Greg's 2004 Porsche 996
Replace Ignition Switch

Nothing worse than being out shopping with your kids in your hot expensive sports car and when you get back in the car and put in and turn the key you hear a crunch and the key gets stuck. I was able to free up the key and drive the car home but then I knew I couldn't drive it again until this was fixed.

Fortunately that very same day in my mailbox was the October 2007 issue of Chicago Scene and in there was the Midship Report column by John Miller which among other things described how he ran into the same problem on his Boxster and included detailed instructions on how to fix it!

Upon doing some further on-line research it appears this is a VERY common problem and had been for several years. The problem is a simple VW/Audi electrical switch that's attached to the end of the key cylinder that tells the car's electronics what position the key is in. It's a cheap plastic part and eventually it seems some little plastic part inside cracks or breaks off and causes the key to not be able to turn. In my case I was lucky and was able to crunch the plastic enough to allow the key to turn semi-freely again.

That little plastic part costs all of about $10.92 from www.autohausaz.com. The OEM version of the switch is VW/Audi part# 4A0905849. Since this part seems to break a lot it probably couldn't hurt to order an extra one or two. The part has been discontinued from Porsche so it may not be available from VW/Audi parts sites forever. There is an updated ignition lock that avoids using the easily broken VW switch. The process is well documented at: DIY Upgraded Ignition Switch/Log Installation for 996/Boxster. When (not if) this switch ever breaks again I'm likely to just buy the more reliable ignition lock assembly and not have to replace that switch again.

The basic process is pretty simple. The switch can be accessed from under the dash. It's a little tricky to get to the two small slotted screws holding it in place so you need to at least remove the section of duct running across the dash but I found I had a hard time getting to the screws so I ended up also loosening the ODB-II and swiveling it out of the way and also removing the light switch/left duct assembly and unscrewing the vertical duct as well which I was then able to wiggle out of the way for better access to those darn screws.

  1. Romove the key or leave it in the 0 position if at all possible
  2. Contort yourself under the dash and remove the big duct. Just compress it and it should easily come out and both ends.
  3. Find the switch and pull the wiring harness of the switch. It should come off pretty easily.
  4. The screws you need to remove are covered in bright red paint. Scratch off the paint with a small screwdriver.
  5. Then just unscrew the two screws with a very small slotted screwdiver. If you're having trouble getting to them you may need to move the other duct out of the way too.
  6. The screws are not very tight so it should take very little force to unscrew them. You also don't need to unscrew them all the way, just enough for the heads to extend slightly past the bracket holding the switch.
  7. If your key was stuck in the ignition you should be able to remove it now. The new switch will only go in if the key is in the 0 position.
  8. Install new switch.
  9. Replace the wiring harness. It only goes on one way.
  10. Replace any ductwork you moved/removed out of the way.
  11. Take the car for a spin to make sure it's all working still.

Click on thumbnail for a full-size picture

For me I had another surprise under the dash, fortunately a pleasant one. Apparently a previous owner had installed the Valentine-1 hard wire adapter. I followed the wires and found the power cord tucked between the window and frame. The end had been cut off but there was enough slack to pull the wire back and I can just crimp on a new RJ-11 plug!