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There are more than 8.3 million vehicles registered across Texas alone and these are a vital part of people’s daily lives. They help you to work, get your children to and from school, visit friends and family, and run your everyday errands. So if something goes wrong with your car this can be a serious issue. 

Unfortunately, one in three drivers in the US will experience an issue with their car every year. Staying on top of your car’s maintenance helps to ensure that minor problems don’t become major issues. However, your car’s engine isn’t the only thing you need to think about.

If something goes wrong with your car’s ignition switch then this could put the whole vehicle out of action. In that case, you will need emergency support from a locksmith. To stop this from happening, you need to understand the common symptoms of a bad ignition switch. 

In that case, you’ve come to the right place! Read on to find out everything you need to know about spotting a car ignition switch that’s in trouble!

What is Your Key Ignition Switch?

Your car’s ignition switch is essentially the starter switch for your vehicle. This activates your vehicle’s main electrical system. This includes starting your electrical accessories, such as your radio and window controls.

In the majority of American cars, your ignition switch requires a key. You turn the key to activate the controls. However, 90% of new cars are designed to use an ignition button rather than a key. 

If you use an ignition key, your ignition has four different positions: 

  1. The first position is locked or off — this means that your car isn’t running at all
  2. The second position starts accessory mode, so you can use your radio or windows for example
  3. The third position turns your car on so it is ready to start the engine
  4. The fourth position is the start position — this turns your engine on

To start your car and drive, you need to turn your ignition key to position four and then let it sit back in position three. If everything is running smoothly, your car will start without any difficulty. You will only be able to remove the key from the ignition in position one once the engine has stopped.

Why is it Important to Check Your Ignition Switch? 

If your ignition switch stops working for any reason this can become a serious issue very quickly for your vehicle. 

Obviously, if you cannot start your car this is very frustrating and could muck up your plans for the day. However, faulty ignition switches can also impact your ability to drive safely on the road. The last thing you want is to contribute to the six million car accidents that take place on America’s road every year!

As you’ll see, one sign of a faulty ignition switch is that your car keeps stalling. If your car stops suddenly in busy traffic or at a junction, this could leave you very vulnerable to crashing. On top of this, you could become a hazard to other people using the road.

As with most car-related issues, fixing a problem sooner rather than later will also save you a lot of money on repairs. In fact, ignoring an issue could do more damage to your car and this will certainly be expensive to repair.

To keep your ignition switch in good working order you need to understand common signs of issues with your ignition switch. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at bad ignition switch symptoms.

Your Car Stalls While You’re Driving

Stalling while driving is one of the most common symptoms of ignition problems around. This happens when your engine suddenly cuts out. This can happen regardless of the speed that you’re traveling at so you will come to a sudden standstill. 

This happens because your ignition switch has stopped providing power to your ignition system and fuel system. So your engine will no longer receive the power that it needs to run. 

This usually means that you need an ignition switch replacement. If your ignition issue isn’t too advanced you may be able to restart your engine after resting it for a while. However, in more extreme cases, you’ll struggle to restart your car at all, which leads us to our next point!

Your Engine Won’t Start

Because your ignition sends power to your engine controls, ignition system, and starter motor, it can cause serious problems when it doesn’t work. You might be able to turn your key but if a connection is loose these three systems won’t work together properly. 

If they do not all receive the right amount of power then your car simply won’t start.

Your Car Starts and Immediately Stalls

Sometimes your ignition will stop working in certain positions. This means that your car appears to be working in some ways but not others.

If you have an ignition issue, your fourth position may be working meaning that you can start your engine. However, the ignition switch then might not work in the third or ‘on’ position. This means that as soon as you put your ignition key back into the third position the engine will stall.

You should still be able to use the first and second positions to access electronic accessories, such as your radio, when this happens.

Your Car Accessories Won’t Work Properly

As we’ve already mentioned, your ignition also plays an important role in powering your electrical accessories. It can do this in the first two ignition positions. 

If your radio, other devices, and lights do not come on when you turn your ignition key then this could indicate that you have a problem.

