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Steering wheel lock problem on ZX3

11-29-2003, 07:41 AM
I just bought a 2000 Ford Focus zx3 last weekend and already I'm having a problem with the steering wheel locking up and the ignition key won't turn. I tried jilting the wheel to try to get it to unlock. In fact, I sat in my car for 3 hours trying to figure out why the steering wheel won't unlock and the car won't turn over. Is there anyone else on this forum who is familiar with this problem and how it was resolved? I think my best bet is to jusjt contact my dealer and let them know there's a problem, but maybe there's a quick fix to this!


11-29-2003, 09:13 AM
Did you turn the wheel away from the lock and try to start it at the same time, not turn the wheel, let go then try to start it? That happened on my maxima and it was an easy fix for me. but thats never happened on my zx3, maybe contact the dealer. Did you buy private seller or dealer? Any type of warrenty with the car?

12-05-2003, 12:57 PM
Check your key. Does it have a horizontal grove in the very tip of it? If so, it has been worn down enough so that the ignition switch (anti-theft system) thinks you are trying to start the car with the incorrect key. I was told by one service guy that if it ever happened to me again (it's happened four times already) that I could try lightly tapping the end of the key when it has been inserted in the ignition switch. This might force the pins in the ignition switch to accept the key enough to start the car. Basically, if you notice wear on your key, go get a new set made by your local Ford dealer -- will cost you $35.

12-10-2003, 04:16 PM
I had the same problem with my '01 ZX3 a few weeks ago. I had to have it replaced and had to pay $300! And it happened just a week after my warranty expired.

01-08-2004, 10:28 PM
ive been having problems with my 2002 ZX3. for some reason the key gets stuck in the ignition. took the car to dealer said they found no problem. so i took it to another one when i got fed up. they replaced the cylinder, but no luck. took it back yesterday got a call today, saying nothing is found. so i have to take my car in next week and the are gonna completly take my car apart to try to fix it. at least at this dealer they are making an effort to fix it unlike the onther one.

01-14-2004, 03:29 PM
I had the same issue as the original poster w/ my 2000 Focus--key inserts but will not turn. Extremeley common with Focus, esp 2000 according to other posts ( and the dealers and locksmiths I talked to. Dealers were quoting $340 and up to fix it, plus tow. A locksmith just came to my house (SF area) and did mine for $185.

If you've had this problem, submit a complaint to the NTSB at, if enough of us do Ford will have to make amends like they did just recently re faulty fuel pumps (

01-18-2004, 10:05 AM
My ignition key will not turn either as of last night- this is the second time- it was at the dealership just last year for the same problem. They fixed the trunk lock also because it would not unlock. Guess what? - it is already broken also. I spent over $500 to get these fixed last year and they are already broken. Wish there was a way to hot wire it. I hate bringing it do the dealership- I'm sure they will not warrant their work.

02-16-2004, 07:55 PM
I had 3 ignition switch cylinders replaced under warranty and it just went bad again, so I took it apart myself this time to see why.

The design is so bad, even with only one tumbler in a brand new part, it would bind and lock up even in my hands as I simulated use conditions.

Instead of the tumblers moving up and down and locking to the outer shell, the wimpy little tumblers are supposed to sort of push sideways to force a steel locking bar into the right position. But the problem is this locking can stick in any position it wants to.
That is why tapping helps.
It helps free up a binding locking bar.

I found a company, ASP (Auto Security Products) that claims they sell a better replacement, 425-556-1900.
But I just removed all the tumblers, and it works fine now.
You don't really need tumblers because there are door locks, you still need to insert a key to release the cylinder latch, and you need the right key for the transponer to allow the starter to engage.

And if your switch is so bad you can not get it to turn enough to remove, then Lockmasters, 800-654-0637, has a $30 tool that will allow you to force it past the tumblers, thus avoiding having to drill the cylinder out.

