Adjustment needed to repair Impala ignition lock

by Jim Kerr . May 27 2016
GENERAL MOTORS CANADAA minor adjustment could be all that is required to fix the steering/ignition lock on a 2000 Chevrolet Impala.


A minor adjustment could be all that is required to fix the steering/ignition lock on a 2000 Chevrolet Impala.

Question: I have a 2000 Chevrolet Impala with 165,384 kilometres on it that I have had from new. About a month ago when I started the car, the steering wheel would not move, nor would the gearshift. After I turned off the key and turned the key back on, it worked fine. This has happened about five times. Now the lights go out when I turn off the key. I had the key replaced on a recall about six months ago. Can you help? 

— Percy

Answer: Part of the antitheft system on your Impala is a steering-wheel and gearshift lock that prevents them from moving until the ignition key is in the on position. This lock mechanism is operated by an electrical solenoid on the bottom of the steering column under the plastic covers the shift lever and turn signal levers go into.

The electrical solenoid locks onto a toothed rod connected to the shift lever. When the key is on and the brake pedal is pressed, the electric solenoid is powered up and releases the toothed rod so the shift lever and steering wheel are free to move.

There is an adjustment on the solenoid and toothed rod. This may have been moved when the recall was done and over the next few months has moved just slightly to the point where it won’t release. The adjustment takes only a few minutes to do but requires the plastic covers to be removed from the steering column to access the solenoid. I would recommend taking it back to the dealer that did the recall and have them adjust it, as this is the most likely cause of your problem.

It is possible the electric switch on the brake-pedal arm is faulty or misadjusted, or the wiring to the steering column lock solenoid is intermittent, but because your vehicle will shift after several attempts of turning the key off and on, I would think they are likely good. This is likely just a simple adjustment problem.


Question: I have a 1998 GMC Sierra, although I imagine the question applies to most vehicles. Will a vehicle run fine without an oil dipstick? About a year ago, the engine oil dipstick tube on my truck became detached from the block. I now have no way of reading the oil level. The truck isn’t (or wasn’t) burning or leaking oil, and I see no telltale spots under it from oil coming out of the tube opening at the block. Is it OK to just leave it like this? The tube attachment point seems to be hidden behind and underneath the right manifold, and its reattachment seems to be a costly option if that manifold needs to be removed to gain access. 

— Chris

Answer: The answer to your question is yes and no! Some vehicles will run fine without a dipstick in place, but dirt can be drawn into the crankcase because of the vacuum inside the engine created by the positive crankcase ventilation system. Other vehicles require a sealed crankcase to control airflow through the positive crankcase ventilation system. For example, your truck runs fine, but pull the dipstick on a BMW while the engine is running, and the engine will start to run rough.

I would recommend you have yours repaired to keep dirt out of the crankcase and to enable you to check oil levels.

Repairing the dipstick may not be as difficult as you think. On your truck, the dipstick tube fits into a hole machined into the right side of the engine block. The tube extends down into the oil pan and is not a tight fit in the engine block. Often, a broken tube can be pulled out of the block quite easily. One of the ways I have done it is to place a small metal pick down the tube into the pan and grab the bottom of the tube and pull it out. Another possible way of removing it is to use an easy-out tool to lightly grab the tube on the inside and pull it out. Don’t force the easy-out hard into the tube or it will expand the tube and make it harder to get out.

Finally, you can remove the oil pan and push the broken part of the tube out from the bottom. Installing a new tube is a simple matter of pushing it in and bolting the upper bracket in place.