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Discussion Starter #1
Anyone know how to get this cover off? I need to get the cover off the steering column/ignition lock mechanism so I can get to the linkage between the lock and the rod that goes to the ignition switch module down on the column.

I couldn't get my truck to start yesterday evening. I've been having to turn the key a lot farther than usual to engage the starter, and then last night I could tell that it wasn't moving the switch far enough. Turning the key all the way barely gets the ignition to come on, let alone engage the starter. The switch module works because I can move the connecting rod w/ pliers and start the engine. I think the linkage between the lock and the connecting rod is worn or come loose.

It has a tilt steering wheel.
 

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It may be that the switch has moved on the column, I've had that happen with a tilt wheel car before. I can't recall which type of column the 1987 Dakota has.

If the part around the switch is basically round, there is no removable cover and you have to pull the steering wheel and then compress and remove the lock plate. You'll need a steering wheel puller, a lock plate compressor and a tool for the snap ring. I think, though I am not sure, this is what you have.

This link (it's for a Buick but Chrysler sourced this style column for GM shows what is needed). Once the turn signal switch is out, you have access to the ignition switch.
http://www.buickperformanceclub.com/tiltsteeringcolumnwobble.htm

if the column is more rectangular, the cover is removed by screws (likely Torx screws) that go up from the bottom.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I tried moving the switch/module in the opposite direction the rod moves, but it's already as far down as it will go. The lock now turns freely - I don't think it's even connected to the rod anymore.

My '87 is the round style column. I took my Haynes to work this evening and it says the same thing about getting to the lock mechanism, which should also get me to the connecting rod. Just have to dig everything out of the housing.
 

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The fun part is getting the locking steering mechanism off. I simply press down on the plate and take a sharp pointed scribe and peel the clip out of its groove. It is fun and under pressure, there is a spring underneath it. Once it is off then it's philllips screws and torx screws to get everything else out, then a little playing around to get the rest of the stuff out, little push retainers and the likes. The link above helps, little differences and a little playing with it to get everything apart.
 
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