Jolly_John

A Question for 1938 and 1939 BUICK Owners

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As 1938 and 1939 BUICK owners know, the steering wheel is automatically locked from turning, when the ignition key switch is turned to "off". A cam at the end of the ignition lock cylinder rotates a sturdy steering shaft lock pin, either engaging or disengaging it.  Normally, I think of this as a nice, slightly ahead of their time, feature that BUICK had.

 

Now, to my problem: I have lost the ignition key to a '39 BUICK. The ignition key switch is turned to "off". So now, the steering is locked. Obviously, I'm more or less dead in the water. I've looked in the shop manual, and don't see any obvious, mechanical way to solve this problem.  We live in a small town, and there's no locksmith available to pick the lock.

 

It appears I could cut the entire steering column mount assembly that houses the lock cylinder and ignition switch off. But, that seems both extreme and crude.

 

So, Gang, have any of you been through this before, and come up with a suggestion? Thank you for any help. John

Edited by Jolly_John (see edit history)

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

 I don't have a 1938 or a 1939 , but  I do have a 1937. You might try and take the locking door handle or trunk lock off and get the key code and have a locksmith make a key from the code and if need be mail it to you.

 

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On a 1939 there is  a small square piece screwed into the bottom of the locking mechanism..  If you take that off, I am fairly certain it will be unlocked.  That won’t help the key situation, but would allow it turn.  I circled it:

 

 

754B812A-905A-43DD-BA57-669506526246.jpeg

9AB301F8-E0E1-4A98-8125-918B32677B49.jpeg

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
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John, seek out an old-time lock shop in a neighboring town and ask to borrow their ring of Briggs & Stratton lock keys.  I had a similar situation with the trunk lock on my 1939 Roadmaster 81. Shortly after I purchased the car, I locked the trunk at a local BCA All Buick Show. Later, the key would not open the trunk lock. I panicked a bit until I dropped by a small local lock shop. The owners pulled out their ring of B&S keys (about eighty keys). Part way through the ring, they found a key that opened the lock. I had several copies made of the successful key. It cost me about forty bucks! Good luck! Bob

Edited by BuickBob49 (see edit history)

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If you can find the key code (4 digit number) on the door or trunk lock, anybody with a Curtis Model 15 key cutter and the related books can cut you a new key. If there is nobody near you with that key cutter and books, I can help you with that since I have a key cutter and the books. 

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On the '38 there is a small screw that holds the lock cylinder in (small screw in the photo). I think some models used a pin. If you remove the  screw (or pin by drilling) you can get the cylinder out and then the column will onlock

CIMG4709.JPG

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My thanks to all who have replied. Excellent help! This is a wonderful hobby!. I'll set about solving my problem tomorrow, given these ideas. Thank you all, again. John

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If you have the pin that must be carefully drilled out, I recommend that after you remove the lock cylinder that you tap the hole and replace the pin with a set screw for any future removal.

 

Bob Engle

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Good idea, Bob. It never hurts to anticipate having to take stuff apart a second (or third) time!. Will be digging in on this project this afternoon. John

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To follow up on Bob Engle's comment

 

If you have the retaining pin ( and not the retaining set screw )   and if you try to remove it by

drilling it out...

be careful....if you drill in too far you'll run into the key cylinder and ruin

it      (     ....I made that mistake )

 

Jack Worstell

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O.K. Gang, here's the update from my end. First off, for those who made the good suggestion to obtain the lock tumbler number from elsewhere on the car: A good idea, but unfortunately this steering column is from a long-gone '39 BUICK parts car. There's nothing left to grab a number from. But, thank you for that idea.

 

Second, as a future reference for others: As I figured, the small square thing on the back of the lock area that 39BuickEight referred to in his posting above is the actual ignition switch. You turn the chrome lever, and that moves the contacts inside this ignition switch. Removing this square switch doesn't get you access to the steering wheel locking mechanism. However, thank you very much, Billy, for taking the time to reply and shoot the photos. Very good of you.

 

Next, a question for Don, Robert or Jack: It turns out I do have the opening in my cast iron steering column support piece with the lock cylinder retaining pin you all mentioned. If I carefully drill this pin out, will I be able to remove the complete lock cylinder, including the little cam on the back of it? That's the cam that actually moves the large steering column locking shaft (over 1/2" O.D.) in and out. I'm concerned about drilling the pin out to facilitate getting the lock cylinder out, and then still having its removal hung up by the shaft locking pin actuating cam that's attached to the back of the lock cylinder. (I hope that makes sense.)

 

Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the help. John

Edited by Jolly_John (see edit history)

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No problem whatsoever, Billy. It was super of you to try to help, given your experience with the '39 you've brought back to life. John

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Everything should come out with the lock cylinder. Sometimes the little ring doesnt come out, but it is easy enough to fish out with a bent paper clip or something.

 

I wouldnt be surprised if the cylinder is stuck some in the column casting, but using an old key to work it loose should get it out.

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Don,

 

How long is the pin that secures the lock cylinder? I think that John needs to know how deep to drill so he won't ruin the lock cylinder. 

 

John,

 

Don't drill any further than that. You may find that the lock cylinder does not want to come out too easily after the pin is drilled out. I agree with the previuos suggestion that you should be able to insert another key into it and use it to work the cylinder back and forth a bit. You may also need to use some solvent liberally applied to the area to help free the cylinder up before you will be able to pull it out. 

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I did this so long ago, I dont remember the length. Unfortunately the pin in that photo is for operating the switch, not the lock cylinder retaining pin.

I drilled mine in my milling machine (obviously out of the car) and I just sneaked up on the depth , increasin it until the cylinder came out.

Also, the photo is of the one with the screw retainer, not the pin

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Again, thanks for the help, Don and Matt. From eyeballing the retaining pin hole in the lock area of the steering column support, and then looking at the diameter of the lock itself, I'm thinking the retaining pin is fairly short. Perhaps not much to drill out, so I'll proceed carefully, and in gradual steps. It's been great to have your input up to this point. John

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