The car ignition switch also called the starter switch, is in charge of starting the electrical systems of your vehicle and the starter motor. The switch takes power from the car’s battery to the ignition coil. Then the spark plugs cause the combustion that makes your engine run.
Where is the ignition switch located? Many people think the ignition switch is the slot for their car keys, when in fact this is the ignition lock cylinder. The ignition switch itself sits behind this cylinder.
Inserting a key into the ignition lock cylinder activates it, but in many modern vehicles pressing a button for keyless ignition does it instead. If your car uses a key and ignition lock cylinder, turning the key will first activate accessories like radio and lights, then power fuel and ignition, and, finally, crank the engine. In a keyless ignition, a transponder is used to start the electrical system.
In both cases, the ignition switch also reads an anti-theft coding from the key or gets it via transmission from your key fob. Only when this communication has identified you as the car owner will the car start.
Several problems can occur with your ignition switch that can make it tricky, or even impossible, to start your car. These are the most common issues:
Keys or ignition switch cylinder is worn out
It is normal for the mechanical parts of your car to wear out over time. Your key and the ignition switch cylinder are mechanical and turning your key to start your car over and over might wear them out eventually - especially if your key is attached to a heavy keychain. Over time, this can lead to issues: your key won't turn in the ignition or it might even fall out of the cylinder.
Problems can also occur if you are using a new key in an old cylinder or vice versa. This is why experts recommend always replacing both parts together.
Faulty ignition switch
Inside the ignition switch, several components need to connect to start the electrical systems. These contact points and the ignition switch wiring can also wear out over time - this means that no electric current will activate the starter solenoid. If your car will only start after jiggling the key, it can be an indication that the ignition switch is faulty.
If you have a modern car with keyless ignition, your transponder key is in charge of sending a code to your car to start it. In some cases, your key could be damaged or ‘confused’, which will send the wrong code to your car and it won’t start.
The transponder can also have issues with the antenna wiring or with a battery. While you can change the battery yourself, you will need to see a mechanic for most other issues.
Car is stalling - When the ignition switch is faulty your car could stall. If this happens suddenly while driving, it can be incredibly dangerous. If your car stalls right after starting, it could also be a sign of an ignition switch problem.
Key is not working - Key issues are easy to spot and usually something drivers first notice when there is a problem with the ignition switch. If your key feels too loose or is too hard to turn, it might be time for to replace the cylinder and key and perform a check-up of the ignition switch.
Car is not starting - If you haven’t left the lights on or you know you don’t have any issues with the battery, chances are the ignition switch is at fault if your car won’t start at all.
Accessories won’t work - Accessories like radio and lights are the first to get powered when you insert and turn the key of your car. If they don’t there might be a problem with the ignition switch and you should have a mechanic check your car.
Ignition switch replacement cost in the UK depends on the car model and make and so does the repair. Technically, you can replace the ignition switch of your car yourself. However, keep in mind that you will need to take your entire dashboard off - a task that is very time-consuming and quite confusing for non-mechanics.
If you are unsure of what is wrong with your ignition switch, and whether you need it replaced or simply repaired, we recommend you bring your car to a garage. On autobutler.co.uk you can request several quotes and find answers to the question: How much is an ignition switch replacement near me?
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