Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Am i getting ripped off?

i have to get my ignition switch (including the cylinder and key) replaced. i know that this also means that they have to reprogram the Passlock antitheft thingy. my mechanic is charging $700 for the whole deal including diagnosis. am I being overcharged?
2000 chevy impala 3.4L v6 E

Why does the cylinder have to be replaced? Usually it’s the switch itself that fails, and that can usually be replaced independently of the rest of the assembly, which means you get to keep your old key.

I would say with parts thats close. I don’t know the reason for the cylinder. My guess is its wore out or broke. There is a lot of time in this repair.

Why not ask another dealer (assuming that is a dealer price) and a local independent mechanic that might be recommended by a neighbor or co worker?

Also I am interested in your response to shadowfax.

It sounds like you made a poor decision when you bought a car what a “Passlock antitheft thingy,” kind of like when people buy a car that uses low profile sport tires and then get sticker shock when they go shopping for tires. It’s important to consider these costs when you select a vehicle, and finding one that doesn’t use a “Passlock antitheft thingy” sounds like a good idea to me, as well as researching all of the costs of ownership and maintenance.

good luck finding anything that you’d want to drive that was made in the last decade that does not have some form of chipped key.

The vehicle is 11 years old and changing a switch is not always an easy job. Security features only add to the expense.

The general public wants clean air, better mileage, and countless bells and whistles but when the tab comes due for the added complexity then they always feel they’re being gouged.
Want cheap and simple? Complain en masse to the Feds and the car manufacturers; not to the mechanic.

The fact that the car has a passlock key system does not mean that the buyer made a poor decision. Most cars since the early '90s have some sort of theft prevention system, all cars since at least 2000. While some of these systems have been more prone than others to problems as they age , by and large they work well for the life of the vehicles. There’s no way to predict a problem like this.

I too would like to hear the answer to Shadow’s original question. It’s unusual for an ignition cylinder to fail that early in a vehicle’s life.

MB: “There’s no way to predict a problem like this.”

I predicted problems like this when I selected a simple car with as few bells and whistles as possible.

MB: “…by and large they work well for the life of the vehicles.”

People say the same thing about power windows too,but how many people come here for help when their power windows malfunction?

I find it hard to believe that you can’t find any basic economy car that doesn’t have a computer chip in the key. I tried to prove it, but Toyota’s and Hyundai’s web sites don’t list it as a feature, so I can’t tell if the Accent and the basic Tacoma have it.

Beating this dead horse seems to be a favorite pass time. But my old Blazer just looks more and more like a classic when I read of some problems here. I replaced the lock cylinder in a dark parking lot in less than half an hour for less than $10. I think I’ll put a coat of wax on that beauty when it cools off this evening.

Whitey, people don’t select cars by what kind of key security system they have. And even if someone selects a car with all the bells and whistles and one breaks, you can’t say their problem is because they made a bad decision. People select vehicles and options for all sorts of reasons, some based on needs, some based on wants, and some based on pure taste.

If your wind up window fails, will it be because you made a bad decision?

Indeed. And I’ll point out that the ONLY car I’ve ever had that had a window failure was a wind up window. It actually broke twice. An internal spring the first time (expensive) and the handle broke off a few years later. Never had a problem in any of my cars with electric windows.

Blainey, That Does Sound Quite High. It’s Time For A Second And Probably Third Opinion.

I believe your ignition switch/key is in the dashboard (not the steering column), right ?

Be sure you know what the $700 was going to buy (fairly exact labor operation descriptions and parts) and then make a couple of phone calls. Ask to speak with a Service Manager/Director if you call a dealer. Describe the symptoms to them.

Describe the symptoms to us, too. What’s it doing/not doing ? What’s broken ? Is this one that intermittently fails to start ? Do you have a “work-around” procedure to get it started ?

These cars have been known to need ignition switch replacement when the tiny sensor wires inside wear or become dirty. That’s not a terribly expensive repair (nowhere near $700) Have you tried a new ignition key ?


