6 Symptoms of a Bad Ignition Switch

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The ignition switch is an essential electronic component that is found on many of today’s vehicles. It usually resides in the steering column, just behind your key’s ignition lock cylinder. These two components work together to power on and start your vehicle.

Because the ignition switch is utilized frequently, it will wear out and begin to have issues after time. A faulty ignition switch usually manifests a few symptoms that may alert the driver to a potential problem.

In this article, we will discuss what those symptoms are. Let’s get started!

What does an ignition switch do?

ignition key

Your car’s ignition switch is critical to keeping your vehicle running. It has a significant function in turning on the vehicle’s major electrical systems. You may notice that your car refuses to start or that you are unable to operate the radio or power windows if your ignition switch isn’t operational.

The ignition switch, like most automobile switches, is usually activated by a key. The car can be started once the key has been inserted in the ignition. However, in recent models and makes, the key is sometimes replaced with a button instead. Regardless of whether your car has a button or a key, either pressing it or turning the key activates the ignition process.

There are four different positions for your car’s ignition switch:

Position 1: Lock 

Consider this the ‘off’ position. This is the position in which you leave your car. Your accessories, such as the radio, will not operate, and your key may be removed from the keyhole. Your steering wheel may also be locked.

Position 2: Accessory

In this mode, you’ll be able to use your car’s accessories, like the radio. You won’t be able to remove the key from the ignition in this position.

Position 3: On

All of your accessories and electronics are activated in this position. You won’t be able to remove your key from the keyhole. After you start the engine, the key in the keyhole will default to this position.

Position 4: Start

If you insert your key all the way, it will be in this position. Your engine and all of your accessories will come on as a result of this switch. If you leave your key in this posture for an extended period of time, it may cause damage to your starter.

Bad Ignition Switch Symptoms

symptoms of a bad ignition switch

There are several indicators that you’re dealing with a faulty ignition switch. If you believe your ignition switch or starter is malfunctioning, get it examined by a specialist right away. Continue reading to learn about all of the typical symptoms of a bad ignition switch.

The engine won’t start

A faulty ignition switch will be unable to deliver power to the starter motor, ignition system, and other engine controls, preventing the engine from starting. However, other electrical and mechanical issues, such as a dead battery or a malfunctioning starter solenoid, may also cause engine difficulties. To be sure, it’s typically recommended that you see a mechanic.

Vehicle starts and stalls

In certain situations, a malfunctioning ignition switch will still allow your car to turn over. The switch, on the other hand, may deliver brief power to the fuel pump and ignition system before causing your automobile to stall. Ignition switch problems can also cause you from restarting your vehicle due to worn-out ignition contacts that have become more sensitive to heat and vibrations.

Loss of lightning or other accessories

The interior lights, dashboard lights, and other accessories in your car could turn off for a few seconds if the ignition switch is faulty.

Difficulty turning key

If your key is stuck in the open position and you’re unable to turn it, it’s indicative of a faulty ignition switch. This may be accompanied by a loss of electrical power to the key.

No noise from the starter

If your car’s ignition switch, starter motor, or other electrical system isn’t being activated properly, you won’t hear typical engine noises that indicate the key (whether it be a button or key) has turned into the ‘start’ position. You may hear grinding or clicking noises instead, if this is the case you may have something other than an ignition switch problem.

Flickering dashboard lights

This is the most uncommon symptom of a faulty ignition switch, but it can occur. If you see that your dashboard lights are flickering when your vehicle is in motion, there’s a chance your ignition switch isn’t working correctly.

How do you start a car with a bad ignition switch?

So, if your car won’t start and you’re sure there’s a faulty ignition switch, here’s how to bypass the ignition switch to get it going. All you need are the correct tools, and you’ll be able to easily start your vehicle with some basic steps.

Hotwire the vehicle

If your automobile was made before the mid-nineties, this method may be helpful. Locate the steering wheel column once you’ve gotten into the vehicle. Then remove the plastic cover that covers all internal components. All necessary elements should become visible as a result of this procedure.

