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Ignition Switch Replacement: Symptoms, Method & Cost

July 31, 2022
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Is your car having trouble cranking, or your accessories won’t power up?
There’s a good chance that an ignition switch failure is the source of your troubles. 

But how do you perform an ignition switch replacement?
And what are the signs of a faulty ignition switch? 

In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about an ignition switch replacement, including related symptoms, how urgent it is, replacement method, and cost. 

This Article Contains: 

Let’s begin. 

What Is An Ignition Switch? 

The ignition switch (starter switch) in your vehicle serves two primary purposes:

Car owners often think the ignition switch is the slot where you insert the key to start the vehicle. But that’s actually the ignition lock cylinder. 

The ignition switch, located right behind the ignition lock cylinder (or ignition key cylinder), is a much more complex electrical component. In some vehicles, this switch also reads an anti-theft coding in the key before activating your car’s electrical system. 

On vehicles with push-button ignition, the ignition switch recognizes this anti-theft code transmitted by the key fob.

Needless to say, the ignition switch is a critical component of your vehicle, and ignition switch issues can prevent your vehicle from functioning correctly.

Let’s find out how to tell when you have an ignition switch problem.

5 Symptoms Of A Bad Ignition Switch

Here are the signs that call for an ignition switch replacement: 

1. Key Doesn’t Turn

If your ignition switch assembly has undergone excessive wear or damage, it’ll prevent the ignition key from aligning with the keyhole on the lock cylinder. 

However, ensure that your ignition lock is not engaged by turning your steering wheel back and forth as you turn the ignition key. 

2. Car Won’t Start

If you have a bad ignition switch, it’ll prevent your ignition coil from drawing power from the battery. As a result, your car won’t start

That said, there could be other reasons for a bad or no-start, including a dead battery or a faulty ignition system. It’s best to get a mechanic to ascertain the underlying cause. 

3. Dashboard Lights Flicker

If you put your key into the second position, and if the ignition switch is faulty, the dashboard will go dark. You may also see the dash lights flicker while you’re driving. 

Flickering dashboard lights is a clear warning of ignition switch issues, and you should get it checked immediately. 

4. Accessories Won’t Power On

The ignition switch is also responsible for controlling most of the electrical accessories of your vehicle. 

So, a failing ignition switch may lead to an electrical problem, preventing your electrical system components from starting.

5. Car Stalls While Driving

If your vehicle cuts out for no apparent reason, it’s not getting enough power. This could be due to a bad battery or bad ignition switch. 

In case of a failing ignition switch, your vehicle will stall without showing any loss of power. 

Whatever the case may be, an engine stalling while you’re driving could jeopardize your road safety. If your vehicle cuts out abruptly, pull to the side immediately and call roadside assistance. 

If you spot any of these signs, it may be time for an ignition switch repair. 

How Urgent Is An Ignition Switch Replacement?          

If you suspect a broken ignition switch, it’s best to get help from an auto repair shop ASAP.

Whether your car has a manual or automatic transmission, if you’re lucky, you might be able to turn on your vehicle. However, a faulty ignition switch could also cause a running engine to shut down, which is a major threat to your road security.  

Let’s go over the replacement process next.

10 Steps To Perform An Ignition Switch Replacement

Performing an ignition switch replacement is not as simple as a locksmith service. You’ll need to remove several steering column covers and dash panels to access the ignition housing that contains the ignition lock cylinder and the ignition switch (starter switch). 

And, if your vehicle is equipped with airbags around the switch, you could end up deploying them accidentally while accessing the ignition housing. 

So if you’re not comfortable fixing the ignition switch problem yourself, let an auto repair shop or mobile mechanic deal with your vehicle. 

That said, here’s how to access the lock cylinder and replace an ignition switch: 

  1. Park the vehicle at a safe spot and turn off the ignition, keeping the steering wheel lock open.
  1. Use a memory saver to prevent your Powertrain Control Module (PCM) from losing its memory. This can prevent future drivability issues in your vehicle.
  1. Disconnect the battery by loosening the negative battery terminal.
  1. Detach the steering column around the ignition lock by removing the securing screw from the bottom of the steering column cover. Then separate the lower steering column from the upper column, which are usually clipped together. 

    Note: In some vehicles, the ignition switch can be accessed without removing the steering wheel. For others, you’ll need to follow the repair manual to first remove the steering wheel carefully. 
  1. If the vehicle has a dash-mounted ignition lock, remove the dash panel around the ignition lock cylinder to gain access to the switch.
  1. Locate the ignition key cylinder and remove it to access the broken ignition switch.

    Note: Manufacturer instructions can vary for removing the old cylinder. The key cylinder may be bolted to the ignition module or have lock tabs that need pressing to release the switch. You may need a power drill with a special drill bit to remove the cylinder if it’s bolted. 
  1. Once the ignition switch assembly is out, disconnect the electrical connectors from the switch.
  1. Install the new switch and ensure that it’s mounted securely on the ignition module.
  1. Reinstall the ignition lock cylinder and put back the steering column cover. Tighten every screw to secure the upper and lower steering column. 
  1. Finally, reattach the negative battery cable and remove the memory saver.

You’re now familiar with the ignition switch replacement process. Let’s look at some related costs.

How Much Does An Ignition Switch Replacement Cost?

The replacement cost for an ignition switch will largely depend on your location and the car’s make and model. So the cost for a General Motors vehicle (for example) will differ from a Honda. 

Here’s a breakup of the average replacement cost estimate: 

Note: Some switches are a part of the ignition cylinder assembly and form a type of security system. This will require replacing the whole ignition switch assembly, which can cost between $200 to $400. It will also require reprogramming and recoding the key, which could set you back by another $100. 

Also, if the key gets stuck in the ignition lock cylinder, expect the labor charges to shoot up further. You may even need an ignition key replacement. 

Closing Thoughts

Ignition switch failure is a critical issue that you should address at the earliest to avoid any ignition or electrical problem. The last thing you need is an engine that cuts off mid-driving. 

To prevent potential car problems, make sure that you keep up with regular vehicle maintenance. If going to an auto shop is troublesome, why not let a mobile mechanic like RepairSmith handle the checkup instead?

With RepairSmith, you get:

Contact us, and our expert mechanics will drop by your driveway to ensure your car, including your ignition system, is good to go!