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5 Symptoms of a Bad Ignition Switch

5 Symptoms of a Bad Ignition Switch (and How to Deal with It)

Having a well-functioning car has long stopped being a simple advantage and has become a necessity. Maybe even more so these days than ever. Amidst the pandemic, a car is not just a convenient transportation device, it’s a social distancing tool. No matter how well developed public transportation is where you live, right now it still holds a substantially higher risk of carrying COVID-19 than your own vehicle. So even those of us who at least try to minimize our carbon footprint on the regular, have taken our cars out of the garage and hit the road.

And if the importance of private vehicles has suddenly increased – so have the inconveniences of being unexpectedly stranded on the side of the road. After all, nothing can derail a day like unexpected car problems. Simply because we rarely ever anticipate things like car lockouts, broken car keys, or a bad ignition switch. Even if we probably should.

Especially, since bad ignition switch symptoms aren’t that hard to detect. And the sooner you pay attention to them, the higher the chances you catch onto the fact that your ignition switch has problems before it actually catches you out unexpectedly in the middle of the drive.

So what happens when your ignition switch goes bad and how do you know it’s on the way out? 

bad ignition switch

car key in a bad ignition switch

Trouble with the Key

Probably the most common symptom of your ignition switch having problems – and the one most often to be ignored. 

The truth of the matter is, like any other lock, the ignition may wear out. We insert and remove the key from the ignition lock hundreds of times over the years – and that takes its toll. Most people will notice that inserting a key and starting the car becomes less smooth of a process over time – yet they do not pay attention to it. After all, if the car still starts it must be fine, right? 

In reality, a key starting to jam is probably the first sign that indicates that your ignition cylinder is wearing out and you’ll start experiencing ignition switch problems sometime in the future.



Trouble with Accessories

Another oft-ignored sign you might be dealing with a bad ignition switch – though quite less common than jamming or stuck keys is your car having trouble with accessories. 

Now to be fair, there are a number of car problems that could be the reason for flickering dashboard or interior lights, not necessarily related to ignition switch problems. Still – if the accessories aren’t powered on, despite the key being inserted and turned with no problems, it’s definitely a sign your car is experiencing some troubles, and there’s a high chance those troubles are lock cylinder or ignition switch related.



Car Stalls While Driving

A faulty ignition switch may cause your vehicle to suddenly shut off. This may happen right after it starts – or while you’re in the midst of traveling. The thing is, even if your ignition is having some problems if the ignition switch fails at the “on” position – meant to power the system – the car may manage to start – it just won’t last very long. Even a faulty ignition switch might be able to temporarily provide power to the ignition and fuel systems. However, if it fails in the “on” position, the power will be cut off – and the engine will stall.



Car Fails to Start

This is probably the one indicator everyone is familiar with. If your car fails to start at all when you insert and turn the key, then you’ll most likely think that either the starter motor or the ignition switch is at fault. And while there may be a lot of reasons the car might not start, you’ll definitely think right – there’s a high chance it’s not starting due to a faulty starter motor or ignition switch.



No Sound from Starter Motor

Fair’s fair. A car not starting may be due to a faulty starter motor as well. Luckily, it’s usually simple enough to determine if it’s starter motor troubles you’re dealing with or something else. If your starter motor is having a problem, it will likely have you know about its culpability – by producing a distinct clicking sound while actuating. If the starter motor is silent then there’s no small chance it’s actually fine and you should pay attention to the ignition switch instead.




How to Deal with a Bad Ignition Switch?

Now that you know what the symptoms of a bad ignition switch are, you might also be wondering how to deal with it.

There’s one definitive answer to that: do not ignore the problems and call a professional.

This cannot be stressed strongly enough, but if you’re experiencing one of the abovementioned problems and think the ignition switch is at fault – you should definitely not try to fix it yourself.

Firstly, while the above-mentioned problems are likely indicating a bad ignition switch is at fault, they could also be pointing to a number of other problems. Which is why before actually doing anything, a professional should run a diagnostic and make sure the problem definitely lies with the ignition switch.

Secondly, the ignition switch is delicate and easily damaged. This is not a part of the car you should deal with by looking up YouTube tutorials. Trying to fix it on your own, you’re likely to do more damage and complicate the problem further. 

The best you can do is make it easy for a professional to do their job. Do not postpone dealing with the problems. The earlier you have them run a diagnostic and catch what’s wrong, the easier it will be to repair or replace the ignition.