Electircal issues can also be caused by issues with wiring and fuses in your car. However, often these will be limited to specific devices. If you find that all of your devices are affected then the chances are it’s an issue with your ignition switch.

You Cannot Turn or Remove Your Car Key

For your ignition switch to work, it has to fit perfectly with your ignition key. Unfortunately, over time using it a lot can wear down the internal cylinder.

When this happens your keys won’t connect properly with the switch inside the cylinder. Without this connection you won’t be able to turn your ignition key properly.

If your car is already running then a faulty switch might become difficult to turn off without a proper key connection. This is because rotating the key doesn’t adjust the position of the ignition switch itself.

In that case, you will struggle to remove the key from the ignition because the switch is still in the ‘on’ position. If this happens, you should put the handbrake on in your car and not leave it unattended until the issue has been resolved.

What To Do If Your Ignition Switch Won’t Work

So what do you do if you realise that your ignition switch is no longer working properly? Well, as we’ve already mentioned, it is important to get this seen to as soon as possible. 

It is a good idea to get in touch with an automotive locksmith immediately to discuss your ignition switch issues. They may be able to mend your existing ignition switch or they may recommend fitting a new one. Getting a new ignition switch is the best way to resolve your issues completely rather than looking for a temporary fix. 

If you have recently bought a second-hand car or had your keys stolen, an automotive locksmith can also help. They can change your ignition switch, car locks, and transponder key settings to ensure that only you are able to access your vehicle. 

It’s worth noting that some ignition issues can be fixed more easily than others. So before you call in help from a professional, check to see that you can’t troubleshoot the issue yourself. Here are a few things you should try before you call an engineer out to see your car.

Check the Position of Your Steering Wheel

Your ignition switch cycliner connects to your steering wheel lock system to stop thieves stealing cars without the keys.

However, this safety mechanism means that you shouldn’t turn your wheel after switching the engine off. You also shouldn’t turn the engine off if your steering wheel is turned. Doing this will lock the ignition mechanism so you can’t turn your key in it.

If your key isn’t turning then try adjusting your steering wheel position. Turning it a little to set it straight can free your ignition cylinder so it works properly.

Try a New Key

As we’ve already mentioned, your ignition cylinder can wear down over time but so can your car key. In fact, this can get worn when you carry it around or leave it in a bowl with your other keys. Because of this, your key might not make a fully connection with your ignition switch.

In that case, you might want to try replacing your car keys first. A new key could provide the connection that you’re looking for!

This is why it is a good idea to keep a spare (and fairly unused) car key at home. That way you have something to test your ignition with to hand. If both keys don’t work then you know that the problem is with the ignition switch and cylinder.

Heavy key rings and fobs can also pull worn keys out of the ignition switch. So removing these from your key chain might help you ignition system.

Check Your Gear Shift

Depending on the make and model of your car, the ignition might not work if your gear shift is in the wrong place. Because of this, you should always double check that your shift is in the ‘park’ or ‘neutral’ position.

If it does already seem to be in position, try jiggling it a little to make sure it’s properly in place. Then you can try turning your ignition key again.

Clean Your Ignition Switch

Your ignition switch sees a lot of action and this means that is can become dusty or dirty. Your key can always transfer bits of debris from your bag or pocket and this could get in the way of a connection with your ignition switch. 

Giving your ignition switch a clean to keep it working properly is never going to hurt it. When you do this, make sure you use the right materials. 

You should only ever used silicon-based sprays, such as Triflow, to clean your ignition switch and door locks. This comes in squirtable bottles so you can spray a little into the key slot.

You should never use oil-based cleaning products or graphite to clean your ignition switch. These will actually collect dirt and gunk over time so they can damage your ignition switch and other locks.

Get Professional Help With Your Ignition Switch Today

As you can see, there are plenty of different reasons why your ignition switch might start playing up. This is completely understandable given how much you use the switch on a daily basis. 

It is important to check your car’s ignition switch at the first sign of trouble rather than waiting for things to escalate. That way you won’t get caught short while out and about. This also means that your problem should be much simpler to fix.

Are you worried about your ignition switch? 512 Locksmiths are here to help! Get in touch today to request help with your ignition switch and other lock-related issues.