebar, all which are what wear out and sabotage the works. Then put it back together. You no longer have an operable lock, but the key has an electronic transponder pill in it that is read by the vehicle’s antitheft system, and even if you do put in another key and turn the ignition, it won’t crank.

In doing my investigation, the sources who had accomplished Scheme C said it was very simple to do, taking about thirty minutes. This simplicity was vastly overstated, mainly because there are two very crucial things that no one really delved into. These two things caused me to sweat a lot, and say bad words to myself, and actually contemplate spending good money on Scheme A. That would be bad. In addition, another source added in a COMPLETELY SUPERFLUOUS step that did nothing but slow down the process, and lead to more bad words.

BUT, I persevered and got everything undone and redone and now have a perfectly operable Focus.

Before I tell you the two things you MUST know to do this right, however, the crack Possumblog Editorial Legal Department requires that I post the following disclaimer:
I am a moron. Do not do the things I do, or you run the risk of suffering pain and/or agony and/or sudden mental incapacitance and/or urinary incontinence. The procedure of mucking about with the ignition lock is NOT authorized by any known earthly or celestial authority. I am a moron, and I do not work for Ford Motor Company, nor any of its agents, assigns, or affiliates, although I would appreciate if they would hurry up and deliver my new GT. Blue, with white stripes, please. Because, really, I shouldn’t have to be diddling with my own steering wheel lock, because it really should be recalled and replaced by highly trained Ford mechanics, only several of whom actually breathe through their mouths. Do not attempt to replicate these procedures and steps. Possumblog, the Blog, its writers, editors, and staff accept NO liability or responsibility for any damage or injury to your property or person, nor to that of random bystanders, small animals, or low-flying airplanes which might arise from your foolish attempts to keep from paying good money to rectify a known design flaw by doing anything on these pages. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. DO NOT hurt yourself or others. DO NOT say bad words under your breath. Burma-Shave.
NOW THEN--after doing all my research, I got home last night and after feeding the kiddies, I set to work on the first steps. First, a flashlight, because by the time I was ready to work on it, it was dark. A screwdriver, and then a pointy-pushy sort of tool. The pointy tool was in response to the Internet mechanics who noted that to remove the cylinder, there is a small retainer button that must be depressed while the key is turned to the run position. After you do this, you are SUPPOSED to be able to slide the whole shebang out and work on it. Operative word here is SUPPOSED. Which is why I wrote it in big letters.

First step is to take the plastic column shrouds off to be able to get to the switch. There are two Torx head screws under the bottom cover that you remove (Torx heads have a female six-pointed receptacle on the top of the screw that require either a special Torx screwdriver--which I have--or the use of a hex-head wrench), and then there are two little plastic tabs on either side of the column, right behind the steering wheel, where the top and bottom are stuck together. Carefully push in the tab with a flat screwdriver and separate one side, and then the other. After that, they should pop apart easily.

Drop the bottom cover down, moving it aside to clear the lock cylinder face, and then move the top cover up as far as it will move.

If you can, start the engine and turn the steering wheel one-quarter turn to the right so that the top of the cover is pointed to the right. This will give you enough clearance to get to the retainer button hole.

FIRST MISINFORMATION STEP REFUTED--Some guy said you had to remove the airbag cover/horn pad to access the retainer button. You don’t.

SECOND MISINFORMATION STEP REFUTED--I had read that you need to remove the screw holding the little plastic transponder ring around the face of the lock in order to be able to get to the retainer button. I removed it, but only because I didn’t realize exactly WHERE this button was located. The transducer module has a screw in the back that’s a terrible pain to get to, and led to much retrospective bad words when I realized I hadn’t had to remove it in the first place. But the guys said when you removed that, you could see the retainer button access hole.

All the other somewhat knowledgeable car guys on the various forums said that the retainer was “in the normal position for Ford switches.” Which is fine if you fondle Ford switches enough to know what normal is. One guy said it was on the bottom. It isn’t.

I picked around and probed some, and noticed that there was a nice round hole in the lock housing facing me, as well as a tiny little hole in the cylinder itself that was revealed when I took off the transducer ring.

For the next hour, I alternated trying to pick and poke things into BOTH of those, while turning, or after having turned the key, each attempt hoping the cylinder would magically be able to be withdrawn. Flashlight, pick, swear, scratch, pick, push, hold, turn key, flashlight, tap, pick, hold, push, pull, pull, PULL, pick, push, swear, scratch, loooook, look some more.

Give up, after having become wringing wet with sweat and despair. Maybe a nice sunny Saturday morning would allow me to see what I was doing wrong. (Remember, I am a moron.) Spent the rest of the night, before retiring for the evening, re-reading all the same “It’s so EASY” posts, and trying to find some locksmithing information.

THIS morning, woke up bright and early with a new idea. If I couldn’t find the place to depress this mysterious retainer button, I might be able to run down to the bookstore and sneak a peak in the Chilton book. Surely that would have it, right? Because, remember, IAAM.

Got dressed, went outside, opened up the door and began again the laborious process of trying to find the silly button. Bigger hole, tinier hole--poked and explored them both, but never unlocked the secret. And add to this the tension required by the need to get this all wrapped up quickly--Reba had to go with Ashley to the band competition this afternoon, and I had a three o’clock meeting at church. And we needed STUFF FROM THE STORE. And NEEDED TO DO LAUNDRY.

SO, let’s go look for that book!

