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REPORT: 5k ignition switch troubles

Just to report on the conclusion to my ignition switch problem (sorry
for the delay):

A new electrical switch was all that was needed to get the starter
working again. The old switch's contacts must have worn enough that the
switch needed to be turned farther to engage the starter portion. This
was okay until eventually the key couldn't be turned far enough to do

Now I don't have to turn the key quite as far as before to turn on the
starter. The ignition-on position is a little different than before too.
So if you could compare the operation of your switch to that of another
similar car's (convenient for those of you who own several :) you might
be able to pick out this problem.

Removing the switch was a little tricky but not bad--especially compared
to what I expected when I thought I might have to remove the lock
cylinder! The switch is held onto the lock with a small setscrew, from
the top. You need a very short (<1") small-bladed straight screwdriver
for the setscrew, and some patience. I really don't know why they put
the screw on top of the lock cylinder, where you'd have to remove the
dash to get to it easily, instead of the bottom or side. Yes, it makes
it difficult to remove by a thief (or anyone else), but you could just
hotwire it (as I did when the switch gave out) and the steering lock
would still be effective, whether the switch were attached or not.

A new electrical switch was $13 from TPC. I tried local auto parts shops
first and was reminded that it's much quicker to order a part from Rod
and get the right part the next day, than to call around town and go to
the store that says they have it and then find out that it's the wrong

I received a particularly helpful reply from Peter of Audionly
<audionly@worldnet.att.net>, who described another cause of ignition
switch problems. I am including it here with his permission:

> From your description, I don't think your problem is the switch.  If you
> took it out as you described and could turn the switch and start the car,
> the switch is OK. (I have seen the casing crack which doesn't allow the
> linkage from the ignition cylinder to turn it far enough. I think your
> problem is in the aluminum linkage located between the ignition key cyl.
> and the ignition switch. After time, the linkage begins to twist, and
> although you may have the key as far as it will go clockwise, it is not
> enough to turn the ignition switch to the start position as the linkage has
> twisted. I have repaired this problem numerous time.  To get to the linkage
> you need to pull the ignition cyl. The easiest way to do this is to go to a
> dealer and get a new ignition lock cyl. (443 905 855A $42.00) which will
> come with the extruded linkage. Keep the receipt because you may be able to
> return it. You will see a clip on the side of the cyl. that when pushed
> into the cyl sleeve, locks in an extrusion. Measure where the top of that
> retaining clip would be if it were installed into the cyl. sleeve and mark
> that spot. You should be able to get a drill into the instrument cluster
> opening to drill a 1/4 inch hole into the spot you marked. Check frequently
> when drilling that you only pierce the outer casing and dont drill through
> the retainer clip. Then, while pushing down on the clip, pull ignition cyl.
> out. Check linkage behind cyl. Usually the small tab that directly inserts
> into the ignition switch is where the twisting occurs; other times it is
> the entire linkage that twists. Do not try and twist the tab back if that
> is the problem; instead twist the entire linkage in a counterclockwise
> fashion until the alignment of the key and the tab is the same as the one
> you got from the dealer. If the linkage is too far gone to twist back into
> shape; just use the linkage off the new switch and not the switch itself;
> otherwise you will end up with different keys for the doors and ignition.
> (Unless that doesn't bother you. I have never seen, or replaced the actual
> ignition tumbler assembly on an Audi, so you don't have to worry about it
> failing at a later date. If you can repair the old linkage, then you can
> take the ignition back to the dealer. I have the measurements for the drill
> hole, but it is hard to describe what to measure from............Doing it
> this way, (by having the cyl in front of you) you know exactly where to
> drill the hole and what the clip looks like that you are trying to
> release..........
> Hope this helps..............
> Peter
> Audionly, Inc.

Replacing the switch was enough to solve the problem on my car, though I
can imagine that the linkage may be somewhat twisted by now from having
to turn the key so hard to get the starter portion of the switch... 

Thanks again for help from Steve Bucholz, Tony Lum, Mike Aiello, Adam,
Michael Murphy, and others in diagnosing this no-starter problem. Hope
that someone else finds this information useful.

- Wallace
  '87 5kcstq 151k