5 Signs of a Bad Ignition Switch – With Solutions

An ignition switch is one of the many components of a car and a significant one, for that matter. You’ll find it on the steering column, right where you insert the key when turning your vehicle on. Without this component, switching on your car becomes a nightmare. So what do you do if caught in such a scenario?

The best solution is to replace the switch, but that alone is quite costly. Thankfully, you can still start your car with a faulty ignition switch.

An ideal way is to bypass the ignition switch. But first, it’s only fitting that you understand the ignition switch assembly and operation, plus the signs of a bad ignition switch.

Through the ignition switch, all electrical systems in the car get activated, sending the starter message to the engine. Turning it on also allows electricity to travel to the ignition coil and the ECU, igniting the spark plugs.

So, how do you know your vehicle’s ignition switch is faulty?

Besides your car not turning on when you put the key in the ignition switch, other signs will show that you have a bad ignition switch, including:

1) Hard To Turn the Key

You may realize that even though the key gets into the keyhole smoothly, it gets stuck. It means that you’ll struggle moving it in the turn-on direction, but eventually, it turns. This is a clear sign of a problematic ignition switch.

2) The Vehicle Does Not Start

Now, this is an obvious sign that there’s something wrong with your ignition switch. You can turn the key severally, but still, the vehicle won’t start. A viable explanation is a broken ignition switch.

3) No Starter Motor Sound

Imagine turning on the car key, but you don’t hear any starter motor sound. In most cases, this issue arises due to a dead battery or a broken ignition switch. Whatever the reason, take your vehicle to a professional for analysis.

4) Stalling Vehicle

Stalling is when your engine starts, then suddenly dies. It can also happen when you’re driving, and then the engine stops without giving any warning whatsoever. This might be a sign of a bad ignition switch.

5) Stuck Steering Wheel

You can secure the steering wheel by turning the steering wheel lock on the ignition switch when parking your car. But sometimes, you may find it hard turning the lock off/on, indicating a problem in the ignition cylinder.

How Do You Test an Ignition Switch?

How do you know for sure whether your ignition coil is in bad or good condition? Fortunately, there are two ways to test your vehicle’s ignition switch.

Use a Multimeter

Before you begin the testing process, ensure the switch is off to avoid a negative eventuality.

The multimeter has two probes, negative and positive. Connect the positive probe to the power feed cable of the ignition switch and the negative probe to one of the unpainted metals in your vehicle.

Once every probe connects to the correct wire, turn the car key to the run position while reading the voltage from the multimeter. Any reading below 90% shows that the condition of your ignition switch is not good at all.

Using a Test Light

Here, you must also ensure that the ignition switch is off before anything else. Then, remember to disconnect the module’s wire connector before you proceed to prevent the engine from cranking after turning the key to the run position.

Now you can safely turn the car key to the run position without any worries. Affix the red wire to the test voltage when in this position. Remember to do the same at the battery terminal of the ignition coil. The next step is to put your car key in the start position, then connect the white wire ignition switch.

If you don’t notice any voltage/lamplight after doing all these, know that your ignition switch is faulty and that you should get it checked.

How To Start a Car With a Bad Ignition Switch?

A bad ignition switch doesn’t always mean that you have to replace it. This component is quite expensive to replace, and other car owners may not be ready when they realize theirs is faulty. Does that become the end of their driving until they get a new ignition switch? Definitely not.

You can start a car with a bad ignition switch using a few tricks. This process is referred to as bypassing the engine switch. Even though the process is technical, with a few tools, it’s doable.

Here are four tricks to help you start your vehicle even with a bad ignition switch.

1) Hotwiring

Hotwiring is a sure way of starting automobiles manufactured before the mid-90s. It is a simple process you can do on your own without the help of a professional mechanic, as long as you know your way around the car.

Get into the car, and on the steering column, after removing the plastic cover, you’ll discover the ignition switch. And, with a screwdriver, you can reach all its internal components.

