Earlier Ford models with a key-based ignition system require a key with a unique set of grooves and notches to start them. I started my 1990 Ford F150 using the hotwiring steps mentioned in this article.
However, in case of a broken ignition system and a worn-out or lost key, you can crank your truck by connecting a few wires.
How to Hotwire a Ford F150 Truck? To hotwire the Ford F150, open the steering column’s cover to access the ignition system’s wiring harness. Short the ignition wire (red/light green) and positive terminal of battery (yellow) wires using a jumper or twisting them. Next, momentarily connect the ignition starter wire (red/light blue) with yellow wire until the truck engine cranks and revolves a couple of times.
Earlier models up to 1999, until the introduction of the passive antitheft safety system, have more or less the same procedure to hotwire them to start without using a key.
How to Hotwire a Ford F150 Truck?
When you turn a key in the ignition switch, it rotates a contact underneath it and completes the starter motor circuit. Hotwiring is a process to do the same procedure on your truck without a key.
You need to permanently connect two wires for the ignition system instrumentation cluster and a live wire from the battery.
First, it will turn ON the fuel pump, lights, indicators, and other necessary gadgets on your truck. Next, you will momentarily connect a third wire of the starter motor or ignition start with a hot wire from the battery, and it will crank the engine.
In some cases, you also need to bypass the steering wheel lock to control its movement. For example, you can skip the steering lock by applying mechanical force or using a drill machine to break it.
However, it is an irreversible process, and you won’t be able to lock your steering wheel once you break it without a key.
You can hotwire the Ford F150 trucks of earlier models than 1999 using the following 5 steps. First, make sure to connect the correct wires to ensure personal safety and prevent damage.
Remove the cover of the steering column
To access the wiring of the switch harness, you need to remove the cover on the steering column. It has screws on both sides. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws.
Removing them will give access to panels that cover the wires and other parts of the steering column.
Remove the covers by pulling them. After removing them, you will see many wires coming from the switch to its harness.
Locate the wiring for the truck ignition system
After removing the panels, you will see multiple wiring connectors for lights, instrumentation tools, and ignition system.
You have to locate the one responsible for starting the truck. It is easier to do by backtracing it to the ignition switch.
From the wire bundle, you need to locate the 3 wires having color code as given below:
|Wire Color Code
|Vehicle Battery Positive Terminal (+12V)
|Red with Light Green stripes
|Ignition System Fuse Panel Positive Wire
|Red with Light Blue Stripes
|Engine Starter Motor Positive Terminal
You can also trace the wire by their size. For example, the yellow wire will be larger, and it remains hot all the time.
Red/light blue Ignition starter wire will be smaller in size. This is because it momentarily goes live at the time when you activate the switch.
Another method is to check the wiring status using a digital multimeter to measure their voltage.
Strip the wire insulation to make connections
This step involves disconnecting the 3 wires as mentioned above and strip off the insulation from their ends.
Next, find a piece of jumper wire to connect the yellow wire with red/light green wire. It will connect the 12V supply from the Ford F150 battery to the lights, radio, and other instruments associated with the ignition switch of your truck.
It would help if you made arrangements for fixing these wires to properly work the lights, radio, and fuel gauge functions. First, disconnect it after you turn OFF the truck to prevent the complete drain of the battery charge.
I installed a switch between the two by using a piece of wire. It helped me to turn it ON/OFF whenever required.
Connect the wires to start the engine
Connect the red/light blue wire with yellow wire to crank the engine. Remove ITS wire as soon as the engine starts, as its function is to power up the starter motor.
You can also connect a push-button between the two wires to provide a portable solution for the ignition switch.
Connect the yellow wire with one end of the push button and the red/blue wire on the other end.
Remember to disconnect the battery while making these connections to prevent any mishap.
Use insulation tape to cover stripped wires
The yellow wire is +12V from the truck battery and remains live all the time. If it becomes short with any other wire, it can start a fire or damage any system of the Ford F150.
Therefore, you should use insulation tape to cover all the connections you just made. It is also safe to insulate the switch and push-button installed to prevent any risk of electric shock or short circuit.
To turn OFF the truck, use the switch installed in step#3 to turn OFF the ignition system. In the absence of a button, pull the jumper wire connecting the yellow and red/green wires.
Vehicles with steering wheel locks require you to break them using a drill machine or applying force; otherwise, you will only be able to drive them in a straight direction.
Other methods to bypass the ignition switch in Ford F150
Besides connecting wires, few additional ways can also skip the ignition and key mechanism to start the Ford truck.
Using a screwdriver
It will work in a situation if the truck’s ignition system is not working due to worn-out grooves and notches on the key.
Insert the flathead screwdriver in the keyhole and turn it into a key. If lower electrical connections of the ignition system are intact, it will start the engine.
If grooves and notches of the ignition system are intact and you don’t have a key. You can use a drill machine to destroy the locking pins and insert the screwdriver to start the vehicle.
Using a pin to operate the ignition switch
It is similar to the common method of picking locks used earlier to open them. Next, you can insert a hairpin or a piece of thin wire in the ignition keyhole.
After that, you should try to rotate the locking pins to crank the engine. This method requires skills to operate the switch.
Can hotwiring damage a Ford F150?
The hotwire mechanism to start a truck is applicable in extreme emergencies if you cannot start the engine in some remote location.
However, doing it is not a safe practice usually as there is a chance of fire due to short circuits if not done correctly. Moreover, it also requires knowledge of wiring color codes to make the right connections.
Moreover, once you bypass the ignition switch and steering wheel lock, you compromise the safety and security of your truck.
It becomes an easy victim for thieves and other criminals to steal it. Therefore, I would recommend purchasing a new switch or make a new key in case of any fault instead of bypassing it to save a few dollars.
Can we hotwire all models of the Ford F150?
1999 and earlier models of Ford F150 have simple key-based ignition switches and are easy to start by hot wiring.
However, later models have a passive antitheft system (Pats) with a transponder chip in the key to start the truck when the key is in the vicinity of the switch.
The latest models (2001 – 2021)have a push-button start system with a key fob remote.
You cannot simply use the hotwire to jumpstart these latest models, but you need to have the skills to hack or bypass the truck computer to start it without a remote or key.