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How to Clean and Lube Your Ignition Switch

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Whether your key is stuck and not turning or just starting to get sticky, it's a good time for a little cleaning and lubrication.

If you believe that WD40 is a good lubricant for everything, skip that post and spray away!

Here is the culprit, the key was working "fine" the day before and today I'm stuck on the curb! I later realized that what I was considering normal was actually an already gritty key.

You may save yourself about $300!

$328,24 exactly, that is the cost of a brand new ignition switch and key from Suzuki in Canada at least...

Not the best farkle to brag about right?!

If your pig is a "new to you" bike with some mileage, you may consider this operation as preventive maintenance as well.

A pig with some TLC needed...

I just had bought my 2008 DR650 2 weeks ago and from the get-go, the key was finicky to take in and out, kinda hard to turn too. And then one morning I was completely unable to use my bike, the key won't turn, no matter the jiggling job I do!

My steering lock is engaged and I'm late. I'm pretty pissed, to say the least!

Trying to fix it quick and easy

I tried some silicone spray but no effect at all, still stuck!

How much if I have to replace the whole damn thing?

A quick look online reveals the astronomical price of more than $300 and I'm already like "what if I have to get a new one?" Damn!

My bike has 32,000 Km and is sleeping outside, it is less than ideal but common, it is not a vintage bike either! (Yes it is outside but under a tarp. I live in Vancouver, Canada, read Raincouver. For those who don't know, our climate is pretty "humid" most of the year...)

So I decide (like I have a choice here!) it's worth pulling the switch out to give it a proper cleaning and lubrication to see if I could save it.

Hell! I pretty much have to anyway, to unlock the steering!


Here is the complete tutorial to fix any sticky ignition switch

Tools and supplies needed

  • Tamper-proof Torx bit size 40 (with a hole)

  • Can of Electrical contact cleaner (safe for the actuals contacts inside the switch and clean the grease/dust with no residue left)

  • Tube of Powder graphite lubricant (Any grease/oil/WD40/silicone will work in the short term but will eventually attract dust making things worse again)

Preliminary tasks

  • Remove the headlight fairing, seat and tank

  • Disconnect the battery (before unplugging the ignition switch)

  • Remove the rubber bracket for the indicator lights (single Allen screw No. 4 at the bottom left of the key hole)

  • Remove the ignition switch assembly from the upper triple clamp by unscrewing the 2 Tamper-proof bolts underneath the assembly (pretty tight with that hard orange thread lock)

Step 1 : Clean up!

Hold the ignition switch upside down, spray loads of the contact cleaner with the red tip stuck inside the key slot AND do the same via the little hole at the base of the stem (see pic below).

It seems like this is a cleaning/lubing port! A black liquid should come out via the slot, alternate with the key to jiggle the whole mechanism. Also, spray some cleaner around the locking stem while operating it in and out of the assembly.

It should be turning at this point, sticky but turning in all positions. Hurray!!!

Step 2: Let it dry

Leave it drying with a toothpick inside the slot to keep the self-closing lid open.  I left it on a floorboard heater for about 2h, blow it with dry air if available (can or compressor).

Once dry, mine wasn't working again, just stuck like before... :-(

Don't you worry!

It's normal, the switch is just completely dry and without cleaner inside to act as a lubricant, the bare metal pieces are super gritty.

Step 3: Lub the hell out of it!

Here comes the graphite powder. I use a little brush to "paint" the key first with the powder, slowly wiggling the key inside at first. Then blow a good puff inside the slot (once again the toothpick is your friend) AND some in the hole too. The switch should be turning in all positions by now. Too smooth out steering function, paint some around the locking stem as well.

After a little exercise with the key, the switch should works wonder!


Final words, more than 2 years later, after being ridden in the worst conditions and always parked outside, my pig is still enjoying a smooth switch with no additional lubrication!



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