Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to fix a key stuck in the ignition on a GM Grand Am due to a faulty interlock solenoid

    The key got stuck in the the on position in the ignition of a 1997 Pontiac Grand Am. No amount of jostling would free it up. With all the panel lights and running lights on, this was going to take down the battery. In this post we will pull out the lock switch and troubleshoot the problem and repair a faulty interlock solenoid. 

1) Disconnect the battery. This is for safety while working in the air bag area. 
2) Remove  three T-25 screws holding together the two piece steering column cover. 
3) Pull off the top half of the column cover
4) Remove the lower half of the column cover by pulling it over the key and keyswitch. This takes a pretty extreme amount of flexing of the plastic. It can be left hanging over the tilt steering lever on the left side. The slot in the cover is too narrow to slide over the tilt lever.
5) If desired, completely remove the lower plastic column cover. I used a file to open up the slot in the plastic so it could clear the tilt lever.
6) With a small screwdriver, depress the ignition lock release button on the instrument panel facing side of the switch, while pulling outward on the switch.

Depress the lock release button through the slot (arrow) and pull out the key switch

7) Unplug the security chip from the three wire connector that mounts under the column. Test the switch, now out of the car. It operated properly and the key came right out. This points to a problem with the the ignition switch being locked for some reason. If the battery is reconnected with the key inserted, a plunger moves toward the switch. It is inside a small flimsy solenoid. I appears that the interlock solenoid, designed to lock the switch at times, is malfunctioning. We will pull out the solenoid and examine it.
8) Remove the solenoid hold down screw with a 5.5 mm nut driver or a socket and ratchet. Then lift the plastic keeper out of it’s slot and pull the solenoid back.

A 5.5 mm socket will unbolt the interlock solenoid (arrow)

Unplug it from the wiring connector. Inspection reveals the problem. The metal flag has become free of the metal plunger. The plunger is knurled at the point where the flag should be. When the solenoid activates to release the lock, this part stays behind, jamming the ignition in the on position.
The metal flag should not slide freely on the plunger rod

1) Procure a new solenoid assembly. When I was unable to locate one short of the overpriced dealership,  I decided to try to fix the old one. I scored the knurled part of the plunger with a utility knife to improve the contact surface and then added a drop of super glue before sliding the flag into place. An hour later I tried to break it free. This looks like a solid fix. I have seen similar repairs last indefinitely.


1) Install on the vehicle with the 5.5mm hex head screw. Plug it in.
3) Install the lock switch in the “on” position (where the spring loaded part can be depressed).
4) Hook the battery back up and test it. All looks good
5) Re-assemble the two piece column cover and attach with the three T-25 screws.


  1. I imagine that the most important tip for your safety as well as the well being of the car is to disconnect the battery. I'm no expert on cars, but it seems like it would be somewhat dangerous to leave it connected while you are working on a project such as this. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself or cause more damage to your car than necessary. http://www.greenville-locksmiths.com/about-24-hour-locksmith-greenville/

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  3. My key stuck in the ingnition and i am a little panic right now! It's a good thing that i've found your post, i'll try to do it on my own. I called to the locksmith company http://locksmithpalocksmith.com/ aerlier and they told it would cost $75. If i can't make it, i'll have to pay money(

    1. If you have a very similar car the solenoid could cause that. A bad keyswitch (the lock cylinder or tumblers) can also cause a key to stick. If yours stuck with the ignition in the "on" position that what may indicate the solenoid as the cause. Good luck with it!

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