How to replace the ignition switch

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This article describes how to replace the ignition switch on a Ninja 250. Typically this will need to be done because some dunderhead had to discover for himself that you really can't steal this bike by jamming a screwdriver in the lock.

For more information on keys and locks, see here.

Special note to thieves: you can't steal a Ninja 250 by jamming a screwdriver into the lock! All it does is make the lock ugly, or if you're a real moron and break off the tip of your screwdriver in the lock, prevent the lock from ever working again. Please stop trying.

The procedure is fairly straightforward. You'll remove the top triple tree, drill off the security bolts, bolt on the new switch, and put it all back together. This even works with the fork lock engaged. If you have all the tools together, and a reasonable working environment, it shouldn't take more than about 2 hours. Add time as necessary for getting parts or tools.

Tools Required

  • 22mm socket
  • 4, 5 and 6mm hex keys
  • #2 Phillips screwdriver
  • Electric hand drill
  • 1/4" to 3/8" drill bit
  • Centerpunch
  • 10mm socket
  • 12mm socket
  • Socket wrench
  • Pliers
  • Diagonal cutters or a sharp knife
  • Clean rags

Depending on your exact situation, you may need one or more of the following tools:

  • Screw extractor
  • Vice grip style pliers
  • Heat gun or propane torch

You will also need the following supplies:

  • New ignition switch
  • Two M6x16 bolts (see below)
  • Red thread locking compound (high strength)
  • Blue thread locking compound (low strength)
  • A medium-sized black zip tie
  • Dielectric grease or vaseline (optional)

Security Bolts

A quick word on security bolts. Kawasaki installs the ignition switch with two fancy bolts which have a snap-off section. They're installed using an inverted Torx driver (the Torx bit is on the bolt; the tool has a Torx-shaped cavity). Once they're tightened down (or perhaps as they're tightened down) they're broken off, leaving a smooth face with no grip for any tools. At least on a 2006 bike, these bolts are glued in with red thread locker and are essentially impossible to remove without destroying them. Earlier bikes reportedly have no thread locker, but we have no good data on when exactly this change was made.

You don't have to use new security bolts. There are several reasons for this, but the most compelling of them is that an inverted Torx tool is going to be damned hard to find. On top of that, these bolts are all but impossible to see on the bike, and it would take a truly dedicated thief to give them a go, even if they're normal hex-headed bolts. Since the vast majority of would-be thieves who break ignition switches are as intelligent as a shovel-full of dung, it's probably not worth the trouble.

If you elect to use normal bolts, you want two stainless steel metric 6x16 socket-headed cap screws. These are available at some hardware stores, and any fastener specialist will have them. Lowes carries black oxide bolts, but these will rust in short order, so stainless steel is vastly preferred. Expect to spend about a dollar on a pair of bolts. Security bolts are 88 cents each from Ron Ayers, and probably $1.50 each from a dealer.


