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Pontiac Grand Am, Coupe
#1 of 9 My keys are stuck and I can't get up!!!
May 10, 2002 (5:24 pm)
I need some help real quick. My son's 97 grand am has the keys stuck in the ignition. The car will start and run, but will not shift out of "park" making it impossible to drive. I tried everything I could think of (jiggling the steering wheel, rocking the car, etc.), but nothing I did released the key or allowed me to shift out of "park". I noticed that a "Theft Sys" light was illuminated on the dash board. The car was bought used and didn't have an owners manual with it. Finally, I just disconnected the battery to get the lights to shut off. If anyone has any suggestions, PLEASE respond quickly. It's Friday evening and he needs the car for work Monday morning.
May 10, 2002 (9:53 pm)
It sounds like a bad ignition switch to me. The shifting problem could be a bad shifter cable or a bad brake pedal release mechanism. You have to push in the brake pedal to get the car out of gear. It has been a safety feature on all of GM's cars and trucks since the late 80's, so make sure you push the pedal down when you try to shift. The theft sys light will come on when you turn the ign off, so that part is normal and it shuts off bout 30 sec after you close the door. Another thing to check on is to see if there is a lever near the ign switch if there is push/pull while turning the key. Some cars have that lever on it, but it's usually only on manual transmission cars. If worst comes to worst call a lock smith out to get the keys out.
#3 of 9 a simple fix... sort of...
May 11, 2002 (12:01 am)
Well, I hope this will be a simple fix for you. In my case, the key in my 96 Grand Am gets stuck once in a while when I put the car in park and try to turn the car off. The car will shut off fine, but the key will get stuck. I had a heck of a time getting it out the first few times until the Pontiac dealer I bought my (out of warranty) Grand Am from showed me a little secret. On the bottom of the steering column there is a very small panel that, if removed, will give you access to a little button/pin that you can press whenever the key gets stuck. I haven't replaced the panel since, as on a regular basis during warm weather the key will get stuck when I put the car into park and try to turn it off. In your case, though, I'm not sure if pressing the little button will allow you to shift out of park, but you can give it a try. Of course, please make sure you are pressing the brake as you press this little button (I would suggest sitting down normally and using your left hand to get at the button and then use the right hand to operate the shifter as you press the brake pedal with your foot). You will probably want to get this checked out by a dealer sometime, as in my case my car never has a problem with getting out of park. However, this will at least fix the problem with the key getting stuck.
May 13, 2002 (10:11 am)
I believe the way that the shift interlock works is that current flow to the brakelights is sensed & this releases the shift lock. Are the brake lights working??
#5 of 9 I've had two bad ignition switches with my Cavalier...
May 13, 2002 (12:47 pm)
last time I was going to tow it in since I couldn't get it out of park. Tech told me to put it into neutral then start it there. Once you do that, you can generally move the lever any place.
1. Turn ignition to on--don't start.
2. Move shift to neutral
3. Start car.
4. Shift will work normally.
#6 of 9 Cavalier Ign Switch
May 13, 2002 (11:23 pm)
What you are describing is NOT the ignition switch it is the Shift Interrupt Switch, if the trans in in any other gear besides Park or Neutral the car won't start. It is a safety switch to keep you from starting the car in gear. It is a common problem with these cars and the recall is in place to fix it. Too much current is going through both the ign and SIS switches cooking the contacts and leaving you stranded. The fix is basically a relay that is hooked right to the battery, and then the switch only controls the relay, not directly turning over the starter.
#7 of 9 My locked Cavalier happened when GM was sending out their recall..
May 14, 2002 (6:12 am)
for flaming ignitions.
The tech said that it might be the ignition switch (which they'd replace free) or the neutral safety switch. They'd do the ignition switch first and if that took care of it there'd be no charge. Apparently that was it because they fixed it for free. Either that or the problem was non-reoccuring and is just waiting to happen again. This happened once before and I'm sure it was the ignition switch that was fixed. That was my fault because I was hanging too many keys off of it. Let me know if the neutral safety switch is the same thing as the shift interrupt switch, or if it's another part altogether.
I've had the neutral safety switch go out on an 87 Nova and it was in the area of the transmission. This malfunction (at least the first one which was repaired) was in the ignition switch. Like I said, caused by too many keys.
May 19, 2002 (11:02 pm)
Was it the switch or the key cylinder? The switch is an electrical switch behind the key cylinder. You cant kill the switch with too many keys, only the key cylinder. The key cylinder has a little rectangle button on the back that hooks to the switch and turns it. Hanging too many keys from the ring will cause the cylinders pins to wear out and start jamming up the cylinder.
The neutral safety switch is the same as the starter interrupt switch, it goes on the trans under the shift lever.
Did you have a problem getting the car out of park or just a problem turning the key? If you had a switch meltown that would cause you to not be able to turn the key, but if you couldn't get it out of gear that is an unrelated issue.
#9 of 9 Actually I just had the key cylinder fail...
May 20, 2002 (7:19 am)
this was two weeks after having the switch repaired on recall. Apparently the key cylinder was intermittently failing and I thought the recall fixed it. In 75K I've had the recalled switch and two different key cylinders go. I don't know if this is a Cavalier weakness or I'm just running a streak of bad luck.