02-27-2004, 05:07 PM
I wanted to install the 4th switch myself, since the 3 previous ones under warranty went bad so quickly.
And what is interesting is that the new lock cylinder comes as a kit.
Little bags of tumblers are supplied, so that you can match any key in the world.
But since the engineering is so faulty, even a new switch is going to last only a short while.
And since it is such a pain to get stranded like that, the best thing is to leave all of the tumblers out of the cylinder.

It still requires a key before turning, and only the right key will start it because of the transducer.

04-23-2004, 10:05 AM
Yeah...I also got a 2000 Focus with the frozen lock problem. A couple weeks after purchase (used, but a great price) they replaced the cylindar and keys because they got stuck inside the cylindar...couldn't do anything with them.

Now, just over a year (go figure...out of warrantee) the lock cylindar completely freezes. NO WAY is there any way to get this working....just impossible. The lock tumblers wear or break, completely rendering the cylindar useless...tapping or no tapping like other posts say.

The dealer was closed (Sunday) when this happened, so I towed it to my local garage whom I can trust - I can't trust my dealer Jack Byrne Ford in Mechanicville further than I can throw their staff (several times they either didn't fix things I asked to fix, or things broke mysteriously shortly after I had taken it there for other things).

They replaced the cylindar completely with a FORD part that was supposed to be an improved cylindar that doesn't do that...but now two days after getting the car back...BLAMMO....stuck in the driveway because the think sticks again.

WHAT???!!! Now what do I do. Surely the dealer is going to laugh at me that I did't take it there least the garage I took it to is re-fixing it free. I just don't want this happening again and again and again...especially since my wife primarily drives the car...what if this happened in the boonies...or on a snowy day or cold day or when my 6 month old baby is in the car? THAT's totally unacceptable?

Any of you people have any ideas other than gas and a match?

04-23-2004, 03:51 PM
The lock is not bad because of wear.
It is designed so badly that even a perfectly new one can jam.
In most lock cylinders the tumblers are pushed by springs to lock against an outer sleeve, and the key pushes them back in.
With the Focus they added a locking bar as 90 degrees to the tumblers, and that is what locks the sleeve instead of the tumblers.
The problem is there is no solid connection between the key and this locking bar.
It is only pushed by the tiny tumbler springs, wich easily jam.

So the ONLY current solution is to remove all the tumblers.

This is easy to do (if you can get the cylinder to turn to the on position for removal).
And does not allow theft because you still need the right key to activate the electronic transponder.

ga keyman
05-01-2004, 01:15 PM
also the tumblers bend very easily, most of the time the mechanic or locksmith will drill it out because there is no quick fix (permanant) average price in atlanta is from 150.00 to 250.00
i have worked on 10 just this year

06-19-2004, 08:55 PM
I have just had this problem on my wife's car - I have now read about over three hundred people with this same prblem in just an hour of research. Ford needs to recall this!
Please report to NHTSA at:
If enough people report the problem then maybe we can get a recall and be reimbused for this BS! It only takes a few minutes to fill out the complaint online.

06-22-2004, 04:28 PM
I had the same problem on my 2003 Focus and had to take it in to the dealer.

06-22-2004, 07:19 PM
i kind of have to jingle my key to get it in the ignition for some reason :/ sorry its off topic.

06-23-2004, 01:28 AM
what can i say, its a focus......... :P

06-23-2004, 11:24 PM
i kind of have to jingle my key to get it in the ignition for some reason :/ sorry its off topic.

Not to be sorry.
That is right on topic.
That is how it starts.
Sometimes you can't get the key out either.
But eventually it just does not want to turn.
For awhile it helps to rap on the key.
Finally you have to tow it and have the ingnition cylinder replaced, about every year.
Until you just give up and leave the tumbler out of the last cylinder.

11-23-2004, 07:21 AM
It happend to me too. I don't know what it is. The key gets stuck for some reason, then the ignition switch won't turn for the car to start. Does anyone know whats wrong?

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