Whitey, Each Car Manufactured In Recent History Has Its Own Anti-Theft System And Every Manufacturer Calls It Something Different (Some Have Several Different Systems) And Every One Has Its Own Unique Idiosyncrasies/Problems.

To choose a car without some sort of security “thingy” would be to choose not to drive or to choose a car so old that it would have age related prolems.

Your whole post was not helpful to this problem. Even if you offered good advice, Blainey couldn’t travel back in time and buy a different car. Think about it.

By the way, (from memory) I don’t believe Passlock uses a chipped key, but Passkey does.


“If your wind up window fails, will it be because you made a bad decision?”

No, of course it won’t. It would, however, be downright silly for me to complain about the cost of fixing the window.

I could go out and buy a turbocharged Mercedes, take it home, and six months from now complain about the cost of synthetic oil. That would be downright silly.

I could go out and buy a Corvette, take it home, and in a few years when it’s time to buy tires, complain about the cost of the tires. That would be downright silly.

If you want a car that is economical to repair and maintain, you should buy … wait for it … AN ECONOMY CAR! If you buy anything fancier, expecting repairs and maintenance to be economical is downright silly.

I’ve Got A Driveway Full Of Cars, None Of Which Are ECONOMY CARS (In Fact They’re Just About Luxurious (comfortable, quiet, safe, deluxe music, conveniences, etcetera) And I Expect Repairs & Maintenance On Them To Be, And They Are . . . Wait For It . . . Economical ! It Ain’t Silly.


But at some point in time what appears to be a bell or whistle just comes to be standard equipment. I’m pretty certain that you couldn’t buy a GM in 2000 that didn’t have the Passlock. It wasn’t really any kind of special thing. Telling someone they shouldn’t “choose” it is like telling them they shouldn’t have “chosen” to have wheels on it.

So, Whitey, you’re suggesting that the OP’s questioning whether the cost for a new key cylinder in his car is downright silly? You’re suggesting that if he doesn’t like the cost he should have bought an economy car?

Odd, I don’t think of a Chevy Impala as a fancy car.

Those other guys have the original issue covered. Let’s move on to what happens after the repair. Do you have lots of doo-dahs on your key chain? That extra weight can cause the mechanism to fail. I tell my daughters (yes, it really is always the girls) to make sure that they don’t put their tiny wallet and oodles of other stuff on their key chains. If this applies to you, you might consider pulling your car keys off, too.

the cylinder needs to be replaced because it’s not contacting or staying in the correct position (i.e. off, run, start, etc) and the internal spring has busted and it actually just sits in the start position unless I move it back to “on”. The radio was stolen and when they ripped it out of the dash the switch (or wires or harness, i’m not sure which) got messed up. These things i already knew when I took it to the mechanic.
After I make sure that everything is off and leave the vehicle i often go back in the morning to find my brand new battery dead. I (and the mechanic) think that it’s because of the switch falling out of position. I have been disconnecting the battery at night so i can start it in the morning. Recently it’s having trouble starting as well. The starter motor works, but takes a while to catch almost like it’s not getting fuel.
I bought this used because it was cheap and i really needed a car right then. The last and only car that i’ve ever had is a ford F-150 from 1985 which barely even had anything computerized not to mention they hadn’t really even thought of making ignition lockout systems yet. That’s one of the reasons I’m on here. I don’t really know much about this kind of thing 'cause I’ve never had to deal with new cars. In retrospect i’m incredibly sorry that I ever tried to make any sort of joke by calling it a “Thingy”.
This isn’t a dealer price, it’s an independent mechanic that was recommended to me. He was worked on the vehicle once before and although it wasn’t cheap, it didn’t seem like he was ripping me off. the last time i had to replace an ignition switch it cost about 25 bucks and i did it myself in my driveway.
Thank you all for your help.