Resolved Ignition Key Won't Turn - Chevy Cobalt Forum / Cobalt Reviews / Cobalt SS / Cobalt Parts
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-01-2011, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Resolved Ignition Key Won't Turn


I thought I'd share my experience of a broken ignition key tumbler on my otherwise very reliable 2009 XFE (manual transmission), since this forum helped me diagnose and repair within 1 day.

It all started yesterday morning. When I arrived to work and tried to shut off my car, the key stuck for a second before turning. In my typical "ignore anything negative" attitude, I quickly forgot about it. Leaving work yesterday, the key worked fine, started right up, but when I stopped for gas, I couldn't turn the key to stop the engine! That was a surprise, so I had to keep the car running in neutral, pretending I wasn't having an issue. After paying, I parked to the side and tried hard, unsuccessfully to get the key out. So I drove home.

At home, I kept the car in neutral, running, while retrieving my toolbox and repair manual. The manual mentioned a little button underneath the key tumbler, accessible via a little square opening on the steering column plastic. I found the plastic piece to gain access, but could not find the button to push. (This is because apparently manual transmission cars do not have this button!). Plan b. I stopped the engine by putting into gear and stalling out. But then the lights and everything was on, so I disconnected the batterry.

After reading a zillion posts on this forum, I realized my problem was likely a bad tumbler (the part that the key goes into). So the next morning, this morning, I proceeded to remove the tumbler. The process was really not too bad, having watched a video on here about how to remove interior plastic trim pieces. And the wiper switch, which has to be removed to gain access to the top of the key tumbler, was a cinch to remove, just pushing on tabs on each side and pulling it out.

One of the plastic pieces surrounding the ignition key could not be removed because the key was still there. To remove the tumber from the ignition part, you have to stick a pin or something into 1 of the 2 little holes ontop of the ignition assembly and directly above the key/tumbler. I found the holes, but had a little trouble gaining access. Eventually, a push pin was just the right tool for the job. I also yanked on the key with some pliers, bending it alittle. Eventually, the key came out, and then the tumbler came out.

Being saturday morning, and the first of the month, and with no more chevy dealers nearby, I was worried to get it fixed today. The first dealer couldn't start up his computer, then couldn't find the part, then found it to be out of stock, and the person who keyed the lock was out until next week. What is supposed to happen is that you are supposed to give a spare key with a barcode to the service person, and they derive the "key code" from that. The first dealer didn't ask. Neither did the second dealer, but he did sell me a tumbler kit for ~$80. I went home not confident I could key the lock.

I was able to key the lock. It had a main tumbler piece, and then 5 baggies of tumblers labeled 1-5. The directions say that this tumbler has 7 locations for the 10 key cutting positions, and to use 2-7. After examining my old tumbler and removing each of the individual tumblers, I guessed which were tumblers 2-7. They were not labeled 1-5, but rather D3C, D4B, D4B, D3B, D1B, D1C, D2D, D4D, D2B. Ignoring the letters, I took the numbers from each value and used that corresponding piece from my bags to assemble the tumbler. Add a little grease, slide it together, and whammo, the key slides in and turns.

I added the tumbler back into my car, and everything is working fine. I'm amazed how lucky I was to fix this today. I hope this may help others who run into this problem, and the unknowledgeable service departments, so that you can avoid a tow and $500 repair.

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-01-2011, 08:30 PM
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Pictures would have been nice to accompany your otherwise very descriptive text.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 04:34 PM
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Had the "warning signs" of this at 105K on the G5. Took it to my dealer & they replaced it.. warrantied it to a Cobalt they had in stock.. Total visit cost.. $0.00!!
Great folks!!!


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