Repairing the Ignition Switch Internals
on the Fiat Spider
Article and Photos
Chris Courter
Revised 12-06

Repairing the internal switch on the Fiat Spider
You may click on the pictures for larger versions

Additional Pictures of the Ignition Switch: (Brad Artigue)
Expalnation of switch positions / wiring colors Here
Photo of rear of switch with color information Here
Pictures will open in new window


 Tools and Parts List
A Fiat with a messed up ignition switch.
Soldering gun
1/8" drill bit
5/64" drill bit
Qty 4 ­ 2 x 20mm machine screws with nuts. (Were available at my local Sears hardware). Other option is 5/64" x 3/4". Small flat bladed screwdriver Tweezers
Needle nose pliers
Optional: Dremel tool with wire brush attachment.


I. Remove the ignition switch. Believe it or not this will take you less than
5 minutes. The procedure is described nicely in the factory manual but briefly ...

  1. Unplug both connectors connecting the switch to the wiring harness
  2. Remove the lower portion of the plastic steering column surround. If you
    don't do it now, you'll have to later since the column lock will catch on it as
    you try to remove the switch from the housing.
  3. Insert key into the ignition
  4. Turn key until it aligns with the arrow stamped into the face of the switch.
    This will allow the column lock to retract. It also sets things up internally
    within the switch so that you can push in the mechanism that holds the switch
    in the housing. See Figure 1.
  5. Remove the boot at the back of the switch. Mine was already cut lengthwise
    and held in place with wire ties so I just removed it. If it is still intact you may
    be able to simply slide it back.
  6. Remove the 2 set screws holding the switch to the housing.
  7. At about the 03:00 position on the switch/housing assembly there is a slot.
    Take a small thin flat bladed screwdriver and push in through the slot. While
    pushing in with the screwdriver, push the switch from behind. It should slide
    out easily. If it does not, rotate the key ever so slightly in one direction or the
    other and try again. See Figure 1.
  8. The switch may get 'stuck' after about an inch as you slide it out. Don't panic,
    it's probably the column lock catching on the metal of the steering column.
    You can remove the screwdriver from the slot now and use it to gently pry the
    column lock back the 1/8" that you need.  

II. Remove the electricals from the back of the switch.

  1. Lay the switch on your workbench and take a look at it from behind. There
    is a large internal circlip that is holding the electrical contact assembly to the
    back of the switch.
  2. Remove the circlip ­ nothing complicated about this.
  3. Remove the contact assembly from the back of the switch by giving a gentle
    tug on the pigtail. Set the main part of the switch aside. You're done with that.
  4. Picture FIGURE 3 shows the circlip laying beside the switch assembly after
    the contact assembly has been removed.
  5. Picture FIGURE 4 shows the contact assembly.
  6. Now, before you go any further, take some sort of marker, paint, whatever and
    mark the 3 pieces that comprise the contact assembly relative to each other.
    That way when you put it back together all you have to do is align the marks.
    You'll see in picture FIGURE 4 that I used some yellow paint.  

III. Un-solder the connections

  2. Now it's time to remove the 'pigtail' wiring from the spade terminals on the back
    of the contact assembly. This is a critical operation. A light-duty hobbyist's
    soldering 'iron' will not work very well. I suggest a Weller or similar medium-
    heavy duty soldering gun.
  3. The most critical part of this operation is that you get as much of the solder off
    of the spade terminals as possible. Your success in this area will pay off later as
    you try to remove the spade terminals from the assembly.  