The next task is to find the wiring tackle connector. Note that there are several other components here you don’t want to deal with at this point, so ensuring you have the right part will make every other thing flawless.

Now, find the battery, starter connectors, and ignition. The starter connectors are yellow, the ignition is brown, and the battery wires are red. That said, these colors can change, depending on your vehicle model. 

Once everything is in place, strip down your battery wires and twist them together to see a spark. Other electrical components will also start working apart from the engine. For the engine to work, you must strip the starter wire half an inch down, connecting it to the corresponding battery wires.

The process doesn’t stop there for those with steering locks. You must break the lock, which isn’t an easy task. However, upon doing it, your car should function.

2) Drill and Screwdriver

The second trick to starting a car with a broken ignition switch is to use a drill and screwdriver. This method involves drilling the keyhole, which, if not done carefully, may end up destroying the ignition switch.

Your very first step is to locate the keyhole, then drill it until you can see the start chamber pins. Doing this ensures you destroy all the pins, breaking them. The goal here is not to use the key to turn the car on but instead use the screwdriver.

3) Jumper Cables

Another alternative is using jumper cables to start a car.

You have to open your vehicle’s hood to locate the start battery and loop. With the help of the jumper cable, you can connect the positive sides of both the battery and the loop so you can power the dashboard. In return, the engine/motor will turn.

You can then find the solenoid so you can connect it to the battery’s positive terminal. What’s more, you must also disconnect the ignition wiring from this solenoid component then connect the solenoid at the point where you’ve connected the ignition switch. Your screwdriver should help you out with this. After doing all these, nothing will stop your car from starting.

4) Replace Ignition Switch With Push Button

Installing a push button on the ignition switch can also help start it when the ignition is bad. Disconnect your battery, then place the push-button starter switch on the dashboard. Using your sockets, you can remove the nut from the positive side of your solenoid.

Also, remove the insulation using a crimping tool, attach an eyelet connector to the solenoid’s positive side then crimp the connector to the wire.

At this point, you can reattach the nut, then run the wire to the car’s passenger side. But, ensure this wire doesn’t get into contact with the sharp components of the engine.

Strip the wire’s insulation and install a crimp connector that fits on the push button switch. Later you can join the switch and the connector, but only after removing the screw present at the push button switch’s back.

On the other side of the push button switch, remove the screw, then join it to the switch and connector. Finally, you can route the wire to the battery’s positive, then connect both the negative and positive sides of the battery. Now, using your key, you can turn it to the on position and also use it to push the push button switch.

How To Fix a Bad Ignition Switch?

The steering wheel safety lock is one of the problems associated with a bad ignition switch. Sometimes, it becomes impossible to turn the steering wheel, especially after losing pressure. In this case, the steering locks the chamber pins when turning the engine wheel whenever the engine is off.

Turning the ignition key and the steering wheel simultaneously should solve this problem, releasing your car’s steering wheel.

Another cause is the key not turning. A possible explanation for this issue might be a dirty keyhole that needs cleaning.

You can try blowing out the dust using a blower or dust remover, but if this doesn’t offer the solution you want, make some light taps on the key. Please don’t overdo it and ensure you’re extra gentle while at it, so you don’t break the key.

Consider replacing the ignition switch if all these hacks don’t yield any positive results. When replacing your ignition switch, be prepared to part with $125 -$275.


Does a new ignition switch require a new key?

Yes, a new ignition switch comes with its key. However, you still need your old key for the door and other openings.

How to bypass the ignition switch on an ATV?

Follow these steps to bypass the ignition switch on an ATV.

  • First, enable the kickstart
  • Then conduct the hotwiring process on the ATV
  • Trigger the ignition manually by disassembling it first. Then the next step is to use a screwdriver
  • Finally, replace the ignition switch

How to bypass an ignition switch on a motorcycle?

The only way to bypass an ignition switch on a motorcycle is through hotwiring. But first, ensure the ignition is in the off position.

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Author: DJ

Dave Junior is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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