Locked and Loaded: Restoring an ignition lock

Want your Ford V-8 ignition lock to work and look as new as the 1935 Ford Deluxe Tudor pictured here? Then follow the steps below.

Story and photos by Tom Mason, PhD

The following tips have been learned over the course of restoring 1935-’36 Ford ignition locks. These tips may also be helpful for restoring other early Ford V-8 ignition switches.

There appears to be two different types of locking assemblies in 1935 and 1936 Ford, perhaps because there were different suppliers to Ford. The two ignition locks look the same from the outside, but the internal parts are very different from one another and are not interchangeable. However, the disassembly techniques are similar.


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First remove the switch box and internal components on the back of the gear assembly. The switch box is held on to the housing by two screws. Next, remove the lock tumbler. In some cases, it is held in by a pin. In other cases, it is retained by a screw on the bottom. Remove the screw holding the toggle lever tension ball and spring.

Now remove the end cap, but be warned that it is difficult to remove. It is pressed on and so it must be pulled off, which is difficult to accomplish without harming the cap. The best approach I have found is to remove the “on-off” switch plate. This will allow the entire locking shaft and cap to be shifted to the right enough to provide a small gap between the cap and the housing. Using a small screwdriver as a wedge, work off the cap. If the cap is damaged, a replacement is available for about $20.

An exploded view of the disassembled ignition lock for a 1935-’36 Ford.

I am not a fan of the replacement caps. Besides being rather pricey, they are made out of soft aluminum, which is easily damaged when installing or removing it. However, all is not lost. Usually, with the use of a Dremmel tool, pits and scars can be removed from the original cap. When finished working the Dremmel tool to remove pits and scars from an original cap, I buff and polish the part. The results with just a small amount of work are surprising.

To make the cap installation simpler, thread the cap and the attaching shaft. This will allow it to be screwed on, rather than pressed on. A second approach involves filing down the “ribs” on the locking shaft just enough so that thumb pressure is enough to push on the end cap. To keep the cap on the shaft, I drill a small hole in the cap and then thread the hole to accept a 1/8-inch set screw. When I install the cap, I rotate the set screw to the backside of the shaft and it looks original. Either way, this allows for easier assembly and future removal of the cap, if necessary.




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There are two types of on-off toggle levers on the ignition lock. One type requires the removal of the “nail” that moves the ignition brush. The nail can be removed in several ways. I often use the claw end of a small brass hammer. The second type does not have a removal nail. The toggle switch and the shifting pin are an integrated casting. To remove this lever requires the removal of a key, which can be seen with the end cap removed. To remove the toggle switch, simply slide the locking rod toward the steering column opening in the housing.

Note the difference in the yokes.

A top view of the yokes.

The on-off plate is held on by two rivets, which are difficult to remove. They usually end up getting sheared off. To make life simpler, I drill and tap the two holes for the use of a No. 4 screw. This allows the use of a machine screw, which looks very similar to an original rivet (except for the slot). You must look hard to spot the difference.

When it comes to painting the ignition lock, 1935-’36 Ford Standard models are black. The 1935 Deluxe models are Metallic Taupe. Early-1936 Deluxe models are Benton Grey and late-1936 Deluxe models with a woodgrain instrument panel are Rustic Brown.

Notice the different length of the yoke braces.

Once the ignition lock is back together, spend a few minutes cleaning the two brass contacts on the plastic plate that attaches to the back of the switch assembly. I use 280-grit, wet-and-dry paper to clean off the carbon residue. Too often, these contacts are overlooked and result in “mysterious” hard-starting scenarios.

Installation of the ignition on the column itself can be tricky. Often, the steering tube has become dented over the years, and subsequently, these dents were repaired with body filler. This will work for appearance purposes, but too often the “repairs” thicken the circumference of the tube, which will be rapidly discovered when the yoke is slid in position. There are a couple of ways to cope with this scenario.

The first method requires spreading the yoke slightly to increase the hole opening, but do not get carried away. If the yoke is spread too far, you won’t be able to get it to close properly on the column tube. Use wax paper under the yoke to slide it into position.

The second installation trick involves painting the tube in two steps. Paint the top portion of the column the desired color and leave the bottom portion in primer. Slide on the yoke, lock it into place and then mask off the top part and refinish the bottom part.

There is a third way to avoid all the column repair issues, and that is to make a new column from a 1-1/2-inch tailpipe tube, but that’s another story.

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The restored ignition lock and yoke. While the components are off the car, now is the time to paint and polish them.


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