GM PASSLOCK Reprogramming Auto Learn..

1998 Chevy Malibu

Replaced the ignition switch in a 1998 Chevy Malibu.

Reason: Key would not turn in the ignition switch (why? because they put the wrong key in the ignition key hole and damaged the tumblers)  Some say this is a common problem with these vehicles.
Remedy: Replaced Ignition Key Tumbler Unit and the Outer Housing Assembly if necessary. ( If you don't destroy the outer plastic housing you can reuse it), but if the key is lock is stuck you must drill it to get the key to turn. Read below.
Rich Man's Way: Take it to an authorized GM dealer.  I hear it's about $650.00 to replace it.

Ignition switch cylinder assembly runs about $195.00 from GM, Part Number 25832354
Plastic switch housing runs about $167.00 from GM, Part Number 22670487, you can find these on line for around $100.00 plus shipping.

Get the following GM bulletins to help you out> Document ID: 765945 and Document ID: 835015.   If you have your original key let your dealer set up the new ignition cylinder to fit your key.  That way you will have your original key so you can unlock your doors and trunk. No one wants to replace those locks.

You can buy these cheaper on line rather than going through your dealer.  I went through the local GM dealer because if there are any problems or questions they will be glad to assist you.  Besides the parts department set up the new ignition cylinder to accept our key. 

The owner put the wrong car key in the ignition and the tumblers became damaged so the original key would not work anymore.   When a wrong key is inserted in the ignition, the PASSLOCK system senses it and refuses to start the car for 10 minutes.  The time allows the PASSLOCK system to reset itself therefore allowing the car to once again start. Our problem was not the PASSLOCK but that the unit would not turn.  

My understanding is that this is quite popular on the Chevy Malibu 1997 and even up through the 2002 model years.  You can find a ton of sites where people complain but no where on how to replace the unit.   GM does have instructions for removal but that only works if you tear the dash top out of the car and you can get both hands inside to work.  What we did was remove the radio shell dash and then removed the radio.  There is a long piece of hard plastic beside the switch and if you remove it you can pull the switch out through there.


There are 3 connectors to be removed from the ignition switch assembly and a cable that controls the shifter button on the side of your shifter.  This cable keeps the shifter lever locked so you can't shift the car without turning the key.   The two main connectors have 2 lock tabs that are hard to get out but once you get them out you can unplug the 2 main harnesses to the ignition switch.  The other 3 wire connector will not come out unless you remove the ignition cylinder from the black plastic housing.  Problem is you can't pull the cylinder out of the black plastic unless you can turn the key.  If you can turn the key than you are probably replacing the unit for some other reason.  This page is for those who can't turn your key.   Not finding anything on the internet that would tell you how to remove the unit gave me the idea to put it on line to help others.  

Remember, you can not remove the cable from the back of the ignition switch assembly, nor can you remover the ignition cylinder from it's outer plastic housing unless you can turn the key.  If you key wont' turn then how do you get it out.

GM has an instruction sheet Document ID: 765945 that cover's both scenarios to remove the unit under normal conditions and if your key already turns but the PASSLOCK part of the switch is bad and when the key will not turn.

Important:  Ignition switch lock cylinder that won't rotate or is seized:

Follow these steps if the ignition switch lock is seized or won't rotate.

Locate the surface for the ignition switch lock cylinder release button on the plastic ignition switch housing and center punch a location on the rib, approximately 3/8" reward  toward the key entry end) from the cylinder release button.   

Carefully drill a pilot hole through the plastic housing with a 1/8" drill bit.

Carefully drill a larger hole at the pilot location, and slightly into the ignition switch lock cylinder surface to break the release button retaining spring using a 9/32" drill bit.

Remove portions of the broken spring from the hole using a small suitable.

Grasp the ignition switch lock cylinder and remove it from the switch housing.

Remove any plastic "flash" from the drilling operation, and using compressed air blow out the ignition switch assembly.

Follow service manual procedures when cylinder recoding is required. Refer to Key and Lock Cylinder Coding.

This is what GM instructs you to do.

 PASSLOCK Reprogramming Auto Learn

After you install your ignition cylinder assembly you will need to help it learn to reprogram.

GM Document ID 835015 helps you with this one.

You must perform a theft relearn procedure if any of the following components have been changed.




The above modules, with the exception for the PASSLOCK Sensor must also be programmed with each module's own vehicle configuration.  See the individual module service manual section.

Auto Learn: 

Time required, approximately 10 minutes

1. Insure that the battery is fully charged.
2. Use the scan tool in order to clear the DTCs.  ( Now, I did not do this because I was using the same key but a different ignition cylinder) The dealer set up the new ignition cylinder to accept our key tumblers inside the unit.  It took them a few minutes to do this but the ignition cylinder kit came with instructions on how to do this yourself but it was nice of the dealer to set it up. (another reason I used the dealer to purchase the parts)
3. Turn the ignition switch from the OFF position to the CRANK position attempting to start the vehicle.  The vehicle will start and then stall. (do not try to restart, just let go of the key so it stays in the ON position by itself)  Do not turn it back to off or you will have to repeat step 3 again.
4. Leave the ignition switch in the ON position while observing the security indicator.
5. When the security indicator on the instrument panel shuts off, which can take up to 10 minutes (it took ours 15 minutes), turn the ignition switch off. Wait 10 second and try to start the car. It should stay running now.

Now that you have read all this let me tell you what really took place when we removed the ignition unit.

To remove the ignition switch from the black upper housing you are supposed to be able to turn the key.  You can not push the square button in unless the key is turned so if the key won't turn you either have to drill out the spring as indicated above or just replace the lower plastic unit and install your new switch cylinder.

Because the cable would not pull out of the back of the unit, we unclipped the upper black housing from the white housing and turned the black disc with the spring inside.  By turning this black disc it finally allowed the cable to be removed from the lower housing.  Now there is a small connector with 3 wires in the side of the upper black unit which is not supposed to come out unless you remove the ignition cylinder from the upper black housing. Remember, if you can't turn the key, you can't remove the ignition switch cylinder from the upper black housing, Go figure. 

 It wasn't easy but we preyed it out and didn't damage it at all.   The connector hooks on the front, toward the key not towards the back of the housing. Because we purchased both the plastic housing and the ignition switch from the dealer we decided to use the new assembly instead of drilling out and possibly destroying it anyway. We installed the 3 wire connector first in the new upper black housing and then slipped the ignition unit in the upper black housing.  You can not put the switch in the housing first and then connect the small 3 wire connector, you must install the small 3 wire connector first and slip the switch onto it.  When you have the ignition cylinder in the upper black housing correctly you will hear the square lock pin click in place.

We reinstalled the other 2 wire connectors and the cable. To install the cable assembly into the back of the ignition switch assembly you must turn the ignition key to ON.  This allows the black round plastic piece inside the ignition unit we discussed earlier to get out of the way of the cable end piece.  After you click the cable in place you should recheck the shifter button to be sure it operates correctly.

Hope this helps.
Bob Baumgras