After that, spot the wiring harness connector. Because there are a lot of wires and cables found in this region, finding the correct connector might be difficult. However, it is usually found at the center of the steering column. The other wires, cables, and connections are related to lights control wipers and other accessories.

Then you must find the battery, ignition, and starter connections. The ignition has yellow and brown wires. The red wires are for the battery. Strip the battery wires an inch down from the insulation and twist them together.

To test it, connect a wire from the ignition switch to the battery wire and turn on the ignition. The lights will come on, as well as the electrical components, demonstrating that all is working correctly. Now remove half an inch of starter wire and touch it to the connected battery wires. The engine should now be started.

Using a drill and screwdriver

This method may also work, but be cautious because it can destroy the ignition switch entirely. It will also teach you how to restart a car with a broken ignition switch. To start, locate the keyhole and use a metal drill to drill into it in the same length as the key. This will shred the internal pins of the ignition cylinder. After that, get the screwdriver and insert it into the keyhole and turn the ignition. The car should startup.

Use jumper cables

Locate the ignition coil and the battery. Connect the positive terminal of the battery to the positive side of the coil using a jumper cable. This will allow you to start your engine by providing power to your dashboard, which is required for operation.

Connect the positive battery terminal to the starter solenoid. Then unplug the ignition switch wiring from the solenoid. Short the positive terminal of the solenoid to the post where the ignition switch connects with a screwdriver.

How do you test an ignition switch?

We all know that a failing ignition switch may lead to numerous problems. We’ve already discovered how to start without an ignition switch and how to bypass it. As a result, it’s time to find out whether your ignition switch is in good working order or not. Here are some ways to test your ignition switch:

Using a multimeter

You should begin testing by turning the switch off. Attach the positive probe of the multimeter to the switch’s power feed wire and the negative probe to any unpainted metal in the car.

Turn the key to the RUN position and set the multimeter for voltage measurement. Read the voltage on your multimeter. If you get a result reflecting less than 90% of the battery voltage, there may be an issue with the ignition switch.

Using a test light

A 12 V test light can be used to test your ignition switch even if you don’t have a multimeter. Disconnect the module’s cable connector after turning the key to the OFF position. After that, remove the starter motor solenoid’s S terminal, which will prevent your engine from cranking.

Turn the key to the RUN position. Connect the red wire to the test voltage. Then repeat the procedure at the battery post of the ignition coil. Then turn the key to the START position and connect the white wire from the ignition switch. This should turn the lamplight on, if there is no light, then you have a faulty switch.

Ignition switch replacement cost

If you have an electronic keyless ignition switch, it will be part of a system that also includes the lock cylinder and some security device, driving the price to somewhere around $200 to $400. An ignition switch or assembly can generally be done in a straightforward manner for around $75 to $150 in labor costs.


How do you tell if it’s your starter or ignition switch?

The starter is a motor that cranks the engine, which effectively starts the car. It’s generally near the bottom of the vehicle’s motor next to the transmission on the passenger side. An ignition switch is a group of electrical contacts that activates the starter and is usually positioned on the steering column. The ignition switch controls your automobile’s major electrical systems. If your electrical systems (radio, wipers, turn signals, etc.) don’t work and the fuel pump is dead, you’re probably dealing with a bad ignition switch.

Can you jump start a car with a bad ignition switch?

Yes, you can. Locate the solenoid and connect it to the battery’s positive terminal. Disconnect the ignition wiring from the solenoid. Connect the solenoid to the post where the ignition switch connects using a screwdriver. The vehicle should start after this is completed.

What happens when ignition lock cylinder goes bad?

When inserting a key into an old, worn lock or ignition lock, it might be challenging to turn the key. When the key is inserted, a worn lock or key may jam the lock assembly and prevent it from turning. A chipped cylinder or key can also cause the assembly to jam when attempting to remove the key.

How much does it cost to replace ignition lock cylinder?

On average, consumers spend around $200 to $250 on an ignition cylinder replacement. This covers the cost of a new ignition cylinder, which is usually between $125 and $150, as well as the labor needed for the repair.

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