Buick Lucerne Servicing Guide: Part II

The Buick Lucerne was introduced in 2006 as a replacement for the LeSabre. Like the LeSabre, the Lucerne has become a favorite with the rental car companies, which can be real headache for locksmiths. General Motors and the other manufacturers sell a lot of vehicles directly to the various rental car fleets and it has become common for manufacturers to use up their old stock of parts on these cars. An example is the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Classic, which is essentially a 2007 Malibu that is only being sold to the rental car fleets.

Part 1 of our Buick Lucerne Servicing Guide, in the May 2008 issue of Locksmith Ledger, covered car opening and door lock disassembly. Our second installment addresses ignition lock removal and transponder programming.

The Buick Lucerne uses the standard General Motors “CSS” steering column. This column is found in the majority of late model GM vehicles. The procedures used here will apply to those vehicles as well. Once again, this particular vehicle is equipped with a 75 groove lock, but this lock is interchangeable with the 93 groove lock. Ortech locks are generally a dealer only item.

Almost all of the CSS steering columns are tilt-columns and will have a tilt-control lever located low on the left side. The tilt control lever is held in place with a spring-ball detent and can often be removed by just pulling on it. If more force is required, a small amount of gentle prying with a screwdriver will do the trick.

The lower portion of the steering column shroud is secured to the column with three screws that are easily located. Once the screws have been removed, the top and bottom portions of the shroud snap together in two places directly behind the steering wheel; one on each side. Careful prying will allow the two pieces to unsnap, and the end of the lower portion closest to the steering wheel will pivot down. The end of the lower portion of the shroud near the dash is equipped with two “J” hooks that hook over two matching pins in the upper portion of the shroud. To remove the lower shroud, you will have to push it into the dash and then twist it in order to disengage the pins. Attempting to pry this portion apart will only break the hooks. It is often helpful to remove the trim around the base of the steering column, where the column meets the dash.

Once the lower portion of the shroud has been removed, use the TT-3020 tool to access the poke-hole and remove the lock plug from the column. On many vehicles, the upper portion of the shroud cannot be removed until the lock plug has been removed from the column. The reason for this is that the face of the lock is larger than the hole in the upper shroud and the shroud simply will not come off until the lock has been removed. On this vehicle, because the lock has a flat face rather then “ears,” the shroud can be removed without first removing the lock. However, the two bolts that secure the upper shroud require a 4mm socket and are hard to get to. I prefer to do as little work as possible, so I leave the upper shroud in place unless it is absolutely necessary to remove it.

The locks in all CSS steering columns must be turned to the “Start” position in order to be removed. Several picks will allow you to pick these locks if the lock is in working condition. My personal favorite is the A1 pick set. Remember that the lock MUST be in working condition for the pick to work. If you have a key that will not turn the lock you will not be able to pick it.

If the lock has failed, you will have to directly attack the sidebar. I prefer to drill a small hole into the lock housing over the sidebar and then apply direct pressure to the sidebar. A very common problem with these locks is a stuck tumbler. In those cases, I drill a hole over the sidebar, insert the key into the lock and then rap on the sidebar with a small hammer and a pin-punch inserted through the hole I’ve drilled. In extreme cases it is possible to drive the sidebar in with the punch far enough to allow the lock to turn.

If the lock has been physically damaged or vandalized, you will probably have to remove the face of the lock and then drill to neutralize the sidebar. Regardless of how you approach this situation, your primary concern should be to avoid damaging the lock housing. The housing used on the CSS column costs around $100, and it will require a lot more than that in labor to replace. The airbag, steering wheel and ignition switch must all be removed in order to replace the lock housing.

If you are able to turn the lock to the “Start” position, either with the key or by picking the lock, you can use the TT-3020 tool to remove the lock plug without removing the upper shroud. Once the lock has been removed, you should find a code number stamped into the lock. The code on this particular lock is 1651, but you will probably have to add the letter “O” as a prefix in order to look the code up in a code retrieval program. The “O” prefix means that you are dealing with an Ortech lock, but the “O” is not stamped into the lock. Since code retrieval programs are very literal, make sure that you understand the difference between the letter “O” and the number zero.

Photo 33 shows the steering column from above, with the upper shroud removed and the lock still in the housing. The various features of the lock housing are indicated by the letters.
This is the poke-hole. The lock must be turned to the “Start” position before the retainer will be accessible through this hole.

This is one of the two mounting points for the upper shroud. A post molded into the upper shroud fits into this depression and is secured by a #4 Torx® bolt. (A 4mm socket can be used to remove this bolt if you do not have a #4 Torx® socket.)

This is the index point that the TT-3020 tool fits into in order to reach the poke hole.

This is a strain relief used to secure the VATS wire on vehicles that are equipped with the VATS system. On vehicles such as the Buick Century and Regal, this slot would have a wire snapped into it, which is why the TT-3020 tool was designed to index at point “C.”

