Without prior sign of trouble, turned key to start car and the switch turned freely without engaging the starter. Only the dash lights turned on and stayed on. The key would turn back-and-forth without engaging the starter or turning off the battery.
The mechanic has told me that I must replace the steering column. I am unsure of this, as I would think that the switch could be replaced.
As this care does not have cruise control, A steering column is difficult to obtain.
Is it likely that only the switch could be replaced?
Try shifting the transmission into neutral to see if it will start.
If it does, there’s a problem with the park/neutral safety switch.
The steering column may need to be removed or at least fiddled with, covers removed etc, to access the ignition switch part. I wouldn’t guess the entire steering column would need to be replaced just to replace the ignition switch. Suggest to double check what your shop means, there may be a miscommunication. Perhaps they are aware of an existing problem in the steering column and suggesting to replace it as part of the ignition switch job. If so, that makes common sense.
As mentioned above, the symptoms you describe do not necessarily pinpoint the problem to a faulty ignition switch. My relatives had an early 90’s Taurus, and by what they told me, it seemed to have a bevy of ignition switch related problem. But otherwise quite reliable.
Sounds like either the ignition switch ot the relay rod going to it has broken… I am not sure about your column without being able to see it, but for many years ford used a flat wide almost valve body looking column (close to the steering wheel) and it had a hard plastic relay rod that had a week spot in it that would break, I have replaced many of them, most mechanics are afraid to mess with them… Again not sure if yours is like this or not… or even the issue…
You may Google steering column repair shops and see if any in your area, Nashville has one and he can even come out to remove it and take it back to his shop or sometimes repair it right there… I think your mechanic just doesn’t know how to repair columns… I have had 4 F350’s in my bays rebuilding all 4 columns at the same time back years ago… lol
The parts might be dealer only so may be harder to get these days…