Explainable Cracked Lock Cylinder?

Recently I had an incident were my car was hit while parked in front of our house. I heard my alarm go off when I got outside my Rav4 had a nice size dent in the driver’s side front bumper. Prior calling my insurance company I went out to my car to start it and could not fit my key in the ignition. I then called my insurance company and had it towed to the auto shop. Along with my exterior body damage I had a cracked ignition lock cylinder. After everything was done it was determined by the mechanic that he did not believe the cracked ignition lock cylinder could have happen from the car being hit. I am wondering could this have been because of the accident and if not how else this might have happen? I was parked on our hill beside our house and have no details about the vehicle that hit mine as I did not see it. I just don’t know how else to explain the cracked cylinder since it was not a problem prior to the accident.

I can see it happening. The lock cylinder is made of pot metal which is very brittle. Out of the front of the lock cylinder is the steering wheel lock rod. This is the rod that prevents the steering wheel from turning until the lock cylinder is turned to pull the rod back from the steering wheel.

So if the vehicle was hit hard enough where it tried to turn the front tires, this sudden torque applied to the steering system could travel up the steering column to the steering wheel, appling force to the lock rod on the lock cylinder causing the pot metal that makes up the lock cylinder to crack.


Thank you so much for that explanation.After hours on the phone with the mechanic, I honestly was beginning to think that I hit my knee against the steering column one too many times. Would having my wheel turned all the way to the right because I was parked on a hill contributed to this?

Good explanation @Tester. Since the ignition lock not only powers the car’s electrical system on and off, but also locks the steering in a fixed position, indeed, getting hit from the side could move the wheels enough to in turn damage the ignition lock, and such a thing is quite possible.

I tip my hat to Tester’s theory and suupport it totally. Perhaps if you were to print this thread and show the mechanic he’d acquiesce.

I cannot believe a “mechanic” would not make this correlation almost immediately when faced with the facts. Anyone who has ever taken apart a column should know this mechanical relationship. Heck, I’ve only taken apart a dozen or so GM columns (fixing VATS issues with the lock cylinder wires, repair loose tilt knuckle bolts, replace ignition switches, R&R for vintage rides etc) and I came to the same conclusion before I had even finished reading the OP.

It’s amazing to me who wears the “mechanic” badge these days. The phrase “sanitation engineer” comes to mind. Perhaps I have too high a standard but if I was paying someone to fix my car and they didn’t have this level of understanding, I’d certainly be looking elsewhere for someone more knowledgeable in the future.

Thanks all, I was also wondering. Do you think that there could possibly be additional damage to my steering system and should I have it checked out?

You should definitely get it checked out. Any lateral impact strong enough to cause that damage could have caused other damage. If it did, you’d be better to find out with an inspection that a problem on the road. And if they suggest an alignment, do it. If they don’t, ask for one.

“I cannot believe a “mechanic” would not make this correlation almost immediately when faced with the facts…”

I think you are over-estimating the ability of some “mechanics”.

I’m always amazed at employees that do the same job every day of the week for years sometimes and don’t know the answer to obvious questions a customer might have. Like you ask the employee at a grocery store “Where may I find the bar soap” and they send you to the washing machine detergent section. Or the place where “Bartender’s Keeper” is kept on the shelves. Or one time I actually asked this and they told me to go the garden center! lol …

In my experience most auto mechanics though are not of this variety. You have to be pretty smart and up to date and trained on the latest auto technology to be a mechanic these days. At least a mechanic who’ll ever get return business.

I agree believe me after speaking with the mechanic in-depth I will not be a repeat customer. Nor shall I recommend them to anyone in the future.

I almost forgot here is a scenario that the insurance company and the mechanic tried to give me to explain the damage and to be honest I am not sure that I can really make sense of the scenario they gave me.

They said that maybe someone tried to break in and got as far as trying to start the car and somehow cracked the ignition lock cylinder during this process. Upon doing so they gave up and when fleeing they hit the vehicle. The alarm went off and hence the damage to the lock cylinder and the corner front driver’s side/bumper.

It just seems so far-fetched because I moved the car @ 7:00 am when I walked the dog and I have two stay at home moms across the street one who just got home @ 7:30 am that morning and didn’t see anything suspicious and one who left the house @ 8:00 am and didn’t see anything. The incident happened @ 7:50-8:00 am given in the amount of time the person had I just cannot see this. I just think that the alarm would have deterred them from going forward with trying to start the vehicle. I didn’t see any sign of forced entry and if the alarm didn’t go off because of entry. Why would it have gone off when they hit the car?

Does this make sense?

Sounds like someone who is a closet fiction writer. What seems more plausible, a hit and run accident that damages the front end and subsequently something mechanically connected to it or some far fetched scheme that requires huge leaps of faith and imagination?

The old adage- the simplest explanation is probably the correct one…

I agree, just seemed a bit reaching. I actually remember now that nothing was stolen ie. 2 GPS(s) and $60.00 in cash in the middle console. Not to mention the thief was kind enough to lock the doors upon exiting.