The ignition switch is one of the most vital components in your vehicle. Possibly the most important electrical part in your car, this apparatus is found in almost every single road car and truck that is currently driving around today.
The ignition switch is typically found on the steering column by the ignition lock cylinder. The ignition lock cylinder is the keyhole where your car keys go in to turn the ignition switch on. This component and the ignition switch work together to turn on your vehicle and make it run smoothly. If you have a defective ignition switch, both the switch and the cylinder will not work correctly.
The ignition switch has various positions that power on the different systems and electrical parts within your car as the key is turned in the slot. Most ignition switches are in charge of the electrical accessories, first and foremost. The ignition switch’s other positions are the second position, changing the power and fuel systems, and the third position, cranking the engine and providing power to the vehicle.
Symptoms of a Defective Ignition Switch
However, since the ignition switch is frequently used – sometimes multiple times a day in your vehicle – it will eventually break down and succumb to excess wear and tear. Usually, a defective ignition switch will give the driver, and sometimes the passengers, warning signs as to the real problems going on in your vehicle.
Stalling while driving
One of the most obvious signs of a defective ignition switch is the car stalls while driving. Your engine stalling is a severe issue that needs to be fixed as soon as possible to prevent any further damage and performance hindrances. There are certain instances where you can determine the reasons why your car stalls while driving to prevent the defective ignition switch.
A bad battery is one of the most common reasons why your car will stall while driving. The car battery is the rechargeable battery that supplies the necessary electrical current to a motor vehicle, with the main purpose to feed the starter, which in turn powers and starts the engine to run your car. If the battery is dead, your car will not start, and you will have a defective ignition switch.
The second reason your car stalls while driving is that there is something wrong with your fuel pump. The first time you will notice a fuel pump problem is that the car can stall while driving and cause you not to restart the vehicle. The fuel pump might show signs of why the car stalls while driving, like a slight buzzing noise while it is running.
If you do not hear any noises during the fuel pump being engaged, then this is likely that you have a bad fuel pump, causing your car to stall and a defective ignition switch.
If you have realized that any of the previous reasons does not cause your car stalls while driving, it could be due to the bad electrical wiring. To find out if the cause is the bad wiring, make sure you check the car’s dial speed control system. Make sure that the wires are correctly connected, and they are not rusting. If the wires have caused your car to stall, this can be a clear symptom of a defective ignition switch.
Car Starts and Suddenly Stalls
Another symptom that you have a defective ignition switch is that your car will suddenly start – but then just as suddenly turn off and stall. Suppose the ignition switch is not working properly while it is resting in the “on” position. In that case this can lead to the vehicle starting and stalling erratically. The “on” position is meant to turn on the fuel and ignition systems. Still, if this position is not holding the correct spot, the vehicle will not be able to run.
The ignition switch will provide power only momentarily to the fuel pump and ignition system, letting the vehicle start. However, since it will flicker out of the “on” position, it will then cut all power to the system and cause the car to stall once more. This is a clear sign of a defective ignition switch in your vehicle.
Issues Turning On Accessories
The third sign of a faulty ignition switch is having trouble turning on your vehicle’s accessories, like power windows, radio, headlights, dashboard lights, blinkers, etc. When you put the key in the ignition lock cylinder and turn the key, the switch should do its job and power on the vehicle's accessories, like the interior lights. However, if the parts do not turn on after the eye has been inserted, this is a clear sign of an issue with the defective ignition switch and a potentially faulty ignition lock cylinder.
Key Doesn’t Turn
This is a very noticeable symptom of a defective ignition switch. The first thing you need to do to start your car besides sitting in the driver’s seat turns the ignition lock cylinder key. However, if the ignition switch has damage inside of it, it will sometimes prevent the key from moving at all – thereby preventing your car from turning on and your engine from revving,
This is something you shouldn't ignore, as it will get worse over time. The key will gradually not go in very smoothly, and eventually, this will lead to a completely defective ignition switch.
Car Won’t Start
The ignition coil can gain battery power to spark the spark plugs and ignite the fuel in the combustion chamber. If the spark plugs do not fire at the right time and light the mixture, the engine will misfire. If the ignition coil does not draw enough power, this can lead to faulty and defective ignition switches that will cause your car not to start.
Try and diagnose this issue by listening to the noise your car is making. If your car is completely dead, there will be no noise. However, if you hear the car trying to turn over, then the cause of this defective ignition switch issue is most likely a dead battery.
Flickering Dashboard Lights
Constant use and damage can break down the ignition switch over time with older vehicles, leading to a faulty and defective ignition switch that can cause a loud relay clicking. You can check the problem with the dashboard lights by doing a simple diagnostic test.
If the ignition is the problem, the dashboard lights might go dark when you place your key in the second position. If the lights go out when the key is moved, there is a problem with the wiring or a defective ignition switch. Make sure you bring your vehicle to a mechanic or qualified electrician to determine the root cause of the flickering dashboard lights.
Inserting and Removing the Key
If you find that there are problems or issues when you insert and remove the key from your car’s ignition, then this is a clear sign of a defective ignition switch. If you find problems with inserting and removing the key, this is a clear sign of a massive problem with the ignition lock cylinder.
Since the key is repeatedly inserted into the ignition numerous times to start the engine, both the cylinder and the key will eventually break down after constant use. A worn down or broken cylinder can jam and push the key to be stuck when it is inserted, causing a problem with the starting of the vehicle and causing a defective ignition switch.
Defective Ignition Switch Replacement Cost
The cost of a defective ignition switch replacement will vary depending on the model and make of your vehicle, the specific type of ignition switch, and whether the ignition switch is a combination of multiple parts, like the switch and the lock cylinder.
Sometimes, you can get lucky and get a cheap replacement for as little as just $20. However, it is recommended that you skip the cheapest option and always go with a replacement that is OEM – original equipment manufacturer. In this case, you will end up paying more, but the price will be worth it in the long run.
Parts & Labor Cost
The parts cost of the defective ignition switch replacement will range between $70 and $300 on average, with the average labor costs coming in between $60 and $180 to replace the switch. The total labor time will usually range between 1 hour and 90 minutes, so make sure you keep an eye on your mechanic if the repair seems to be taking a much longer time.
If you combine the parts and labor costs, the total cost for replacing the defective ignition switch will usually come out to between $130 and $480 total.
As you can see, fixing a defective ignition switch will not only keep your car working at a higher performance level, but it will also prevent further damage to any internal parts of the fuel system, engine, electrical accessories, and the starter system, keeping your car running at a healthy level for a long period of time.