An ignition switch, also known as a star switch or even a starter switch is the component that activates the main electrical systems for the vehicle, including power windows and more. In vehicles that are started and powered by internal combustion engines, the switch offers power to the starter solenoid as well as the ignition system components. Back in the day, the ignition switches were key switches that required that the the proper key be inserted in order for the switch functions to be utilized.
Nowadays, the ignition switch is a more complex electrical component that reads anti-theft coding in a key before it will activate electrical systems in the vehicle. This enables the vehicle to start and allow for automatic transmission to be shifted out of “park”.
For vehicles with push-button start, the ignition switch must recognize the anti-theft code transmitted by the key fob before the engine will start.
When it comes to replacing an ignition switch, you have to look at cost, labor and if you can do it yourself. This post will focus on cost and aspects associated with it.
What are the signs of a bad ignition switch?
Chances are, you’re not looking at cost for a new ignition switch because you have nothing better to do in life. You are probably experiencing some issues with your current one, or you suspect that you have a faulty one. So, what are some signs of a bad ignition switch?
Your Car Won’t Start
One of the most generic symptoms of ignition trouble is a vehicle that won't start. Sure, your may begin to crank up, but the car will usually be pretty slow if the ignition is having some issues. This is often due to corrosion on the electrical circuit – which is directly related to the ignition system- that is keeping the correct amount of electricity to flow.
Key Will Not Turn
Another symptom of a bad ignition switch, is the obvious issue- the key that will not turn in the ignition. You want to make sure that the ignition lock is not engaged. You can do this by turning the steering wheel back-and-forth. If the key will still not turn, you may have excessive wear inside the ignition that is keeping the key from properly aligning with the keyhole.
Another symptom of a bad ignition switch is your car stalling. If this is related to your ignition, this will happen most, when your car is traveling down the road, instead of sitting idle.
Flickering lights from your dashboard
Another sign of a bad ignition switch is the flickering dashboard lights. Although this is not a very common it can happen- and even occur while the vehicle is in motion.
How Do You Test an Ignition Switch?
Your ignition switch offers an electrical signal to the starter motor that allows you to start your vehicle's engine. For many modern cars, the ignition switch on some cars is part of an integrated anti-theft component and system too. When you replace the ignition switch, you will have to have your ignition key reprogrammed. And this service is only available through your vehicle's dealership. Before replacing anything, you may do a simple test of your ignition switch to evaluate the situation. If you’re up to and have a “mechanical thumb”, check out the steps below!
Open the fuse panel located under the steering wheel. Then gently pull the fuse for the starter signal using fuse pullers or another tool that can withstand fuses.
Check the metal strip in the fuse, ensuring that the strip is not damaged or burnt out. If there is damage there, you can replace the fuse with a working fuse or component that has the same amperage.
Open the hood of your car, and turn the dial on the voltmeter to “Volts.” Tap or touch the red lead on the voltmeter to the positive terminal on the car battery. Then, tap or touch the black lead on the voltmeter to the frame of the vehicle. Your voltage reading on the voltmeter should say 12.6 volts. If it reads less than 12 volts, you have a dead battery and it needs to be replaced.
Put your key into the ignition switch and crank the engine. If the engine cranks, then viola, you have a great ignition switch is obviously working fine. But if the engine does not start up and you hear that dreaded “clicking” noise when you first turn the key to the “III” position, then you have another issue that is not traceable to your ignition switch.
Price of An Ignition Switch
In order to get your ignition switch repaired, you will pay between $125 and $300. The labor costs, will generally run you about $60, while parts go for anywhere from $80 to $220 or a bit more.
What Is Done during Ignition Switch Repair & Replacement?
How easy or difficult replacing the switch will depend on what kind of car you have. Another factor will be how the ignition switch failed. For example, if your lock cylinder is working fine, then replacing the ignition switch should not be an issue. Your mechanic will just open up the plastic covers on the steering column, turn the lock switch and take it out. From there, your ignition switch can be removed and then replaced.
How long does it take to replace an ignition switch?
Generally, an ignition switch replacement takes about 20 minutes providing that the mechanic or the individual performing the repair has all of the vital and necessary parts for the fix and the other parts have been recovered. The exact time it takes depends on the complexity of the car’s ignition covers. On average, most of the ignition switch repair time is that of removing all of the different screws, bolts and latches that are used to hold the covers together. Everything that is taken off will also need to be put back on and this takes time.
But you can count on the repair of your ignition switch to be completed quickly. And your mechanic or you, will have to be careful not to damage your car. You don’t want your plastic covers scuffed nor do you want working screws stripped. And furthermore, you don’t want bending latches. A professional locksmith can ensure that there is no damage done to the exposed wires during the fix.
Can I drive with an electrical ignition switch problem?
When ignition switch issues come into play, it is dangerous to drive or operate your car. It may not even be possible to drive or operate your car, due to an ignition switch issue. Depending on your specific case and the point of failure, you could be left stranded or even drive and then later stall in traffic. You can also fail to turn off the engine when the key is removed due to an ignition switch issue. You really should not take a chance with your car- due to an ignition switch issue and you should have the ignition switch repaired as soon as you can.
How often do electrical ignition switches need to be replaced?
Most cars and trucks won't have issues with the ignition switch. But when you have an ignition switch issue, it is because you have an older and high-mileage car.
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