  • Remove the handlebar halves. This entails popping off the little plastic caps which cover the hold-down bolts and unscrewing the bolts. Put down clean rags to protect your bodywork, and lay each handlebar half to the side. It's fine to let them dangle from their cables, but be gentle with them.
  • Remove the side panels. Unlock the seat and set it aside. Unscrew each side panel (one Phillips screw at the bottom) and pop it out of its retainers under the tank and at the rear of each panel. Set them aside.
  • Remove the gas tank. Undo the four bolts holding the upper fairing to the gas tank (see this very important warning) and the four bolts under the seat, holding the tank bracket to the frame. Remember to disconnect all hoses from the tank before you lift, then set it aside. Keep in mind that it can weigh up to about 35 lbs (16 kg) if it's full of gas, so have a friend handy if you're concerned about lifting that much weight. You might be able to do this without removing the tank, but it's guaranteed to be far easier to remove the tank.
  • Remove the upper triple clamp. Measure the position of the bars and fork tubes in the triple clamp before you start, so you can put it all back in the same place. Use the 22mm socket on the pivot bolt (the huge bolt in the center of the top triple clamp). Loosen the clamp bolts on each fork leg. If everything is correctly loosened, the clamp should lift off easily with a little bit of rocking back and forth.
  • Unplug the ignition switch. Cut the zip tie holding the wiring for the ignition switch, but be careful not to cut the wiring around it. Disconnect the large plug and pull the bullet connector apart. The top triple clamp should now be free of the bike.
  • Examine the switch attachment. You should see two domed grey fasteners with marred centers near the bottom of the switch. These are the security bolts, and they're all that's holding the switch to the triple clamp.
  • Set up your triple clamp in a vise, with the security bolt heads up. Use wood or plastic shims to prevent the vise from marring the triple clamp. If you don't have a vise, improvise some way to keep the triple clamp steady so you can drill it. A half-full bag of potting soil works surprisingly well.
  • Compare your new bolts with your drill bits and pick a bit which is definitely larger than the widest part of the bolt's shaft. A 1/4" drill bit should be fine. Centerpunch the old bolt as close to the center as you can. You may want to do it several times, so the divot is nice and deep.
  • Drill into the bolt. Make sure your drill bit is aligned with the bolt's shaft as closely as you can. Drill down until the head separates from the shaft, but no further. If you drill any further, you're reducing the amount of shaft you have available to grab with the vice grip pliers. (Don't ask how we know this.) Try to keep the drill bit centered on the bolt head, although this could prove difficult.
  • Once both bolt heads are off, pull the old switch off. There should be two bolt stubs sticking up from the triple clamp.
  • Lock your vise grip pliers onto the bolt stubs and try to twist them out. If they just won't budge, stop before you damage the shafts too much. Remove the pliers. Play heat over the shafts, to heat up and soften the thread lock compound. About 20 seconds with a propane torch should be enough. Lock the pliers back on and try again. Keep applying heat until they move. If you apply too much heat, you'll damage the paint on the triple tree, so don't go crazy.
  • If for any reason you can't get at the shafts with the vise grips, use a screw extractor to get the bolt stubs out. You must use heat for this method or you'll damage your screw extractor. Play a propane torch over the bolt for 20 seconds, then use the screw extractor. Follow your extractor's instructions, as there are many different types.
  • Put the new ignition switch in place and screw it in with your new bolts. Use red thread locking compound on the bolt shafts (because it would just suck if that switch fell off when you were riding; the red stuff is also strong enough to prevent a nefarious someone from easily removing the switch while on the bike). Torque isn't critical, just make sure they're tight without going overboard.
  • Reconnect the ignition switch to the wiring harness. Plug in the 6-position connector and the bullet connector. If you have it, put dielectric grease on the contacts to prevent corrosion. This isn't critical but makes the connections last longer, particularly in wet environments.
  • Use your new key to turn on the switch, and make sure everything lights up like it should. If not, check the connection and reseat it as necessary.
  • Once the switch is fastened to the triple clamp, reassembly is literally the reverse of this procedure. Put the triple clamp back on, clamp it to the fork legs, and screw in the pivot bolt. Reconnect the handlebar halves. Reinstall the gas tank (remember that the bigger tube goes to the bigger hose nipple, and don't forget the smaller one). Reinstall the side panels and put the seat back on. It's a generally good idea to apply blue thread locking compound to any bolt you think it would suck to have fall off, which is most of them. In this case, do the handlebar bolts, the fork clamp bolts, and the central pivot bolt.

Voila, you're done! Shiny new ignition switch. Now quit parking where morons with cheap screwdrivers can get at your bike.

Extra bonus thought

Eric R reports that it is a simple matter for any competent locksmith to cut a "dual" key for you. This is a key with one pattern on one side, and another on the other side. You would do this if you wanted to have one physical key which operated two differently-keyed locks. Ask your locksmith; it should cost about the same as getting a normal key made. You will then have to remember (or mark) which way the key goes into different locks, but it would potentially be more convenient than having two keys.