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5 Signs You Need An Ignition Switch Replacement
Here are some common signs of a failing or broken ignition switch:
1. Worn-Out And Stuck Keys
A bad ignition switch prevents the car key from properly aligning with the keyhole. Over time, the ignition switch issues may worsen, and you’ll soon find it difficult to get the car key in or out of the ignition switch.
One of the main culprits is a worn-out or damaged ignition key itself. Now, the ignition system consists of ‘wafers’ (unique cuts) within the ignition lock cylinder that connects to the correct car key.
Trying to insert a worn-out key could damage these cuts in the ignition cylinder — forming cracks on the wafers. As a result, your car key may get stuck because the wafers no longer fit the ignition key.
Old cylinder wafers can also get damaged by themselves — demanding an ignition key replacement from an auto repair locksmith service. Here, you’ll need not only a new key but a new ignition housing as well.
Sometimes, you may be able to slide the key into your car’s ignition switch but find it difficult to turn it. This may happen if your vehicle is in a steering wheel lock.
Turn your steering wheel back and forth while trying the car key to check if the ignition lock is engaged.
2. Trouble Starting The Car
An ignition switch has electrical contacts connecting various electrical components to start the car. If these contacts fail, they can create open circuits, causing an electrical problem in the switch.
For example, the ignition coil and ignition module are responsible for drawing the battery power and firing up your spark plugs to start your vehicle. But for that, you need a working ignition switch. In such a case, your engine may crank and then die or, worse, not start at all.
So, get the ignition switch failure checked out, or it’ll be almost impossible to move your car.
Note: Your car may also not start due to problems like a dead car battery, but the ignition switch is a great place to begin an investigation.
3. Car Stalls While Driving
With a failing ignition switch, your car may stop running while you’re driving — due to sudden loss of power in the car’s electrical system.
Here, a faulty ignition switch may stop the power to the car’s ignition and fuel system, causing the engine to stall. Restarting the car may depend on the issue’s severity.
Note: Cars stalling while driving are hazardous. You should immediately call for an auto repair mechanic in this case.
4. Malfunctioning Accessories
Since the ignition switch connects power circuits in your car, your vehicle might experience an electrical problem when the switch malfunctions.
Issues in the switch assembly can cause electrical accessories to act funny or stop working altogether. This happens because your car’s accessories aren’t getting enough power to function correctly.
For example, your car’s headlights may dim, dashboard lights may flicker, radio won’t work, etc. If you own a modern car, you could face more malfunctions as it has more electrical accessories.
5. Warning Dashboard Lights
This is a less common sign of a bad ignition switch.
Usually, the dashboard lights illuminate when you start the car, and then it goes off as soon as the vehicle is running. But when dashboard lights remain dark, you may have a failing ignition switch problem.
To confirm, move the car key to the first position and check for warning dashboard lights. If the dashboard lights go out after moving to the second position, it points to some ignition switch wiring issue.
Additionally, check if you can hear the primary relay click when the starter motor kicks in. If you do, your car’s critical electrical components are receiving power.
If you don’t, the components aren’t receiving power — resulting in your car not starting. Check your dashboard lights for a related warning.
How Much Does An Ignition Switch Replacement Cost?
The total ignition switch replacement cost can fall between $130-$480.
The replacement cost includes both spare parts and ignition switch repair labor costs. The labor costs can be anywhere between $60-$180, and the parts can cost around $70-$300.
Note: The ignition switch replacement cost charged by car repair shops or dealerships depends on your location, model of your car, warranty, etc.
How Urgent Is An Ignition Switch Replacement?
Most people put off an ignition switch replacement till their car key no longer slides in or the car doesn’t start.
Ignition switches last a long time. But when the ignition switch is damaged, resulting issues can be dangerous. This is especially true if your car shuts down while driving.
So it’s best to call an automotive mechanic at the slightest sign of an ignition switch problem.
3 Ignition Switch FAQs
Here are some questions and answers on ignition switches:
1. What Is An Ignition Switch?
The ignition switch is located in the steering column, and is an essential car element that works with the lock cylinder to start your vehicle. It controls almost all of the car’s electronic components.
You insert the car key and turn the ignition switch to start the car.
Generally, ignition switches have four positions:
When the key is at the ‘Start’ position, the ignition system draws electrical energy from the car battery to power crucial vehicle parts required to run it at the ‘On’ position. And if there’s no key, it’ll lock the steering wheel.
If your car has a push-button starting system, it uses the key fob instead of a physical key. A key fob carries unique signals that your car picks up to start once you press the button.
2. How Does An Ignition Switch Work?
The ignition switch is the on-off switch of a car.
When the car key is inserted into an ignition starter switch, a set of tumblers allows it to rotate to close the ignition circuit. The circuit then draws power from the car battery and sends it to the starter motor, which turns the engine, and to the ignition system to fire the spark plugs.
When you turn off the ignition key, you reverse the action and stop all components from drawing power — shutting down the car.
Today car keys have built-in electronic chips that automatically communicate with the car’s computer. In a modern vehicle, you’ll often find a push-button ignition switch instead of car keys.
Here, the ignition system is wired to recognize your button and the ignition key fob’s electric signals. So when you press the button, the key fob sends signals to the car’s computer — after which your vehicle starts.
3. How To Replace The Ignition Switch?
An ignition switch replacement requires you to have some auto repair knowledge. So it’s best to contact a repair shop and get an ignition switch or car key replacement safely, depending on the diagnosis.
That said, here’s a faulty ignition switch replacement guide:
First, turn off the ignition.
Then disconnect the negative cable from the car battery to prevent shocks from the electrical system.
Once done, remove the lower steering column cover with a screwdriver. If the car is dash-mounted, remove the dash panel.
Remove the upper steering column cover.
Now locate the ignition switch behind the ignition key cylinder. If needed, remove the key cylinder according to the manufacturer’s manual. Be careful with the airbag wiring.
Remove the ignition switch by disconnecting the electrical connector from the switch.
Install the new ignition switch and secure its electrical connector.
Screw the key cylinder in place and then reinstall the lower steering column, followed by the upper steering column.