COMMON IGNITION SWITCH PROBLEMS
Ignition switch problems and recommended solutions include any of the following:
IGNITION SWITCH WON’T TURN WHEN KEY HAS BEEN INSERTED
Try jiggling the steering wheel back and forth. The steering column may be binding because one of the front wheels is turned at an angle against a curb. This puts a load on the steering linkage, which may be enough to bind the column lock and ignition switch.
A worn key (or the wrong key) can prevent the ignition switch from turning. If you have a spare key, try the spare key in the ignition switch to see if it works. If the spare key works, the problem is not a bad ignition switch but a bad key. Throw the old key away and get a new copy made of the spare key. If you have no spare key, a lock smith may be able to make you a new key using a key code from the owner’s manual or auto maker. If that is not an option, the key cylinder in the ignition switch will have to be replaced along with a new set of keys.
If the ignition switch is binding (hard to turn in either direction), lubricating the switch may help. Use a non conductive lubricant such as dielectric silicon grease or aerosol electronics cleaner.
IGNITION SWITCH TURNS ON BUT ENGINE WILL NOT CRANK
If nothing happens when you turn the ignition switch to the start position, the problem may be a bad ignition switch, or it may be a fault in the starting circuit.
First, do the instrument panel warning lights come on when the key is turned to the ON position? No warning lights or other signs of electrical activity could indicate a dead battery or that the battery cables are loose or corroded. Try turning on the headlights. No lights? Then you have a battery or battery connection problem.
If the headlights work, the problem is not the battery but an electrical fault in the ignition switch, ignition switch circuit (wiring or fuse), or a problem in the starting circuit (bad relay, solenoid, wiring or starter).
IGNITION SWITCH TURNS ON AND ENGINE CRANKS BUT WILL NOT START
The problem here is probably an anti-theft fault, or a fault in the fuel pump circuit, ignition circuit or engine computer.
If the anti-theft light is flashing, the computer is NOT recognizing the key or key fob and is preventing the engine from starting. This could be due to a bad receiver in the ignition switch that reads the key, a damaged smart key or key fob, or a wiring fault between the switch and computer. On some vehicles, reprogramming the computer may be required so the computer will correctly recognize the smart key or key fob. You can’t circumvent an anti-theft system because it is hard wired into the computer.
If the anti-theft light is NOT flashing when you attempt to start the engine, and the engine is cranking normally, the computer is recognizing the key but the engine may not be starting because it is not getting fuel or spark. Check the fuel gauge to make sure it is not on empty. Got fuel? Listen for the fuel pump to buzz when the key is first turned on. No buzz means a fault in the fuel pump, pump relay or pump wiring. There could also be a problem in the ignition system (such as a bad crankshaft position sensor, ignition control module or computer) that is preventing the engine from starting. See the related articles on these subjects for further diagnosis.
If the engine cranks, but much slower than normal, the problem is not a bad ignition switch but low voltage to the starter (check the battery and cable connections) or a bad starter.
ENGINE STARTS AND RUNS NORMALLY, BUT SUDDENLY DIES WHILE DRIVING
This is one of the most common symptoms of a worn ignition switch. Worn contacts inside the switch may cause a momentarily loss of voltage as a result of heat or vibration (as when driving on a rough road or hitting a bump). Any loss of power through the ignition switch will cause the engine to stumble, misfire or die.
Ignition switches wear from normal use. The more you drive your vehicle, the more times you use the ignition switch. After many years and miles, the electrical contacts inside the switch may become worn or corroded, resulting in poor or intermittent electrical contact.
The wear problem can be made worse by heavy key rings that place extra stress on the switch. A large heavy key ring that rocks and sways as you drive twists and tugs on the switch. Over time, this will accelerate wear and eventually cause the ignition switch to fail.
ignition switch key ring
ADVICE: Lighten your key ring as much as possible. Don’t carry extra keys, fobs, remotes, pendants, jewelry or other things on the key ring that you don’t really need.