Photo 34 shows the TT-3020 tool in the position that it would be in during use. The shaft of the tool is positioned at the index point and the tip of the tool is then rotated over the top of the lock housing. The tapered tip of the tool will drop into the poke-hole when it is in the correct position. At that point, the lock is turned as far as it will go. The retainer on the lock will contact the tip of the tool, stopping the rotation of the lock, and you should be able to feel this. While maintaining a slight turning pressure on the lock, lift the tool slightly until the lock cylinder rotates just enough to place the retainer under the tip of the tool. Pulling down on the tool will depress the retainer and allow you to pull the lock out of the housing. After the lock pops out about a quarter of an inch, release the pressure on the tool in order to remove the lock plug the rest of the way. If you continue to pull down on the tool, the tip of the tool will go into the retainer chamber and prevent you from pulling the lock out of the housing. A small tab on the lock plug must align with a slot in the housing in order for the plug to be removed. It may be necessary to twist the lock plug slightly in order to align the tab and the slot so that the plug will come out.

Remember that all of this is being done in the “Start” position, so you will have to take steps to make sure that the starter does not engage. You could disconnect the battery, but that is probably more trouble than it’s worth. I prefer to put the car in “Drive” or Reverse” as soon as I can turn the key. The neutral-safety switch should prevent the starter from engaging, but I always test it first with my foot firmly planted on the brake. On vehicles equipped with a manual transmission, I put the shifter into neutral and as long as you don’t depress the clutch, the starter shouldn’t engage. Once again, I always test this first.

The overall external dimensions of both the 75 groove and 93 groove locks are the same and they are interchangeable. In addition, notice the rectangular tab located at the lower rear of the plug. This is the tab that must be aligned with the sidebar slot in the lock housing before the lock can be removed.

The code number is stamped at the rear of the lock. We can also see a gap between the second and third tumblers in the lock. This gap is where tumbler number three should have been, but this lock was made without a space for the number three tumbler. This was done intentionally on some locks in an attempt to prevent the problem of sticking tumblers. You will see Ortech locks that have eight tumblers and some like this one that only have seven.

The same tumblers are used in both the door and the ignition lock, even though the ignition has a sidebar and the door does not. In servicing this particular vehicle, I used parts from the ASP A-41-104 kit, but tumblers are also available from the Buick dealer. Here is a listing of the Buick part numbers for the various components:

#1 Tumbler: 1245-8154
#2 Tumbler: 1245-8155
#3 Tumbler: 1245-8156
#4 Tumbler: 1245-8157
Springs: 1245-8158

The spring retainer used in the Ortech ignition is unusual to say the least, and two retainers are required for each ignition. These are included in the ASP A-41-104 kit, but so far, I have not been able to locate the Buick part number. Because the retainers are on the flimsy side, I would never attempt to reuse one.

The programming procedure does not necessarily require a diagnostic device, since both original and duplicate keys can be programmed with onboard programming procedures.

The instrument cluster on the Buick Lucerne contains a security light that is used during the on-board programming procedures. This light is how the immobilizer module communicates with the technician. If this light is blinking or staying on when it should be off, this indicates a fault in the system of some type.

The security light looks like a cartoon of a car with a padlock through it and is located in the lower right hand side of the instrument cluster. This type of pictogram has become almost a standard for vehicle security systems over the past few years.
After determining the correct mechanical cuts, make a key on the proper blank for the vehicle you are dealing with and follow the steps below:

Insert the new key into the ignition and turn it to the “ON” position. The security light should come on steady and remain lit for ten minutes.

Within one minute of the time the security light goes out, turn the ignition off for a minimum of one second and then back on. The security light should come on steady again for another ten minutes.
Repeat steps two and three above until the ignition has been on for three cycles of ten minutes each.

Within one minute of the end of the third cycle, turn the ignition off for at least one second, and then back on to start the car. If programming was successful, the car should start and all existing keys will have been erased from the vehicle’s memory.

Here are some things to keep in mind when programming any of these vehicles.

Since the ignition will have to be on for at least 30 minutes, eliminate any unnecessary battery drain. If the vehicle is equipped with daytime running lights, they can be turned off by depressing the parking brake before turning on the ignition.

If you have any doubts about the battery in the car, attach jumper cables or preferably a “jump box” to supplement the vehicle’s battery.

Ortech vehicles are equipped with the older PK3 system and keys for that system can be cloned. If you are attempting to use onboard programming for an original key, you cannot use a key that is designed to be cloned unless you first program the key with the proper data. This process is often referred to as “pre-cloning.”

Duplicate keys can be programmed into the vehicle using onboard procedures if the following criteria have been met:

You have at least one working primary key (not a valet key) available.

The system is not already programmed for the maximum of ten keys.

The vehicle was not built for “Export.” Export vehicles will have a 2 or 3 in the first position of the VIN.

In order to program in a duplicate key, follow this procedure.

Insert a working key into the ignition and turn the ignition on.

When the security light goes out, turn the ignition off and remove the key.

Within fifteen seconds, insert the new key into the ignition and turn the ignition on. When the security light goes out, the key should be programmed.

Repeat step three for any additional duplicate keys to be programmed

Some things to keep in mind when programming any of these vehicles are:

If the programming does not work, the vehicle may already be programmed for the maximum of ten keys, regardless of how many keys the customer has. If that is the case, you can use the procedure above for originating a key to erase the vehicle’s memory and start over.

If the vehicle was built for export, two working keys may be required in order to add a duplicate key. The keys are inserted one after the other before inserting the duplicate key.

If you are dealing with an Ortech vehicle with the PK3 system, duplicate keys can also be cloned. But, if you are attempting to add the key with the above on-board procedure, you cannot use a key that is designed to be cloned without first “pre-cloning” the key. A key that is intended for cloning has a blank transponder, and since it has no data recorded onto it yet, there will be no data to program into the vehicle.