A bad ignition switch should never be ignored. Its importance is evident in the fact that it’s one of the very first things you’ll get your hands on when you start the car. A car's ignition switch is a switch that allows electricity to enter the vehicle's electrical system. These systems include the starter components, the engine control unit, the ignition coil, and a number of additional components. An ignition switch, like most car parts, can fail for a variety of reasons.
In this article, we are going to talk about the roles of an ignition switch, symptoms and fix needed by a bad ignition switch in detail by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about it.
What Does My Car's Ignition Switch Do?
The ignition switch, starter switch, or start switch on your car is critical to keeping it on the road. It plays a crucial function in turning on the vehicle's primary electrical systems. You might discover that your car won't start or that you can't operate the radio or power windows if you don't have a working ignition switch.
In most cases, a key is required to operate the ignition switch. The key can be spun to start the car once it has been placed in the ignition. The key is sometimes replaced with a button in newer makes and models. Whether your vehicle has a key or a button, pressing the button or turning the key accomplishes the same goal. It sends a signal to your vehicle's ignition system to start the operation.
You should be able to spin the key completely when you insert it into the keyhole. The car will start as a result of this activity. You may also use the key to turn off your car's engine or put it into accessory mode.
What are the symptoms of a bad ignition switch?
- The key refuses to turn.
Older cars with a worn-out classic turn-key ignition switch will eventually stop working entirely. This could be due to friction-related wear and tear, or it could simply be a broken piece. In some cases, the key cannot be inserted because of dirt and dust that have gathered within. Or else the key turning movement may not be as smooth as it was when it was new.
When you see something unusual, try cleaning it to remove whatever is obstructing your key. Take it to a mechanic or an automotive locksmith if that doesn't work. Debris can get into the keyhole and make it impossible to turn the key. In other circumstances, the key will fit into the hole and you will be able to turn the ignition, but the steering wheel lock will remain engaged. This is quite dangerous, so pull on the steering wheel a few times before continuing.
Cleaning your car keys before putting them in is a good idea. Yes, filth and muck on the keys will eventually ruin your turn-key ignition switch. If the turn-key ignition is difficult to turn and/or you can't get the regular car key in, try pressing it in with a screwdriver. This is not advisable because it does not always work. It will also entirely obliterate the keyhole.
- Difficulty trying to remove the key
It's possible that this symptom is due to a binding in the steering column lock. Jiggle the steering wheel back and forth until it “clicks” into place. The key should now be able to be removed from the switch. If the key still won't budge, the issue could be a broken column locking mechanism. If, on the other hand, the switch fails, the engine may continue to run after you remove the key.
- Car Stalls
When you have a bad ignition switch it's possible that your car will stall shortly after you start it or after you've driven it for a while. Your vehicle will start and then stall if your key is in the “on” position and fails. This could indicate a problem with your ignition switch in either case.
- The car can’t start.
Your car won't start at all, which is another telltale symptom that your ignition switch has failed. But keep in mind that this could be a sign of other issues, such as a problem with the starter, battery, fuel pump, or vacuum lines, among others. Regardless, it's a good idea to rule out the ignition switch as a probable cause of your car's failure to start.
The first step in resolving this problem is to rule out any other potential reasons for the condition. If you've determined that the problem is caused by the ignition switch, it may be necessary to replace it. Having a set of jumper wires on hand can help a lot.
- The car turns off on its own.
If you were able to start the vehicle but it then shut down, the car may not be receiving enough spark. A malfunctioning ignition system is frequently blamed for this. However, as with the previous symptom, this can be linked to other difficulties such as fuel flow troubles, spark plugs, and so on.
Before you go fixing the issue you must also first eliminate all other possible causes. If the ignition switch is the problem, try carefully wiggling the key while trying to start the car. You might also try starting your car in the dark and looking under the dashboard. If any of the lines have electrical arcs flying from them, tape them up and try driving again. Replace your ignition switch if this doesn't work.
- The starter motor makes no noise.
When the starter motor is actuated in typical circumstances, it makes a characteristic sound. When something is amiss with the starter, it will also make a clicking sound. If you don't hear anything, it's either because your battery is dead or because something is wrong with your ignition system, which might include a bad ignition switch. The ignition coil in the car could perhaps be the source of the problem.
- Flickering dashboard lights
Although this is the least common indication of a malfunctioning ignition switch, it does occur. If you observe your dashboard lights flickering while your vehicle is moving, it could be a sign that your ignition switch is malfunctioning.
- The car's accessories are not working.
Starting a car needs a significant amount of electrical power. You can be sure that if there isn't enough electricity to start the automobile, there won't be enough power for the car's accessories. Check the ignition system if this is the case. After all, most car models' accessories will rely on the ignition system to function.
