Ignition lock woes
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.