DIY Car Repair – Have Hammer Will Travel
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Yesterday started out like a normal Saturday – had breakfast, made my grocery list, and set out for the farmer’s market and grocery store. At least that was the plan. However, when I got into the car and turned the key, nothing happened. Literallly nothing. The key wouldn’t even turn. It was like it was frozen in place. So, I did the normal thing, and began jiggling the steering wheel from side to side while trying to turn the key. And that’s how I inadvertently locked the steering wheel.
So now I not only had a frozen ignition switch, but also a frozen steering wheel. Out of the car, back into the house, and given that it was a Saturday, when every car repair shop in America (or at least my tiny corner of it) was closed, I did the only thing left to me. Fired up the computer, launched Safari and googled the problem for a solution.
Now I have to confess, this happened to me once before, and the outcome wasn’t great. I was about 2 miles down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere without a phone. To make a long story short, I hiked to the nearest place I could place a call, and after the first tow-truck refused to come, got my mechanic on the line who summoned a truck for me. The upshot was a new ignition switch for the car and accompanying bills.
So back to yesterday. Google very helpfully displayed a long list of responses to “1999 Nissan key won’t turn.” About the first 3 pages of responses (okay a slight exaggeration) were along the line of, “jiggle the key while turning the wheel back and forth.” Not helpful since neither was in jiggling condition. So I googled, “locked steering wheel,” and was directed to jiggle the key while trying to turn the wheel back and forth. Hmmm…. Eventually, buried way down on the list of searches was a thread in which the responder mentioned the possibility of a problem with the tumblers in the switch going out of alignment and causing the key not to work, necessitating a new ignition switch. Flashbacks to several years ago and an expensive repair bill.
Before I resigned myself to that, and a weekend imprisoned at home (I live too a bit too far out in the countryside for walking or public transportation to be an option), I took one last look at the search list. There was one more thread that might be promising, so I opened it. In it was a reply from someone suggesting that lightly tapping the ignition lock with a hammer might allow the tumblers to fall back into alignment. A hammer? Surely not! But then, what did I have to lose? So, arming myself with a small hammer, I went back outside to the car and tapped lightly a couple of times on the ignition lock, inserted the key, and miracle of miracles, it jiggled! Then, while attempting to turn the key, I jiggled the steering wheel, felt the key turn, the steering wheel unlock, and the engine kick over. A hammer! Who knew? Well, apparently the savior that posted to that thread, and now, me.
I turned the car on and off a couple more times just to be sure, then went off to run my errands. I did stop to throw the hammer in the trunk, though. Never hurts to be prepared.