IV. Disassemble contact assembly ­ Now the FUN BEGINS!

  1. Ever so carefully take a drill with a 1/8" bit and begin drilling out the crimped
    part of the rivet at the center of the white plastic rotating disk. Be very careful
    not to go too deep. You're only trying to cut the crimp off with the drill bit
    tip so that you can press the rivet out later.
  2. Once the rivet is cut, set the assembly so that it is resting on the spade terminals
    and take a small screwdriver and carefully pry the disk off of the main assembly.
    In FIGURE 5 you can see the disk and its washer removed.
  3. Behind the disk are 3 spring loaded pins. The ramps on the back side of the
    disc act on these pins to 'make' or 'break' the electrical contacts. Carefully lift
    these pins out with a pair of tweezers. Refer to FIGURE 11. Note: This
    picture was taken at the time of reassembly, that is why you see screws
    instead of rivets holding the assembly together.
  4. Now take your drill bit and cut out the rivets holding the 2 black disks together
    in the same way that you did in step 4.1
  5. Once the rivets are removed, working around the perimeter, carefully pry the
    2 black disks apart a little at a time.
  6. Once the disks are separated you will see something similar to FIGURE 8.
    Note that the top set of contacts in this picture are already partially disassembled.
  7. Now, let's see how good you were at removing all of the solder from the
    spade terminals on the back of the assembly.
  8. From behind, using your tool of choice, push a spade terminal back thru the
    assembly. They are tight, but they WILL slide out. Be VERY careful to maintain
    the 90 degree bend of the contact assembly (opposite end from the spade terminal.
  9. Now remove the brass contact assembly and the 2 small springs underneath.
  10. Repeat this process for all spade terminals.
    When you're all done, you should have something that looks like FIGURE 7.
  11. Now, break out the Dremel tool and clean up all of the contact points with a
    wire brush attachment if you have one. Otherwise use some other form of very
    fine abrasive. Be VERY careful to only clean up the burned areas. Remove as
    little material as possible.
  12. Once everything is cleaned up, remove the rivets from the assembly completely
    (if you haven't done so already). You are going to replace them with screws.

V. Reassemble the contact assembly

  1. Using a 5/64" drill bit enlarge the 3 holes around the perimeter of the 2 black contact
    assembly disks. You are doing this because the screws that you are going to put
    back in there are slightly larger than the original rivets. There is NO NEED to enlarge
    the center hole that secures the white plastic rotating disk; it is large enough already.
  2. Now carefully reassemble the contact assembly. This will require PATIENCE J
    It is easiest to work on one contact set at a time.
  3. Drop the 2 little springs that the brass contact rides on into place.
  4. Lay the brass contact on top with the contact points pointing up towards you
    (away from the springs).
  5. Now, carefully push the spade terminals for that contact back through the black plastic
    disk and push them all the way down until they make contact with the brass piece.
    FIGURE 8 shows the contact reassembly partially complete. Be careful that the
    springs under the brass contacts don't fall over.
  6. Once you have all of the springs, contacts and spade terminals back in place,
    use your alignment marks to put the 2 black disks back together.
  7. Before completing the next steps please take note that nuts that you will use
    will interfere with the internal circlip when you try to reinstall the contact assembly
    into the main switch. This is shown in FIGURE 12. My solution was to cut the
    circlip in a couple of pieces and use the nuts as 'stop' points for the circlip. This is
    not my preferred solution but it worked. If I had to do it again I would grind one
    side of the nut flat BEFORE I reassembled. I would grind it almost to the point of
    cutting into the threaded hole at the center of the nut. Then the ring would be able
    to slip past the nut and into its groove. If this works, shoot me an email and I'll update
    this document.
  8. Hold the 2 black disks together and insert a 2x20mm machine screw (or 5/64" x 34")
    and a nut (with Loctite) in each perimeter hole to hold everything together. Make
    sure to orient the screws as shown in FIGURE 10.
  9. Now trim the excess thread from the rear of the assembly using a pair of wire cutters.
  10. Next, put the spring loaded pins back in place
  11. Next place the white plastic rotating disk back into position and slip a screw through it.
    Orient the screw as shown Figure 12. On the spade terminal side of the contact put a
    drop of Loctite on the screw and install the nut.
  12. Solder the wires back onto the contact assembly.
    Place the contact assembly back into the ignition switch, taking note that it will only fit
    in 1 direction.
  13. Reinstall the internal circlip
  14. Reinstall the ignition switch in the car and YOU'RE done!