Key-snatching 2008 Cobalt

Ran my battery down on my car when I left my lights on and proceeded to work an 8-hour shift.

Came out and stuck my key in the ignition. Nothing happened, which is when I realized my plight. The dang ignition wouldn’t release my key! This meant I couldn’t get into the trunk by key. I pressed the (stupidly electric) remote trunk lock: nada. That’s where the jumper cables are! Did I mention it was below freezing and I wasn’t dressed for sustained outdoor shenanigans?

Fortunately, I was able to flag down co-workers with jumper cables, after a time. We opened the hood–praises, they actually left a cable-actuated device on the car!–and got going. None the less, it was a close scare.

  1. Why does the ignition “grab” the key without battery power?
  2. How does one defeat 1)?
  3. Is it necessary to store my jumper cables INSIDE the car?
  4. What mental giant decided a trunk latch that’s INOP with a dead battery was a good idea?

I have a decent working understanding of a lock cylinder–6 or so spring-loaded wafers that retract into the cylinder body, allowing it to turn–but I don’t see how that requires current flow to work. If it’s a “safety” feature, how do I disable it, permanently?

I believe it is the gear shift interlock solenoid that won’t allow the ignition to rotate to the lock/off position when there is no power.

There are instructions in the owners manual on how to release the key if the battery is dead.

Column Lock Release
For vehicles with an automatic transmission, the
following procedure allows the ignition to be turned
to LOCK/OFF and ignition key removal in case of a
dead battery or low voltage battery.

  1. Make sure the shift lever is in PARK §.
  2. Remove the cover from the bottom of the
    steering column.3. Locate the plunger.
  3. Press and hold the plunger while turning the
    ignition key to LOCK/OFF. Remove the key.

Hunh. Leafed through the OM when I bought it but missed that entirely! Good to know.

Disabling this feature would be a very bad idea. Do you really want your steering column to lock while you’re driving if someone accidentally bumps the key?

^Seems rather–unlikely. They’d have to bump it THREE indentations (not just one, like Cobalts were known for doing). And at any rate, it’d be just as “dangerous” as every MT car ever built, that has no means of sensing “park,” because “park” does not exist.

But, besides the point, as this rather vexing inanity apparently has a simple work-around.

Manual transmission vehicles usually either have a button near the key to push or make you push the key inward to finish rotating the key to the LOCK position so it can be removed. This also is what prevents an unintended key rotation from locking the steering.

I always carry a spare key in my wallet in case I lose my key or accidently lock it in my car. In this case it would have allowed you to open the trunk to access the cables.

And the Cobalt’s battery is in the trunk too.

^There’s also a positive terminal underhood, specifically for the jumping of the vehicle.