5 Telltale Signs of Ignition Switch Problems

How an Ignition Switch Works

There are two basic electrical systems at work in

There are two basic electrical systems at work in your car – the primary and the secondary. The secondary system runs solely on battery power. It’s this system that allows the car’s clock to keep time when the vehicle is off.

It’s this secondary system that comes into play when you opt to move your key into the second spot. If you’re listening to music in your car while you’re sitting waiting, the secondary system is in play.

The primary system is stronger. For this system to engage, the secondary one has to switch over. When the switch is turned on, the circuit for the primary system is closed, and power can flow.

The power moves to the starter solenoid and various ignition system components including the starter motor, ignition coil, and spark plugs. The spark then ignites the fuel, and the car starts running.

To use a vehicle’s ignition switch, you first need to insert a matching key into the switch which is usually located on the steering column. Alternatively, many newer cars use a key fob to communicate wirelessly with an ignition switch. Instead of turning a key, you push a start button.

In almost all cases, for security reasons, an engine immobilizer system is also in play by way of a microchip (transponder) in the key or key fob that tells the car’s computer it’s ok to start the vehicle. If the transponder signal doesn’t match what the immobilizer is expecting (or there is no signal), the vehicle will not start.

Related:  7 Reasons Why a Key is Stuck in the Ignition


Another symptom that can be caused by various issues is stalling. However if it is related to the ignition it will most often happen when your vehicle is traveling down the road, not while sitting idle.


5. Issues turning or removing the key

If the ignition key gets stuck when turning on the car or removing the key, it may be a sign of a worn out ignition switch. The key isn’t connecting inside the switch properly. Additionally, a switch going bad may cause the engine to continue running even after you’ve removed the key.

Ignition switches are one of the most frequently used switches on a vehicle, and like all electrical switches, can eventually wear out and require service. If you suspect your vehicle may be having an issue with the ignition switch, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician to determine if it should be replaced.

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.

Warning Signs of Failure

There are several important signs to look out for a faulty ignition switch in your Chevrolet. It is important to be vigilant for these indications that your switch is on the way to failure. When you see any of these, get your car to a service professional as soon as possible, or risk being stranded somewhere with a car that won’t start. It’s far better to be on the lookout for these than to require an expensive tow to an auto service center because you reacted too late to the warning signs.

The Car Won’t Start When The Key is Turned

When your car doesn’t turn over when you turn the key, the ignition switch is often the cause. There is a possibility that it might be the starter motor, so listen for a clicking sound when you’ve turned the key all the way. A failing starter motor will make a clicking sound, not too loud, but you should be able to hear it in a quiet car. No sound at all points to the ignition switch being the culprit.

Unable to Turn The Key

The ignition key might lock up when it fails, which prevents you from being able to turn the key at all. Try giving the steering wheel a jiggle and see if that solves the problem. If it doesn’t, you need to get the car serviced by a professional.


An early sign of a failing ignition switch in your Chevrolet is when your car will start but stall suddenly afterward. What is going on here is that while the ignition is being “cranked” (turned all the way) it is providing power to the fuel pump and ignition system. This may be fine to get the car started, but as soon as you let the key fall back to the “on” position it fails and stops sending power to these systems, causing the car to stall out.

Accessories are Not Receiving Power

When your key is in the ACC position in the ignition lock, your accessories should power on. This includes things like the lights inside the cabin or the stereo system. If your key is turned to ACC and these don’t power up, then the lock cylinder in the ignition system could have stopped working correctly. Other signs to keep an eye out for are flickering lights on the dash.

Test the Starter

To figure out why your car won't start, it helps to know the difference between the starter and the ignition switch. The starter is an electric motor that cranks the engine, effectively starting the car. It is under the hood, usually on the passenger side at the bottom of the motor next to the transmission.

The ignition switch is a set of electrical contacts that activates the starter and usually is located on the steering column. The ignition switch activates the main electrical systems in your car. So if your radio, trip computer, wipers, and turn signals don’t work and the fuel pump is dead, you’re likely to have a bad ignition switch.

First, check the starter by turning the key in the ignition to ON and then using a circuit tester or voltmeter to see if there is power to the wires leading to the starter. If there is power, you have a bad starter.

Final Words

The ignition switch is the most used device in the car that should always be in good condition to always have a good start. Like any other switch or module in the car, it requires service. It is exposed to tears and wear with time.

So, apply the tips and tricks in this guide to self-diagnose faults and fix them. But if you got stuck in anything, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. This will save you from breaking anything or having a bigger problem.

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Take heed of your dashboard lights

Older cars are often prone to go through problems with the ignition switch over time. If that’s the case, you may not be able to hear the clicking sound from the main rely that activates the ignition.

For that reason, you are advised to check your dashboard lights whenever your vehicle stalls.

Another method is to check your warning lights such as the oil light, charge light, brake light and so on. Then try to start your vehicle. Once it is about to start, stop pressing the key so it snaps back.

Once it snaps back to run position, check if the warning lights go out as the switch snaps back. If so, your vehicle has a problem with the ignition switch.

Whether you know the exact steps to fix the ignition switch or require major assistance from an auto repair expert, learning about these symptoms helps you stay more connected with your car.

SEE ALSO: 5 Easy Ways To Keep Your Car Battery From Dying This Summer

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