Porsche redesigned this part – use the latest version
Replace headlamp switch, replace gauge bulbs
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One of the most common electrical items to fail on some of the older Porsches is the ignition switch. This failure can show up in any number of ways. The car can refuse to start some of the time, the key may not turn too easily in the ignition, or strange electrical problems may appear. Either way, the correct solution is to replace all or part of the ignition switch.
The switch itself is comprised of two separate sections, one that holds the key and the lock mechanism, and another that contains a somewhat complicated electrical switch that controls the starter and the other electrical systems of the car. The good news is that the electrical portion of the ignition switch can easily be replaced. Typical cost of this part ranges from $15 - $40 depending upon which brand part you choose. If your key doesn't turn too well in the ignition, then chances are you have a worn out tumbler. You can attempt to rekey and refurbish the tumbler yourself, but the process can be quite difficult. It requires that you drill out a pin that has been pressed into the housing. If you make a mistake, you can damage the entire assembly. In other words, the ignition switch assembly wasn't really designed to be taken apart.
Early Boxsters had some problems with the ignition switch / steering lock assembly, and Porsche subsequently redesigned the part. If you're having problems with your ignition switch (as many Boxsters do), I recommend that you replace the whole mechanism. The electrical portion of the switch is different for this upgraded assembly, so be sure that you purchase the correct electrical switch to match what you have in your car. You may need to take some photos and compare what you have to the photos online in order to determine if your switch assembly has been upgraded or not. If you purchase an entirely new assembly, it should come complete with the electrical portion attached.
If you are replacing only the electrical portion of one of the early steering locks (part numbers 996-347-017-03 thru 996-347-017-06), then use part number 4B0-905-849. For the later steering lock, which was first used on 2004 cars (996-347-017-07), use part number 4A0-905-849B for the electrical portion replacement. If you're unsure of which one you have in your car, remove it first: the part number should be printed on it.
For 2005 and later models, the entire ignition switch / steering lock assembly was removed from the car, and replaced with an electro-mechanical solenoid that locks the steering rack instead. You can only remove the locking mechanism after dismantling the entire steering system. In addition, removal of the locking device is only possible in the unlocked state. As of spring of 2010, I haven't heard of any reported problems with these solenoids needing replacement, but these cars are only five years old right now. In addition, the electrical switch is an entirely different and simpler design and is easy to remove. Simply pull off the rubber surround, as shown in Photo 2, and then unscrew the large nut underneath. Unplug the switch from underneath the dash and then remove it.
If you are only replacing the electrical portion of the switch (1997-04), the project is quite easy. Simply remove the heater ductwork described in Photo 1 (it should pull out from underneath the dash with a few tugs). Disconnect the electrical plug by pulling it out of the back of the switch. Then, simply unscrew the set screws that hold the electrical portion to the back of the switch, and replace it with a new one. The switch has a locating pin cast into the housing, so there is only one way that it can be put back together.
Replacing the electrical portion could most certainly solve some ignition and starting problems. Electrical systems flickering on and off as you turn the key are a good clue that your switch is worn. Also, a bad switch sometimes causes unexplainable starting problems where the starter coil doesn't even click. I even had an experience with one car (not a Boxster) that wouldn't shut off the starter after the engine kicked over. Both the engine and the starter kept running together: even after I had removed the key!
The electrical portion of the ignition switch can be accessed from underneath the dashboard. First, you need to remove the heater air duct (inset photo), which blocks your access to the switch. Pull out the connector and then loosen up the set screws that are located behind the red marking paint (blue arrow is pointing to one of the screws). Use a miniature flat-head screwdriver: access is tight, but the screws can be removed.
To remove the ignition key cylinder, first begin by pulling out the rubber ignition switch surround (upper left). Then, turn the ignition switch to position 1 (ignition ON), and insert a large paper clip into the release hole in the key cylinder (shown by the orange arrow). Push the paper clip in as far as possible, pull on the key, and that should release the mechanism and allow you to pull out the assembly. Finally, disconnect the small connector that attaches to the immobilizer induction coil (red arrow).