First thing you must do is check the battery. Check the fuse for blown or loose ones if it has a charge. In either case, if your car's accessories aren't working, your car won't start. As a result, we recommend enlisting the assistance of a tow truck in this situation. You can also try pushing-starting your vehicle if it has a manual transmission. If it starts with the aforementioned way, there's usually nothing wrong with your ignition switch, and another component is at blame.
How do I know if I have a bad ignition switch?
The first thing to look for is a dead battery. If the battery is fine, you're dealing with a faulty starter or ignition switch. So which one is the real issue? Check your horn, headlights, interior lights, door locks, and four-way flashers after you've confirmed that your battery is fully charged. Next, make sure the radio, wipers, and turn signals all function.
When you turn the key, do you hear the fuel pump turn on? When you try to start the car, do the lights inside and out dim? Take note of what works and what doesn't, then go to the next phase.
- Check the starter
Knowing the difference between the starter and the ignition switch will help you find out why your car won't start. The starter is an electric motor that starts the car by cranking the engine. It's beneath the hood, usually on the passenger side near the transmission at the bottom of the engine.
The ignition switch is a collection of electrical contacts positioned on the steering column that initiates the starter. The ignition switch turns on your car's major electrical systems. If your radio, trip computer, wipers, and turn signals aren't working, and the fuel pump isn't working, you're most likely dealing with a faulty ignition switch.
Check the starter first by turning the ignition key to ON and then using a circuit tester or voltmeter to verify if the wires leading to the starter have electricity. You have a bad starter if there is power.
- Do the ignition switch test
Check for power to fuses 5, 8, 10, and 14 with the key in the RUN or ACC position. Check fuse 18 to see whether it's good if you're not getting power there. Check for power at pins 1 (red), 7 (red), 3 (pink/black), and 2 (gray/dark blue) if it's good. In the ACC position, check for power at pin 8 (black/white), and in the RUN position, check for power at pins 10 (yellow), 9 (dark blue), and 8 (black/white).
If these pins are not powered, the ignition switch is defective and must be replaced. Even if you don't plan to do the repairs yourself, if you can narrow down the possibilities for why you can't start the car, you'll be better prepared to discuss it with a mechanic at the shop.
How do you start a car with a bad ignition switch?
The first thing everyone does after entering the car is start the ignition switch and when the engine refuses to start the first thing you might think that has gotten bad is the car battery or that you have muggy sparkle plugs or no injector pulse and so on. But one thing that you also might have is a bad ignition switch. So how do you start a car with a bad ignition switch?
Here are some of the things you can do to get that car started, despite the issue of having a bad ignition switch.
- Hotwire it
This may work well for you if your vehicle was made before the mid-1990s. When you get into the vehicle, look for the section with the steering wheel. Get rid of the plastic cover that collects all of the inner parts. That should reveal all of the essential components.
Locate the wiring tackle connector next. The ignition, battery, and connectors must then be located. Disconnect the battery's wires and reconnect them. When both wires are connected, a spark will appear, and the electrical components will begin to function. To switch the engine on, strip the starter wire down half an inch and connect it to the battery wires. The motor may now be able to start.
- Use jumper links
Locate the start loop and battery under the hood of your vehicle. Using a jumper link, connect the positive battery terminal to the positive side of the loop. This will provide power to the dashboard, which will be used to start the engine. Locate the solenoid and connect it to the battery's positive terminal.
Proceed by unplugging the ignition wiring from the solenoid and then using a screwdriver, start connecting the solenoid to the post where the ignition switch is connected. The solenoid will be activated, and the vehicle should start.
- Use a drill and screwdriver
This method may also work, but be cautious because it has the potential to entirely destroy the ignition switch. It will also teach you how to start a car that has a broken ignition switch. So you'll need to find the keyhole, grab a metal drill, and drill into it in the same length as the key. The internal pins of the ignition cylinder will be destroyed as a result of this. Then, as if it were a key, insert the screwdriver into the keyhole and turn the ignition to start the car.
What causes ignition switch failure?
The ignition switch in your vehicle could fail for a variety of reasons. Some of these causes could be broken springs, worn ignition switch contacts, and temperature issues are just a few of them, and they may prevent you from even moving your car out of the garage. However, if you manage to start your engine with a faulty ignition switch, it will most likely shut off while you're on the road so it’s best to have it fixed as soon as possible.
The ignition switch is the most frequently used equipment in the car, and it must constantly be in good working order to ensure a smooth start. When you have a bad ignition switch you may try the tips and tricks discussed to self diagnose and repair them. But when all efforts fail, never think twice and seek professional help. This will prevent you from breaking something or creating a major problem.