Hopped in the van and headed off down to the foot of the hill to the auto parts store--they had those ultracrappy Haynes manuals. BUT, they did have one for Focusseses. Wrapped in plastic. The girl who works there walked by and asked if I was finding everything I needed. I asked her if the book in my hand had instruction for fixing my ignition lock. She said I could open it and find out. Greedily unwrapped it and looked. Crappy Haynes manual.

Oh well, on to Books-A-Million.

They had both the crappy paperback Chilton repair books, which have the exact same content as the crappy Haynes manuals, BUT they had the big hardback Chilton’s, too. Whew. Thumb, thumb, thumb. Hmm. Thumbthumbthumb. Oooh. THUMBTHUMBTHUMBTHUMB.


No luck.

“Drat!” Yes, that MUST have been what I said.

I HAD to find out how to get that retainer button pressed. Back home, and then I decided I would break down and call the local locksmith here in Trussville and see if he would be willing to clue me in as to where and how to get this button pressed just right.

Called, “Oh, no sir--we don’t work on them Focuses. They’re REALLY hard to fix and we don’t mess with ‘em.” I see. In a last bit of desperation, I asked him if he knew where the button was even located.



Quickly becoming resigned to doing something expensive, I called the local Ford dealer and asked the parts guy if they had a lock in stock. “Yep, sure do.”

Now, to see if my finagle skills still worked.

I told him I wasn’t sure if I would buy it (since it does cost $85) but I pleadingly asked him if it would be possible for me to come by and just look at it, and see if I could figure out what I was supposed to be pressing. “Uh, well, yeah, I reckon so.” Sweet. (Maybe.)

Hopped back in the van and sped over to the parts department and walked in, and he promptly pulled the boxed part and laid it out on the counter for me to peruse. AHHH. There’s the button. It is a little brass thing, and from the layout, it was the thing at the bottom of the larger hole on the housing. But why had I not been able to get it to work?

Hmmm--an INSTRUCTION sheet! Depress retaining pin with sharp awl or other tool while turning key from OFF to START position. When the pin sinks slightly into the circular relief in the side of the lock, pull and remove cylinder.

AHHHH! Of all the things I had been doing, I hadn’t held the thing down WHILE turning!

I bundled the cylinder and stuff back into the box and profusely thanked the counterman and rolled back to the house, confident that I had everything well in hand now. You know, being a moron and all.

Got out, hopped in the car, confidently inserted the key, held down inside the larger hole with my pointy small awl, turned the key, pulled back and…nothing. Did it again. Still nothing. I could feel something giving way, but not enough to remove it. Part of the problem is that the hole wasn’t pointing directly at me, but was offset just a bit behind the top of the steering wheel so that the awl wasn’t going straight down. Hmm.

Being that Man is a Toolmaker, I began to think toolish thoughts, and I decided maybe I needed something with a slight bend or offset in it so I could push down straighter. I first tried one of the multitude of hex wrenches I had on the seat. No go. Then I figured I could bend the awl tip enough to get it in and push. I took it inside and gently put it between the jaws of the bench vise and broke it off cleanly at the handle. Oops. Dang. Found a small cheap screwdriver I was willing to sacrifice and gave it a similar treatment so that I had a bend of about ten degrees in the shaft of it.

Went back out, pressed down into the hole, turned the key and IT WORKED! I was so happy that I could have said nice words! I slid the part out slick as a whistle, and ran inside to the kitchen table to begin the de-tumblering procedure.

First, I had to separate the inner turny part from the outer part, whatever that is called. The inner part is held in place in the outer by a large C-shaped spring steel clip on the end. What you need for something like that is something like a set of offset, 90 degree bend needlenose squeeze pliers. You squeeze the handles and the jaws open instead of close. That way you could just put the points on the inside of the clip, squeeze, expand the clip, and lift it off.

I don’t have any pliers like that.

Fifteen minutes later, I had managed to free the C-clip with the use of two large screwdrivers and a conventional set of needlenose pliers. But before I managed to get it loose, I first gashed the heel of my left hand when the big screwdriver slipped off the retainer and tore across my palm. That hurt. Being a moron hurts, you know. I hissed though my teeth and ran and got a paper towel to stanch the bloodflow, and finally released the clip. Yay!

Pulled out the inner part, removed the thin sheetmetal spring cover, emptied out all the tiny springs, and the little h-shaped tumblers, then the sidebar retainer clip, and its springs, and finally the bar itself. Put the inner back into the outer, and then tried to get the retainer C-clip back on.

This was very hard. Many things are hard when you’re a moron.

BUT, I did it. And then I had to take it back off and turn it around, because I had put it on the wrong way. FINALLY! It was all back together. I ran out, slid it back into the housing, it clicked neatly into place, the transducer (that didn’t have to be removed) was reattached (with no small amount of difficulty), inserted the key, turned it, cranked right up. SUCCESS!

Buttoned back up the plastic column covers, cleared away my tools, and proudly noted that I had potentially saved myself close to $200, and was sure that I wouldn’t have to worry about the lock ever becoming frozen and leaving poor Miss Reba stranded in a bad place unable to start her car. It only cost the bit of gas it took to drive all around town, and the intense pain of opening up my hand with a dull metal tool, and about six hours of time spent chasing down stuff and blindly prodding and poking around for something I had no idea about.

IF you know what to do, it really shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes. But if you know what you’re doing, you wind up with nothing to blog about.

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