This photo details the steps required to remove the ignition cylinder / steering lock assembly. A- With the headlamp switch and side dashboard piece removed, pull out the heater duct (blue arrow). B- Remove the nut that fastens the lock assembly to the steering column (yellow arrow). C- From the left side of the dash, remove the torx screw that holds the small bracket to the dash. D- Using a small screwdriver, push down on the push lock pin to release the lock assembly from the steering column (purple arrow). E- Unplug the immobilizer harness (green arrow). F- Pull out the entire lock assembly from behind the steering column.
Shown here is the updated ignition cylinder / steering lock assembly. The assembly typically includes an electrical ignition switch (shown attached at the rear of the assembly and separately in the lower right).
Comments: I would like to replace the seats of my 2001 986 Boxster with automatic seats.... has anybody done this and what is involved.
May 31, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have never done this. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: I took my '97 Boxster in for tires. The tech who would install the tires said he couldn't start the car. I found a loose ground to battery and tightened it. The car started and the tech drove it in to change the tires. 45 minutes
later he came to me and said he couldn't start it. I got behind the wheel and found that the key turned freely with no resistance, The dash lights were on and could not be turned off. The tech swore he had done nothing wrong. I got it towed and when I removed the key cylinder found broken metal bits that pieced together fit the end of the key cylinder.see photo I'm guessing that the battery had not been charging right because of the loose ground and had been depleted while the tires were changed. The tech then tried to crank the key and broke the connection between the cylinder and the ignition switch. Behind the broken part there is a spring. I'm guessing that the ignition switch is jammed in a position that keeps the dash lights on but in the absence of a mechanical connection with the key cylinder can't be activated. My question is this- is what I found a seperate part or the end of a shaft that connects to the starter switch? Also, I should point out- not shown in your photos- there's a third screw to be removed to take the driver side panel off. The large nut holding the headlight switch in place must be removed to get at it.
May 27, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: The photo looks to be just to be just the lock cylinder portion of the ignition switch. Can you share a few more photos in this forum thread?- Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: I want to upgrade the ignition key to a push bottom ignition for my 2001 Porsche boxster. If this possible and has anybody done it Thank you
May 22, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: There certainly is away to do it. However I have not seen it done. I opened a post up in our forums, maybe someone in the Pelican community can offer some insight. - Nick at Pelican Parts
I spoke to a Porsch Mechanic who told me thet the die caste holder has been modified 5 times ,how long does it take these German Engineers to get it CORRECTLY ?
May 17, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: The modifications could be minimal. Parts are updated as time goes on to benefit the customer. Think of it as a postitive, Porsche wanting to get it right. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: Fantastic tech help, have noticed that somethings are wrong way around, as mine is right hand drive. left the tumbler in until unit was on bench, turn to position one in order to press the release button near column, which is underneath in UK. Took 2 hours, Thanks again.
September 26, 2012
Comments: Great tips Pelican! 2000 Boxster. At 6'2" 275# I found it necessary, and easy really, to remove the seat and steering wheel so as to get access. found my wallet w/$100. long thought lost too!. The US/DOT mandated 'knee bar' blocked the view I see in these pics. That an OE improperly crimped horn wire which fell out causing the horn to blow at will made wheel removal necessary anyway, 2 birds eh! Long arms, big hands no help on this repair, but new switch cured it. Thanks again Pelican! Your pics much more informative than the OE manual had indicated.
September 19, 2012
Comments: One of the two screws holding the switch to the steering lock assembly on my car was installed backwards at the factory! See the attached photos. When I couldn't get my screw driver to catch the obscured screw head after a couple of frustrating hours, I decided to remove the entire lock assembly so that I could get a better look. That's when I found the screw was installed somehow in reverse. I couldn't remove the reversed screw, but a slight modification to the new ignition switch allowed me to slide the new one in place. I hope this helps anyone else perplexed by a stubborn screw.
September 3, 2012
Comments: Trying to remove my ignition key cylinder with the paperclip trick shown. Won't work. Of significant note, the hole to insert the paperclip is exactly 180 degrees around from the position shown. That is, It near the upper rt. of the key slot unlike pic, the lower left.
