A 2000 Nissan Quest owner towed his vehicle into my shop ten days ago. When he went out to his vehicle the ignition key would not turn in the switch. I needed to move the vehicle out of my doorway. Since it was locked into park I had a couple of choices other than rolling it out of the way on a carrier. I could unhook the shifter cable or take the ignition switch assembly off the column. I chose getting part of the job done because I’d have to replace the switch assembly anyway. Once the switch assembly is uncovered the retaining bolts have to be carefully removed using a spring-loaded center punch. They remove the heads on these retaining bolts to prevent the vehicle being stolen easily. It went smoothly and I rolled the Quest back into a shop stall.
Things became interesting after that. It is a dealer item only and they told me two working days to get the part. It took a week and a half for the dealer to receive the part after my estimate was okayed by the customer. This is unusual for a part like this. One of two facts are usually true when this happens – either the part never goes bad or so many of them have gone bad they are on nationwide backorder. Because the diagnosis is not brain surgery in this case, trouble notes on professional forums are not in abundance so I can’t gauge the failure rate in a statistical fashion.
Ignition switches fail mechanically for only a few reasons – the owner drapes ten pounds of peripheral garbage on the key-ring, the keys wear out, or the inside lock mechanism fails. I mention this particular vehicle because I suspect they’re failing and there are a lot of them out there. If I get a number of these over the next year it will confirm my suspicion. Since this problem disables the vehicle completely, it’s one to keep in mind because of the time required to get another ignition/switch assembly. I waited to post this until I had the Quest running and out of the shop.