Many aging Ford Focus vehicles have this charming tendency to lock up the ignition switch making it impossible to start your vehicle no matter how hard you beat the steering column with your head/fist. There are no warning signs that the ignition switch is about to fail.
Pretty frustrating that Ford hasn't issued a recall or even put out a notice. What would happen if someone pulled over to attend to a baby while driving in -40°C Canadian weather? One minute everything is totally fine and the next minute, you could be trying to flag down help on the highway and keep a baby warm at the same time. Sub-optimal.
Anyway.... here are some tips for replacing it yourself for cheap.
Buy a replacement ignition switch
All of the links below are reported to have the original design flaw fixed so that, hopefully, your car will rust away before you need to repeat this operation. You can opt for the more expensive official replacement kit, but the Strattec 707592 works just as well at a much lower cost.
- I purchased mine from ebay (user bbblocks) for around $50 including express shipping to Canada.
- safeandlockstore.com will even re-key the replacement switch, but can't ship online to Canada.
- The official replacement kit (Motorcraft SW6285) runs $150 CAD.
Assemble the kit
Once you get the replacement kit, you have to assemble the kit so that it will work with your existing keys. I found the video below to be very helpful, but I have a few additional tips I'll add below.
The following tips won't make sense until after you watch the video above.
Tip for removing tumblers
It takes a bit of trial and error to match the correct tumblers to your key, and I found it a bit difficult at first to remove the tumblers once I inserted them. To remove a tumbler, simply tilt the tumbler forward (right arrow) and pull up with a fingernail under the lip (left arrow).
Avoid destroying a key!
At 6:23 of the video, it shows you how to insert the plug into the housing, but you have to make darn sure you got the tumblers setup right. Otherwise, you may have to destroy a key to remove the plug again (see 8:37 of video) or bring out some really small tools.
There is a better way to test. You can simply reverse the plug when you insert it into the housing with the key still in. This allows you to test whether your tumblers are correct by turning the key, but it also allows you to quickly and easily remove the plug if you got a tumbler wrong. No need to get a new key cut.
The picture below shows the operation fairly clearly. The left side shows the situation when a tumbler is incorrectly set for your key (or no key is inserted). You can see that there are tumblers that are still up too high and will catch on the channel wall when you try and turn the key/plug. Inserting the key should cause all the tumblers to pull in so that you can easily turn the key (right side). Do this quick test to confirm your tumbler settings before committing to inserting the plug into the housing for real.
I'm lucky enough to have a friend that took the assembled ignition switch and put it into the car so I can't give any tips there, but it is apparently pretty easy too.