Should it still work? or did someone put it in upside down making it un-removable easily?
Ideas?? Thanks much, PK2
August 27, 2012
Comments: I am trying to replace both the tumbler and the electrical switch. Problem is that they do not line up with internals of the steering lock assembly? They are about a quarter turn out. Can I turn the internal parts of the lock assembly?
August 11, 2012
Comments: 1999 boxster when the car is not used for length of time,the ignition key will not turn. after playing with it for some time,it can be forced to turn. do you have some info.
July 25, 2012
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Assuming the steering wheel is not locked, preventing the key to be turned. The ignition lock cylinder may be work. You can try lubricating it, if that doesn't help, replace it. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: Welp, all's well that ends well! The new ignition switch solved all of the problems I was having with key release! Magic! Thank you, Pelican Parts! And thanks to all the other folks who posted on this forum - it was a great help.
May 30, 2012
Comments: I'm just beginning to have trouble removing the key from the cylinder on my 2002 Boxster. Chris says replacing the electrical ignition switch freed up his key. How can this be? Does the electrical switch control the tumblers? I've ordered the switch as "step 1", but if that fails can the tumbler cylinder for the key be replaced? Where? Maybe replacing the steering lock assembly would be a more sensible "step 2". Any wisdom?
May 8, 2012
Followup from the Pelican Staff: You might want to try removing the switch assembly and then spraying it with some lubricant. There was the mechanical recall / upgrade from Porsche on this, so it may not be the lock cylinder itself, but the whole ignition assembly. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: Help! I just replaced the electrical part of the switch and the key doesn't turn. Is it possible that I need to have some type of lubricant for a connection? I just purchased the part brand new from the Audi parts provider here in Orlando and I don't get anything.
May 2, 2012
Comments: In your description above the part numbers for the electric ignition switch are backwards. The older model boxsters use 4A0-905-849B. The 2004 - newer models use 4B0-905-849.
April 22, 2012
Comments: 1999 Boxster. The car thinks the key hasn't been removed even when it has, so I'm replacing the ignition switch. I read that it's necessary to disconnect the negative battery lead, but your article doesn't mention it. Will I get electrocuted if I replace the ignition switch with the battery still connected?
March 4, 2012
Comments: I have a new twist to this ignition switch problem. My horn will not honk with the key turned from the off position. It will work again as soon as the key is turned to off AND the key is removed. The electrical portion of the ignition switch was disconnected while troubleshooting so I have ruled out the switch as the problem. There seems to be a circuit made when the key is removed since it affects the chime at the same time. There is a wiring harness leading to the steering wheel locking mechanism but I was unsuccessful at removing the whole ignition/locking mechanism because the panel on the left of the switch containing the headlight switch and air louver would not come off without forcing it and I didn't want to damage it. In the photo of the replacement locking mechanism I see no wiring so I don't know what to think about where the switch involved is installed.
November 14, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm still guessing that the electrical portion of the switch is involved here. There seems to be a lot of people with this issue lately, I'm curious what the root cause could be. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: I'm attempting to replace/upgrade the ignition lock assembly as instructed. However, my lock is so jacked up with the key in I can't move the key from position 0 to position 1 to remove the ignition cylinder. Tried wd40 and other tricks but no luck. So, I attempted to removed the entire steering lock assembly. I've removed the 10mm nut holding the assembly to the steering column. And now I'm attempting to push the lock pin to release the lock assembly but unable to do so. I'm thing since I don't have the key in position 1 the steering wheel is locked and it not allow the assembly to be removed. Any suggestions with getting the steering lock assembly out while the key is still in pos o with the key cylinder in place. I've tried removing the key cylinder with and without the electrical connections in place but no difference. Prior do disassembly of anythign the key would not go from pos 0 to 1 and that is why I need to replace the assembly. Can I remove the steering lock assembly while key is in position 0?
