Broken Vintage Volvo Ignition Key 
5-2018-Ron Kwas  Revisions On-Going

Reference Information
Last Warning!
Installation of Lock Cylinder


This information applies to 544, 122, 1800 models (with Ignition Switch located in Instrument Panel and part of the Unique Armored Ignition Assembly supplied by Bosch, not late models with Ign Sw on Steering Column). 

An in-depth investigation into, and explanation of, just what causes this common and often occurring, and less than enjoyable moment in vintage Volvo ownership, can be seen here, at the reader's leisure, but the info presented here is intended for immediately after key breakage has occurred, and AMP and OIL Indicators are still ON, and because of the broken Key, there is no immediate and obvious way of turning Ignition OFF!  

Broken Key! what?

FIRST:  Disconnect Battery as Lock Cylinder is likely in Pos 3, Ignition is ON, and powering Ign Coil Primary (AMP and OIL Indicators are lit)!  This prevents overheating Ignition Coil (if Ignition Points happen to be closed at the time) as you proceed with options following

THEN...  since Lock Cylinder is in Pos 3 (see above!), having been returned there by the Gorilla Spring, which is a big contributor to this issue in the first place, from Pos 4, where the Key actually broke, Lock Cylinder needs to be turned to Pos 2, so that Key fragment can be removed.  Note:  Key fragment WILL NOT be able to be removed until Lock Cylinder is turned back to Pos 2!  LC can be turned to Pos 2 with edge of broken key, edge of another key, a screwdriver, a coin, anything with an edge which catches the key-slot edge of LC and allows turning it one notch back to the Ign OFF Pos 2.  Key fragment can now be removed with tweezers.

OR... leave Key fragment in LC, and LC in Pos 3, locate and push LC Release Pin, protruding through Ignition Switch Housing behind Instrument Panel and which secures LC into place, and extract entire LC Assy!  A light is required to locate the Pin behind the dark depths of the Instrument Panel, and unless you have pointy and steel finger tips, a small-tipped screwdriver will be also be required to provide the pinpoint force on the Pin for this. 

Nieman LC, disassembled from
 Ignition Switch Housing, showing keyway shape and location of LC Retaining Pin. 
When in situ, Pin is located behind Instrument Panel and difficult to see or access. 

Once LC has been removed, a larger flat-blade screwdriver can then be used in the remaining slot in Ign Sw, where tailpiece of LC normally goes, to turn the Ign Sw into Pos 2 and OFF.  Battery can be reconnected after Ign Sw has been turned OFF.

Ignition Switch, Lock Cylinder Seat detail.  A flatblade screwdriver can be inserted into the slot,
 where Tailpiece of the LC normally would be, and used to operate the Ign Sw temporarily.
  LC Pin retaining hole is just visible at Yellow, in the break in the armoring ring, and Spring which preloads against Tailpiece of LC is marked in Green

The Flat blade screwdriver can be used temporarily, instead of the LC and Key, to operate the Ignition Switch normally, while arranging for a replacement LC.  Replacement LCs are available.  see Link:  Replacement Lock Cylinders

OR... extract key fragment (with tweezers, again after first turning the Key-slot with fragment to the vertical Pos 2), and have a replacement key made from it (a competent Locksmith should be able do this when presented with key fragment.  Replacement key blanks are available to match the Nieman or ASSA LCs!.  Keys blanks are unique to the two LCs and not interchangeable!  

Finally:   To prevent a reoccurrence of the stress, pain and suffering associated with Ign Key breakage, because it will(!), if a Key is used to Start vehicle,  install a SW-EM Pushbutton Start Switch



Older, but still useful, remarks in Services Notes Page:  Extracting a Broken Ignition Key 


Reference Information: 

ASSA Lock Cylinder Assembly with Keys. 

SW-Em Tech Article.  Ignition Switch Key Breakage Tech Article: 


Last Warning! 

My response to posting:  ", I can definitely feel the key bending "

"Ign Lock Cylinder should always be lubed, and not with WD, (mostly solvent!), but a high film strength light oil (I like Tri-Flow very much for just about all light lubing needs!)...but NO amount of lube you spray into LC will reach the electrical part of the Ign Sw behind it, which is where Gorilla Spring is located, and NO amount of lube is going to change the force you have to put on Key to work against GS anyway, so once the Key has started bending, its had its service life and its time to retire it, and start using the next Key. The last thing you want is it breaking off in the LC...this causes unnecessary indigestion! To prevent cumulative Ign Key fatigue, install a Mom. Start Sw. see link! Cheers 


Installation of Lock Cylinder into Ignition Switch (partial excerpts from an e-mail exchange):  

Note:  LC installation should be done with Battery disconnected to prevent Ign Coil overheating, as Ign Switch should to be in Pos 3 (Ign ON) for LC insertion. 

Before Reinstalling Lock Cylinder, I suggest lubing both LC and Key, and Ign Sw itself, with a generous application of Tri-flow, and assure LC works with Key as smoothly as expected! 

Installation:  Hold LC in your hand as you would see it in the Dashboard, with Keyway vertical (Pos 2), insert Key, then turn Key CW to Pos 3. [...approximately, no detents will be felt, since LC is not yet installed into Ign Sw, and that mechanism is where detents actually occur! ] 

Normally, LC installation is a straightforward and quick process, but let me point out some things to watch for which might prevent it from going smoothly... 

1.  Are you able to insert Key and turn it so that Locking Pin can be depressed?  This is a necessary prerequisite!  If so, it must stay depressed as you insert LC into its armoring ring/sleeve (notice that hole in the sleeve for the Retention Pin should be at the same (10 O'clock) position as on the LC, so that it engages when the LC is pushed "home" [the LC Tailpiece into the Spring (Green in above Picture) in the receiving slot in Ign Sw]

2.  The Retention Pin may get hung up on the outer sleeve of Ign Sw, so must continue to be depressed until it is passed the sleeve edge, (use a small screwdriver or dental pick!) which then allows LC to be inserted fully, until Ret Pin pops out into its Retaining Hole, securing it in place. 

3.  Also, as the LC Tailpiece comes in at a specific angle, the slot in the Ign Sw MUST be at the same angle to receive it...did you have Ign Sw in Pos 3 [which is also the LC removal Position] during your installation attempts?  A bit of gentle back and forth can't hurt here, to "find" the right spot...! 

4.  Once the Tailpiece lines up with Slot, and is able to be pushed home against the Spring, Ret Pin will pop back out into its hole, securing the LC into place.  The Ign Key should now be tried through its entire range of positions, with detents being felt at each one. [Pos 1-3 anyway...Pos 4 has no detent as it is only the momentary Start position with the Gorilla Spring return force.] 

Reconnecting Battery completes the installation.  


This article is Copyright © 2021.  Ronald Kwas.   The terms Bosch, Volvo, Nieman, ASSA are used for reference only.  I have no affiliation with any of these companies other than to try to keep their products working for me, help other enthusiasts do the same, and also present my highly opinionated results of the use of their products here.  The information presented comes from my own experience and carefully considered opinion, and can be used (or not!), or ridiculed and laughed at, or worshipped, at the readers discretion.  As with any recipe, your results may vary, and you are, and will always be, in charge of your own knuckles, and future! 

You are welcome to use the information here in good health, and for your own non-commercial purposes, but if you reprint or otherwise republish this article, you must give credit to the author or link back to the SwEm site as the source.  If you donít, youíre just a lazy, scum sucking plagiarist, and the Boston Globe wants you!  As always, if you can supply corrections, or additional objective information or experience, I will always consider it, and consider working it into the next revision of this article...along with likely the odd metaphor and probably wise-a** comment. 

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