Most modern ignition locks fall into two broad categories: pin-retained locks and locks that are held in place by an “active retainer.” Active retainer locks have a retainer that is usually spring-loaded, and can generally be released only after the lock has been turned from the Locked position...
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Replacement roll pins are usually available from quality hardware stores and locksmith supply houses. If you plan to work on many ignition locks, I strongly suggest that you buy a roll pin assortment and keep it in your truck. Even if you do not damage a roll pin in removing it, they have a tendency to disappear into the background when dropped on the floor. A sample of various sized roll pin is shown in photo 4.
Capped Pins: This type of pin is held in place by a cap, usually formed by swedging some of the metal of the housing over the top of the pin. About the only place you will find these rare pins is on the old Alpha-Tec ignition locks used by GM in the mid-1990s as shown in photo 5. If these locks have been removed from the car, you can actually grind away the metal that has been staked over the top of the pin and then shake the pin out its socket.
Mushroomed Pins: These are not actually pins that can be removed, but are in fact a part of the lock that fits through a hole in a matching part and are then mashed so that the two parts are locked together. This type of retainer is often found on Toyota and Lexus ignition locks holding the face of the lock in place as in photo 6. This type of retainer must be dealt with very carefully, so that you do not damage the lock, or grind away so much metal that you cannot reassemble the lock properly.
REMOVING DIFFERENT TYPES OF PIN RETAINERS
Solid pins and spline pins that are mounted in “blind” sockets all need to be dug out of the lock. Attempting to simply drill them out can be a very frustrating experience. The metal of the pin is harder than that of the surrounding lock housing, so a hand-held drill has a tendency to slide off of the pin and into the housing of the lock. If you get your drill to bite into the pin, chances are that the pin will soon start spinning in the hole, which is impressive to watch, but accomplishes very little.
Roll pins can sometimes be removed with a sheet-metal screw or a tap screwed into the hole in the center of the pin. Obviously, you can’t do this with tiny roll pins, but if the pin is large enough in diameter, give this method a shot. Photos 7 though 9 show this method in use on a Ford Escort ignition, which has relatively large diameter roll pins.
You want to use the smallest tap or screw that will fit into the pin and still get a grip. If you use too large a tap or screw, you will expand the roll pin and make the job of removing it even more difficult. In these photos I’m using a number 4 X 40 tap. I have also used a generous amount of tap lubricant (Tap Magic) on the tap and on the pin in order to prevent the tap from binding and to help the pin slide out. Because this tap barely bites into the pin, it will thread in easily until it bottoms out in the hole. In photo 8 you can see that the tap has bottomed out in the socket and by continuing to screw the tap in, it acts as a puller to pull the roll pin out of its socket. In photo 9, you can see the pin and the tap after they have been removed from the lock. Avoid trying to pull the pin out with the tap; that is a very good way to break the tap off in the pin and make your job harder.
The process of digging out smaller pins, regardless of whether they are solid pins or roll pins, generally involves drilling or grinding a hole next to the pin, and then prying the pin out with a tool like an ice-pick. When you are drilling your hole, make sure that you drill from the side of the pin and not from either the front or the rear of the pin. You want to make sure that when the lock is reassembled, the pin holds the lock together just as well as it did before you removed it. If you drill inline with the direction the lock has to move in order to come apart, the parts may not fit back together as tightly as they did before you started.
My personal preference when it comes to digging out pins is to use a “dental burr” to grind away just enough metal for me to reach the pin and then to cut slightly into the pin itself. On a roll pin, you can actually grind a hole in the pin with the tip of a dental burr. Dental burrs can be purchased from dental supply houses, and they come in a variety of different sizes and shapes. They are also not cheap, but if you talk to your dentist, you may be able to get them for free.
Most locksmiths would rather deal with ten active retainers than one pin retainer. You generally have to fight, curse, and dig the pin retainers out their sockets with drills, ice-picks, Dremel® and...