Signs of a Failing Ignition Switch

Article by Christian A., on September 3, 2018

Before you can drive your car, you have to insert the car key into the ignition switch and turn it accordingly. If the engine starts, you are now good to go. But if it won't start, it could be that the ignition switch is already failing.

The ignition switch is one of the electronic components that is frequently used and is also one of the most important. Because it is used frequently, the ignition switch would eventual wear out and show some problems. If it malfunctions or fails, there won't be any way to power on the electronics in the car or start its engine. Thus, knowing the signs of a failing ignition switch would be practical.

But before knowing these signs, being informed of how the ignition switch works would be of great use. Different systems in the car are powered depending on the position of the key on the ignition switch. There are four positions on the ignition switch: Lock (or Off), Acc (or Accesory), On (or Run) and Start.

The ignition switch is initially in the Lock position when the key is inserted. At this point, the steering wheel is still locked and there is yet no power that goes into the accessories.

Once the key is turned to the Acc position, power is sent to a number of accessories like the windshield wipers, radio and HVAC. These accessories are thereby are activated, including the center console and interior lights. When in this position, you can turn the steering wheel to unlock it.

When the key is turned to the On position, power is now sent to all accessories.

By turning the key to the Start position, the engine will be cranked. Usually, the engine will start only if the gear is in neutral or park position. Once the engine starts, let go of the key as it will naturally return to the On position.

Now, let’s discuss some signs that may indicate a bad or failing ignition switch.

1. The car stalls during a drive

Your car may have a bad ignition switch if it suddenly stalls while driving. If this case, the ignition switch has failed while the engine is still running, causing power to be cut off to the ignition and fuel systems. You car may or may not be able to restart your car.

2. The car is started and suddenly stalls

If the car stalls while ignition switch is at the On position, the vehicle may start but would stall just right after.

When the key is turned into the Start position, this ignition switch may momentarily send power to the pump and ignition systems. But as soon as the key returns to On position, the power will to these systems will be cut off, causing the car to stall.

3. There are issues powering on the accessories

Once the key is turned to Acc position, the ignition switch powers accessories like the center console and HVAC interior lights. If these accessories don’t power on, the ignition switch could be failing. Nonetheless, problems with the fuse and wiring may also cause the accessories not to power on.

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