How to Replace an Ignition Switch
Today we dive into how to replace an ignition switch and the importance of it working properly. A malfunctioning ignition switch can lead to several problems. Symptoms may range from a failure to start to a stalling problem to a series of electrical issues. Knowing what signs may arise before the switch fails can help you avoid being stranded if it should fail.
What Is An Ignition Switch?
In your car, you have two electrical systems: primary and secondary. The secondary system is powered exclusively by batteries. With this system, the car’s clock keeps time when the vehicle is off. You can use this secondary system if you opt to put your key in the second position. As you wait in your car and listen to music, the secondary system is engaged.
The primary system is more powerful. For this system to engage, the secondary one must switch over. The circuit for the primary system is closed when the switch is turned on, and power can flow. In the ignition system, power is moved to components such as the starter solenoid, ignition coil, and spark plug. As the fuel ignites, the engine begins to run.
Where is The Ignition Switch Located?
A vehicle’s ignition switch can usually be found on the steering column. You must insert a key to use the switch. The key fobs on many newer cars can also communicate wirelessly with ignition switches. An alternative to turning a key is pushing a start button.
The car’s computer also receives a signal from a microchip (transponder) inside a key or key fob that the engine is ok to start. As a result, in almost all cases an engine immobilizer system uses one of these devices. The vehicle will not start if the transponder signal does not match what the immobilizer expects (or if there is no signal).
What Does An Ignition Switch Do?
A vehicle’s ignition switch is essentially an on/off switch. Despite its complexity, this is its primary purpose. In the ignition, the key turns the ignition switch and along with it a series of circuits are turned on or signals are sent to the vehicle’s modules to begin working. The way push-button starting systems work is similar, but their circuits can be more complex.
Did You Know:
A keyring with too many keys can place too much stress on the ignition cylinder, which can cause premature ignition switch failure.
How To Tell When Your Ignition Switch is Failing?It will be easier to identify a problem with your ignition switch if you know what symptoms to look out for. Here are a few symptoms to keep an eye out for:
StallingIf your vehicle stalls or turns off on its own, it may have an ignition switch problem. The ignition switch may also be faulty if the vehicle stalls without losing power.
Car Not StartingStarting problems can be caused by a failing ignition switch. No-start/no-crank is the most common symptom. As a result, there will be open circuits in the switch if the contacts inside fail.
Electrical ProblemsMost of your vehicle’s electrical circuits are controlled by your ignition switch, which can be the cause of a variety of electrical problems. It could result in a complete loss of electrical power to a limited number of circuits not functioning depending upon the design of the vehicle electrical system.Since modern vehicles contain a lot of electronics, they can experience numerous problems if the ignition switch fails. Before replacing a suspected switch, it must be fully tested. Let’s dive into how to test and replace that faulty ignition switch.
How To Install An Ignition SwitchMost ignition switches are located right behind your key cylinder (where your key is inserted). The dash or steering column may contain this. To access the switch, remove the dash panels or covers.
What You’ll Need
- Screwdrivers (both Phillips and Flathead)
- Memory saver
- Ratchet w/sockets
- Turn off the ignition after parking your vehicle.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the memory saver. Memory savers prevent your vehicle computer from losing memory, preventing future drivability issues.
- Loosen the clamping bolt on the negative battery cable. To avoid accidental contact, remove the cable from the battery and secure it away from it.
- The bottom steering column cover must be removed by removing the securing screws. The lower column cover is typically secured with three to four screws.
- To access the ignition switch, you will need to remove the dash panel over the key lock cylinder on the car with a dash-mounted ignition switch.
- Separate the lower steering column cover from the upper cover. Clips are usually used to connect the covers. Take care not to break them by gently pulling them apart. To gain better access, you may need to tilt the steering column up or down.
- You must remove the steering column cover.
- The ignition switch should be located behind the key cylinder. If your vehicle is equipped with airbags, you will also find the wiring under the cover. Airbag wiring is identified by yellow covers. It is important to avoid accidentally deploying an airbag when working around airbag wiring.
- Removing the key lock cylinder may be necessary. The key cylinder must be removed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. They will be bolted in place in some cases. In some cases, the key can be inserted and then turned into the run position, and then the cylinder can be withdrawn. Make sure that you follow the instructions provided in the manufacturer’s repair manual when doing this.
- Turn off the ignition switch and disconnect the electrical connector.
- You need to remove the ignition switch. It is not uncommon for ignition switches to be bolted into place, and for some switches to be released by a locking tab.
- Set up the new switch. Make sure the electrical connector is securely mounted and that it is snapped in place. It is necessary to align some ignition switches before they are installed. Consult your manufacturer’s repair manual for special alignment instructions.
- Put the key cylinder in place.
- Place the steering column cover on top. Install the dash panel if it was removed.
- Cover the lower column with a cover. Attach the upper cover to it.
- Install the mounting screws on the lower cover. Once they are snug, tighten them.
- Connect the negative battery cable. Squeeze the clamping bolt until it is snug.
- Get rid of the memory saver, and you are done!
An ignition switch is one of the primary parts of your electrical system that will eventually fail. Depending on the way the electrical system is designed, each vehicle will have its way of testing the switch. Replacement of the ignition switch should always be preceded by proper testing. Alternatively, a certified locksmith from Best Buy Locksmith will be able to install your new ignition switch if you have further issues or if you are not comfortable doing so yourself.