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Recently we started having problems turning my 2000 Sienna's key in the switch past the OFF position. I have to wiggle the wheel for some time and play with the key, until it "catches" the right position to turn to ACC position. Looking for a solution, I found a video on Youtube describing how to replace the switch tumbler.

After goofing around for some hour or so, trying to open the dash panels, I was finally able to extract the tumbler out of the switch assembly. I also found a non-OEM part on eBay for $35. Then, I called the local dealer to see if they have it in stock, and to my surprise, after getting the VIN, he quoted ~$240 for an original part. When I told him I found it online for $35, he said that it is b/c my key has the immobilizer chip in it, and he guarantees that the replacement part will not work.

Further investigating, I found out that the chip (transponder) is embedded in the key, but the antenna is in the ring around the cylinder, and not in the part I took out. So, I now know that there are unchipped keys, which are slim, and chipped ones which are "fat".

Questions:

  1. Is there a difference between the tumbler parts of a chipped and unchipped switches? Can it be safely interchanged inside the switch assembly?

  2. One reference demonstrated how to ignite the car using an unchipped key, while holding an original chipped key just next to the antenna ring (the ring around the keyhole). Does the engine continue working even long after the chipped key removed away from the switch, or is there some repeated ID conformation every couple of minutes?

  3. Is the orientation of the transponder (the chip) with respect to the antenna critical for successful communications?


Update 1: It happens that when inserted in place, the rear side of the tumbler rotates a small flat piece that is connected to the actual electrical switch. When removed the housing looks like a big empty cylinder with this metal piece sticking up from its far end (think about an 12V accessory (cigarette lighter) socket with a metal blade popping up inside, where the positive 12V contact is placed normally).

In order to remove the tumbler, one has to rotate the key to the ACC position. So, when removed, the flat piece is slightly rotated inside that hollow cylinder. Now, I was able to use pliers to grab and rotate that piece, as if it was the tumbler - and so turn the car on, while holding my transponder key near the removed antenna ring.

The car does turn on and remains on even while the key was removed from the antenna. It kept running until I used the pliers again to rotate the piece back to ACC mode. So, I guess this answers my questions #2 and #3.

I thought about leaving the switch like this and using the pliers method until the replacement tumbler is shipped, to avoid getting stuck with an dis-functioning key switch (which will later prevent me from extracting the tumbler again). Unfortunately, once in ACC, the pliers cannot rotate the metal piece back to OFF position, so the car remains half operational all the time. Eventually, I placed the part back in place and turned off all systems.

  • I have a 2008 Chevy Equinox with a cylinder that's going bad -- it has to be just right or dash lights just flash and hum but car doesn't start. This is a great write-up because it touches upon all the things I was wondering with immobilizer etc. Thanks. – raddevus Nov 30 '16 at 21:37
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Same problem, fixed it, details below.

Toyota Sienna 2001 XLE. Issue: Key doesn't turn. Problem: Some of the tumblers in Toyota's ignition lock cylinder are split. These split tumblers don't go down when they should. For vid description, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxxwk9l9X9g

Possible fix: Buy a new cylinder. However, if you have chip'd keys (immobilizer feature), this can be really expensive. Also, your door locks won't match otherwise. I've read you need to do this at a dealer and it can cost $500 (I didn't verify this).

Solution: Remove the split tumblers from the cylinder. The cylinder is slightly less secure, but since you still need the correct chip'd key anyway, that's hardly an issue.

What I did:

  1. Disconnect negative battery cable and shield it. This is so you don't accidentally deploy the airbag while messing around.
  2. Remove bottom plastic panel. This was one screw on the bottom right. The rest of the plastic has clips and it just pulls out.
  3. Remove metal metal that is under the plastic panel. This is two screws that are identical to the one from the plastic panel.
  4. Remove black plastic circle thing from around ignition hole. This just snaps out.
  5. Unclip white block connectors for the wires from the ignition system.
  6. Unscrew and remove the black circle with the green light from the chip reader that sits on top of the ignition cylinder.
  7. Insert key and turn to ACC position. Obviously turning the key is the whole problem, but you need to do this. If you can't get it to turn one last time you can't continue.
  8. Under the cylinder is a hole with a pin. Push this pin in and pull your key at the same time (you can only push the pin if the key is at the ACC position). The cylinder will side out.
  9. Remove the metal face plate from the cylinder. There is a pin and two rivets. Bend the faceplate with a screw driver where the pin is. Drill the rivets out. The faceplate will now come off.
  10. Slide the tumbler cylinder out of the metal housing.
  11. Insert your key and observe the offending split tumblers that do not retract. Remove these with pliers. Be sure to take out the springs that sat under those tumblers so they don't fall in one day.
  12. Put everything back together in reverse order.

That's it! No new parts needed.

  • That's interesting and I wish this was published at the time of need :-) Since having the problem I already replaced the tumbler with the immobilizer-enabled tumbler (that required some research - and luck - finding how to program new chipped keys), and later, replaced the car with a newer model. – ysap Oct 13 '14 at 15:26
  • I am setting this answer as accepted, since it received 3 upvotes. I assume that it was verified by other users, as I can't verify the correctness of it. – ysap Nov 29 '14 at 15:59
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So, I went on and ordered the tumbler part online. I came with two non-chipped keys. This morning, I got to the car to replace the part. As I mentioned in my update to the question, there is no problem with using the original key as a transponding element, while using the new key to actually turn the switch. However, I did not get any response to my question whether there is a difference between the tumbler parts.

Unfortunately, there seems to be one crucial difference. The immobilizer compatible tumbler has its cylindrical "head" of a smaller radius than the replacement part. The difference is where the immobilizer's antenna/coil is located. It is a black plastic ring, where the antenna wire runs inside, and has the key position marking text imprinted on its front.

The replacement part has the text imprinted on the metal part itself. Unfortunately, the antenna cable is too short to pull it out of the lower dash cover. I could not find a way to close the cover when holding the ring outside as far as possible. Also, I could not leave the ring on top of the switch, because its internal diameter is smaller than the key's width, so it prevents it from pushing all the way into the switch, so I cannot turn it from LOCK to ACC position.

Looks like I will need to return it and order a security compatible part for $150 or so :-(

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Jonah Braun, your reply was great. A couple of things to help others along the path. (I have a 2001 Sienna, so there may be differences.) The numbers below are to augment the appropriate number in Jonah's reply.

2) There's another bolt holding on the bottom plastic panel - left side, under the trim running up from the floor.

10) Remove the snap ring at the back of the tumbler cylinder. I was able to do this without the requisite snap ring pliers, but you'll save some time and aggravation if you have them.

12) Make sure you hammer back the pin you bent up in step 9 so it doesn't stick up or you won't be able to get it back in the vehicle.

Regardless, fantastic steps, and I really appreciate you sharing.

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