October 18, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Some of these key mechanisms can be a $^^%#$! There are a few threads in our forums on people who have had similar problems - I'm going to copy this question there. Although I haven't done it myself, I think you can remove the assembly with the key still installed. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: Is there any way to depress the lock pin in figure 3 step D without having a key? I know you need the key to release the locking assembly but is there any way around this?
September 30, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I think that you can remove the entire ignition switch assembly without the key (Figure 4), but not the key assembly itself. At that point, you'd have to probably replace the whole mechanism. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: 2002 BoxsterS. My problem was the same as Rick's - Key would not come out. Just replacing the electrical switch portion fixed the problem. The tumbler mechanism drives the electrical switch, and the switch itself was jammed. As soon as the switch came off, the tumbler and key were free. Rick - since you already have the old mechanism out, try to remove the electrical switch to free up your key.
September 20, 2011
Comments: I have the locking section out and am replacing it with the upgraded one. Problem is the key tumbler will not come out. I have tried it in every position numerous times with both a paper clip and a small screw driver about the size of a paper clip. It just will not come out. What does the paper clip hit to release it. Any other ideas before I take it to Porsche service and surrender my first born!
September 9, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: It can be difficult on some cars. You may want to jiggle the steering wheel back and forth. If you search the Boxster forum, you will find a few people who wrestled with this for ages, and then all of a sudden it popped out. You might want to spray some WD-40 in there, as that might help. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
I am replacing the ignition cylinder / steering lock assembly. In your tech section to do this, you must remove the the nut that fastens the lock assembly to the steering column. Seems near impossible without removing the instrument cluster! Is that right, must I remove the cluster? Once I get it out, should I send a photo to make certain I get the right switch? Thanks, Rick
September 6, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you mean the procedure in Figure 3, then yes, you need to remove the dash to access that area. If you are only updating / replacing the electrical portion, you should be able to get it out of the assembly / tumbler without having to remove the entire assembly. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: I have the problem that my key will turn off but will not come out of the switch. I have done everything except grip it with vice grips and it just will not come out. I can start the car and drive it, then when I stop I have to leave the key in it. I have tried the paper clip in all positions but the cylinder will not come out. Any ideas.
August 31, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: The actual tumbler is spring-loaded. Your key sits in your pocket along with gunk and other pocket stuff and this gunk can build up on the inside of the mechanism. This is not terribly uncommon. A quick remedy when the key is actually out is to spray some WD-40 in there to loosen up the mechanism. This problem can also be caused by the steering lock - a part that was recalled and later replaced by an updated version from Porsche for issues like these. Try shaking the steering wheel repeatedly in both directions while trying to remove the key. Then, if/when you get it out, I would recommend upgrading to the later-designed part (the procedure is located in our tech articles section). - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: I removed my switch per your instructions and then tested the mechanism with the switch removed. It worked perfectly but I had to remember to remove the key before the steering wheel would lock to confirm proper operation. I mention this because others may be tempted to replace the entire mechanism needlessly. I opened the faulty switch and found that it had broken internally preventing the assembly to turn properly. I would add this test of the mechanism with switch removed to the tutorial. Great site. It has saved me lots of money and aggravation. Thank you.
May 30, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Cool deal, thanks for the tip! - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: I have read all the instructions both here & many other forums about the removal of the electrical portion of the ignition and also opening front hood w/ donor battery. My key is stuck and won't quite go into position "0". Battery is run down. I tried the jumper cable to fusebox trick to open frnt hood w/no success. Must the ignition be in "0" position for this solution to work??
The alternate method of finding and pulling the emergency cable behind the drivers side headdlamp sounds the easiest. Are the plastic brads which hold the splash protectors in the wheel well "snap-in" or threaded? HELP PLEASE!
Comments: 2002 Boxster - Confirmed Micks comment, that to remove the key tumbler, the key needs to be in position 1. And use a large paper clip. Also you need to have the tumbler removed to complete Figure 3,D.
July 18, 2010
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks guys, I did update this in the book, and the website too, but it looks like it didn't get pushed to the server. I'll do that now. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: REmove barrel. Figure 2 you forgot the most import bit. Turn the key to position 1 then put in paper clip
June 5, 2010
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