Ig­ni­tion lock woes

Classics Monthly - - Driver's Diary -

Last month I in­di­cated that I was hav­ing prob­lems with the Stag’s ig­ni­tion switch. Hav­ing de­cided that a re­place­ment was prob­a­bly re­quired, I or­dered a new switch from Rim­mers to be sent by air par­cel post, which typ­i­cally takes 7 to 14 days to ar­rive here on the other side of the world in Aus­tralia. In an ef­fort to re­duce down­time, I re­moved the old switch from the car prior to the ar­rival of the re­place­ment but it soon be­came ob­vi­ous that this was not go­ing to be a five-minute swap. So to im­prove ac­cess I re­moved the steer­ing wheel fol­lowed by the up­per and lower col­umn covers and light switch.

The light switch re­quired dis­con­nect­ing, as two of the light wires are in­te­grated into the ig­ni­tion switch loom. Once I had a clear view of the ig­ni­tion switch it was ob­vi­ous that the prob­lem was with the rear con­tact base on the switch hav­ing parted com­pany from the body. I could have left the steer­ing lock in situ and just re­moved the switch from the lock, but de­cided to re­move it as a unit so I could bench test the lock and new switch prior to fit­ting.

The steer­ing lock is held in place by two shear bolts that were eas­ily re­moved dur­ing the restora­tion when the steer­ing col­umn was on the bench, util­is­ing a small punch to loosen the bolts. This time, work­ing up­side down was con­sid­er­ably more awk­ward, but after some per­se­ver­ance the ig­ni­tion lock was free. Still more work to do, as the loom to the switch runs through a wiring chan­nel on the lower edge of the col­umn and this could not be ac­cessed un­til the com­plete steer­ing col­umn clamp was re­moved. Fi­nally I was able to take the col­umn lock and ig­ni­tion switch to the bench for a closer in­spec­tion.

Poorly formed and lo­cated crimps had al­lowed the base­plate to be­come de­tached from the body, which I pre­sume re­sulted in the in­ter­nals be­com­ing dis­placed. I was un­de­cided whether to dis­as­sem­ble the switch and at­tempt a re­pair or wait for the re­place­ment. As the switch had been or­dered I de­cided to wait and fit the new one, but will at­tempt a re­pair on the old when time per­mits. I have never liked the po­si­tion­ing of the Stag ig­ni­tion/start switch on the left hand side of the steer­ing col­umn, which makes for awk­ward cold start­ing when you are try­ing to con­trol the choke knob and start func­tion with your left hand. I pre­sume this came about by the car be­ing tar­geted for the US left-hand drive mar­ket where the choke is con­trolled by the right hand.

This seemed an ideal time to mod­ify the start op­er­a­tion by fit­ting a sep­a­rate start but­ton on the right-hand side of the steer­ing wheel. I had a but­ton some­where and search­ing through my boxes

of elec­tri­cal com­po­nents I came across a chrome push switch that seemed ideal for a start switch. It only had small screw ter­mi­nals but as I had fit­ted a re­lay into the start cir­cuit the switch cur­rent was only mil­liamps. Lo­cat­ing the but­ton was solved by mak­ing a small panel to fit under the dash on the right of the steer­ing col­umn, then as the new ig­ni­tion switch had still not ar­rived I de­cided to make some more wiring mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

The heater fan, air­con­di­tion­ing and fan over­ride switches plus warn­ing lights had orig­i­nally been fit­ted in the cen­tral ash­tray space, but dur­ing use I found the switches were too close to­gether and eas­ily con­fused. I also needed to ac­cess this cen­tre panel as the heater fan was not op­er­at­ing, so sus­pected a ca­ble had been dis­lodged dur­ing the car­pet fit­ting. With time in hand, I re­moved the cen­tre panel switches and warn­ing lights and checked the heater fan for power, which was fine. Then the par­cel shelf re­quired re­moval to ac­cess the wiring be­hind and as soon as the shelf had been re­moved I spot­ted a dis­con­nected earth wire to the heater fan mo­tor. Re­con­nect­ing this had the fan op­er­a­tional, so with the par­cel shelf re­fit­ted that was one is­sue solved. A new panel was fab­ri­cated for the ash­tray space to house the heater/air­con switch and light plus alarm LED and switch for heated rear win­dow.

I have a his­tory with ig­ni­tion switch fail­ures and over­all I think they have caused me more break­downs than any other item! It all started when I was an ap­pren­tice and was run­ning an early Austin A55. One Fri­day evening crossing cen­tral Lon­don, the en­gine started to cut out and I quickly re­alised the cause was faulty ig­ni­tion switch con­tacts. Luck­ily the switch was cen­trally lo­cated in the dash so my pas­sen­ger was able to keep pres­sure on the ig­ni­tion key whilst we com­pleted the jour­ney, ar­riv­ing with one very hot switch that was ob­vi­ously not go­ing to com­plete the re­turn trip. Since then I have had ig­ni­tion switch fail­ure on an MGB and even on a two-year old com­pany car.

There­fore I fab­ri­cated a new switch panel with suf­fi­cient room for a start but­ton, radiator fan over­ride and warn­ing lights plus a new key switch that can be used as a backup ig­ni­tion switch. When the new ig­ni­tion switch ar­rived I checked the body to base­plate crimp­ing and it ap­peared to be much bet­ter than my old one, so I cut the plug from the new switch loom and used a new multi-con­nec­tor to fit an en­larged loom that al­lows me to take wires to the new start but­ton and ad­di­tional emer­gency ig­ni­tion switch.

I’m not con­cerned about re­duc­ing the car’s se­cu­rity as­pect, as I will still have the steer­ing lock in place and the car is fit­ted with an alarm and im­mo­biliser that ac­ti­vates ei­ther when the alarm is set or a few sec­onds after the ig­ni­tion has been switched off. When the new ig­ni­tion switch fi­nally ar­rived it was fit­ted to the col­umn steer­ing lock so the switch op­er­a­tion could be bench tested, en­sur­ing that the aux­il­iary, ig­ni­tion cir­cuits and start could be op­er­ated by both col­umn and aux­il­iary panel switches. Dur­ing in­stal­la­tion the col­umn switch start wire will not be fit­ted into the multi-plug, mak­ing the key start in­op­er­a­tive but it will be a sim­ple process to re­store the stan­dard func­tion if re­quired.

The steer­ing wheel, two col­umn covers and light switch were re­moved to gain ac­cess to the steer­ing col­umn lock.

The steer­ing col­umn bracket had to be dis­con­nected to al­low re­moval of the wiring chan­nel. Note the high-tech method of sup­port­ing the col­umn.

Turn­ing to start po­si­tion con­firms that the both run and start cir­cuits are en­er­gised.

Left: Once the switch was re­moved it was clear the fail­ure was due to faulty crimp­ing be­tween switch body and the base­plate. Right: The crimp­ing on the re­place­ment switch ap­peared to have been cor­rectly per­formed.

Switch op­er­a­tion was checked. Here the run po­si­tion is con­firmed.

The wiring loom was mod­i­fied to al­low fit­ting of a re­mote start but­ton and emer­gency ig­ni­tion switch. Note start ter­mi­nal was not fit­ted to con­nec­tor and was later in­su­lated.

The re­cent sus­tained heat and hottest Fe­bru­ary day in Aus­tralia on record re­sulted in this coolant tem­per­a­ture read­ing in spite of the en­gine not hav­ing run for weeks.

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