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Tumblers in ignition lock cylinder

I really need help with this. I have removed the housing for my ignition lock cylinder. Once I removed it, I wasn’t holding it correctly, and the tumblers all fell out! How do I know which ones go where?? I can’t find a replacement cylinder without buying the entire ignition assembly… so I really need to fix this. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Get a locksmith to help you.

You can watch this and get an idea. The principles are all the same.

Just leave the tumblers out. What are the chances of someone stealing your car?


Yeah, just compare the tumbler to the key. When the key pushes the tumbler, it will be even with the cylinder allowing it to turn. If you get one or two right, the rest will be easier. If you had the factory repair manual, it would have a diagram of the key and tumblers and which etc.

Place key on flat surface. Line up pins from shortest to longest. Look at the contact surfaces on the key and match the longest pin to the deepest cut on the key. The tops of the pins should all be even when you’ve got it right. NOW proceed to re-installing them in the right order in the cylinder…

One thing I learned when working with car locks, be sure to leave the key in the lock. Otherwise the tumbles and springs will all fall out. Ask me how I know this … lol … There’s so many possibilities to install them in the wrong orientation by guessing, I wouldn’t even bother with that method. What I’d do in that situation is remove another lock from the car, say from one of the doors, and very carefully remove the tumblers from that one, and place them all in order. Then match the jumbled up ones to that. Don’t do this when you are rushed for time. It will take a few hours and several cups of coffee to do it correctly. Good lighting and work over a white towel. If you have one of those circular lights with a big magnifying glass in the middle, that helps.

No guessing involved if you follow the directions in my post above.

The car locks I’ve taken apart don’t have pins. They have 5 or 6 metal wafers, each of which is shaped sort of like a picture frame. A rectangle with a smaller rectangular hole in it, which is where the key slips through. The size of the top and bottom borders matches up to the corresponding key dimension. It is possible to install them – besides in the wrong positions – both upside down and backwards. Might be possible, but trying to get everything correct without a reference lock set seems like tough sledding.

OP has other options of course. I mean besides the most sensible, just buying a new oem switch ass’y that comes with a new key & cylinder.

  • a compatible key/cylinder set might be available at a wrecked-car recycler lot.

  • @insightful 's idea above, remove all the wafers and keep the doors locked. Or just install one wafer, then you’d still need the key to start the car. It would be much simpler to find one wafer that will prevent the cylinder from turning without the key, but will turn with the key.

  • if you’ve got the wafers ordered so the top of the wafers almost line up, but it still won’t quite work, file down the ones that are sticking up too high so they are all flush. I did this recently to fix a door lock on my Corolla, been working fine since.

Interesting. I have trouble envisioning how that key system works as you insert the key. Every door lock I have ever done (maybe 1/2 dozen now so not huge sampling) looks just like this one:


Not exactly how automobile locks I’ve taken apart are configured, but the basic idea.