Have you ever been in a situation where there was no reaction from the car after turning the key? Either the starter motor won’t turn or the dashboard remains turned off at all. Although a bad battery may cause symptoms like these, there is also a chance the ignition switch is bad. Being a simple and quite reliable component, most car owners might forget about them as a potential source of the problem. This article will explain how ignition switches work and how to tell if you have a bad one.

What is inside the ignition switch?

Most ignition switches come as a part of the key lock, which is either on the steering column or the dashboard. The switch itself has a rotating arm inside, which connects different predetermined electrical circuits while you turn the key. In most cases, there will be several marked positions, with each of them turning on certain components. The first one is the ‘Accessory’, which unlocks the steering wheel and activates stereo and window regulators. In the next position, called ‘ON’, the dashboard will illuminate and various engine related systems and components will power up. In the end, there is a ‘START’ position that engages the starter motor and cranks the engine.

Why do ignition switches go bad?

Just like any other component in your car, there are several possible causes for the ignition switches to go bad. Amongst them, mechanical wear that affects electrical contacts inside the switch is one of the most frequent. If a gap between them becomes too large, it will prevent the electrical flow. This usually starts as an intermittent failure to crank the engine, which becomes more frequent with time. Other common causes that may damage the ignition switch include moisture and corresponding corrosion or moving components breaking down. It is also worth mentioning that most cars have an anti-theft function, which can cause a non-starting scenario.

How hard is it to replace the ignition switch?

The ignition switch is a simple and relatively inexpensive part, with a connector and several bolts that hold it in place. However, replacing it may be time consuming because of various interior panels that are in the way. In general, replacing it in cars that have a key lock integrated into the steering columns is not too hard. But things can get complicated with dash-mounted key locks, as this involves removing more parts.

How important is this service?

As we have explained in this article, checking the ignition switch requires a methodical and organized approach. If you don’t have the right tools or don’t feel up to the job, consider hiring a professional. At FixMyCar, we have certified and seasoned technicians that can come to your home and solve all ignition switch related problems. This will ensure that all important components are checked and your car is ready to hit the road.