6 Bad Ignition Switch Symptoms (& Replacement Cost)

You might think starting your car should be a simple process. You turn the key, and the engine starts. But it is not always that simple.

When you turn the key, there is a complex process that happens for the engine to start, and one essential part of that process is the ignition switch; trust me, it will give you a big headache if it isn’t working properly.

So is your ignition switch about to fail, or has it already failed? Luckily, there are a few signs that indicate a bad ignition switch. Let’s look into it.

What Does The Ignition Switch Do?

Your car’s ignition switch is essential for keeping your vehicle running and is responsible for activating the main electrical system when your turn the key.

When you place the key in the ignition and turn the key from the first(lock) to the second position(Accessory), it will activate your accessories, like the radio or the air conditioning.

The third position(On), which is the default position, will turn on all your accessories and electronics.

When turning to the 4th(start), It sends an electrical signal to the starter, which starts the engine.

Although the key has been the standard way of starting your car for a long time, modern makes and models have replaced the key with a button or even keyless ignition.

However, it does the same thing whether you use a key or a button to start your car. It operates the starter system and controls the power source of the majority of electronic devices.

So with a bad ignition switch, you might not be able to operate the radio or power windows, and your car might refuse to start.

The four positions of your car’s ignition switch are:

1st Position: Lock

The first position is the “off” position in which you’ll leave the car. This is also the position that may lock your steering wheel. All accessories, such as the radio or power windows, will not work, and you may remove your key from the ignition keyhole.

2nd Position: Acc

The second position is the accessory mode which will unlock the steering wheel, and you’ll be able to use some of your accessories, such as the radio. In this position, you won’t be able to remove your key.

3rd Position: On

The third position activates all of your accessories and electronics and is your key’s “default” position after you crank the engine. You won’t be able to remove the key.

4th Position: Start

When you turn your key to the “start” position, your ignition switch will send a signal to the starter, which will turn on your engine. WARNING: Do not hold your key in this position for too long as it can damage your starter.

Push Start Button

The push-button start in newer models is designed to work similarly to the traditional key ignition. You usually need to hold a foot on the brake for the engine to start.

But you can turn on specific features and accessories like your radio by quickly pressing the button, without holding your foot on the brake.

In some modern vehicles, you use your key as the button.

Bad Ignition Switch Symptoms

1. Car Won’t Start

If your car doesn’t start, it could be caused by several different issues. A bad ignition switch is one of them.

When turning your key or pressing the button, and your ignition switch is meant to send a signal to the starter, you will notice the starter to be completely dead, or your starter will struggle and turn the engine without firing it. This is likely caused by a worn ignition switch that needs to be replaced.

However, a car that won’t start can be caused by a number of factors, including a faulty starter, a dead battery, or a problem with the electrical system.

2. Key Gets Stuck or Won’t Turn

One of the bad ignition switch symptoms is when your key gets stuck and won’t turn. If this happens, it’s usually because the switch is worn out or damaged. In some cases, you may be able to wiggle the key to get it unstuck, but other times you’ll need to replace the switch.

3. Car Stalls

If there is a poor connection because of a bad ignition switch, the ignition could shut off when it shouldn’t.

This can happen while driving or when you’re trying to start the engine. If all the dashboard lights flicker or die together with the engine, it is a big risk your ignition switch is failing.

4. No Noise From The Starter

If your car’s ignition switch has failed, you may also notice no noise from the starter when turning the key. This means the switch is not sending the signal to the starter as it should and could be caused by no connection or a blocked electrical pathway.

This is also one of the most common symptoms of a dead battery, so you should test the battery if you are experiencing this issue.

Check out this how to test a car battery guide by repairsmith.com

5. Ignition Doesn’t Go Off

If your car’s ignition does not go off when you turn the key to the “off” position, this is a sign that the switch is not working properly,

Although this symptom is not very common, it happens, and sure it has for me.

6. Dashboard Lights Flicker

This is not very common but can be a bad ignition switch symptom. If you notice your dashboard lights or other accessories flicker while driving or on idle, there is a chance your ignition switch is causing it.

If you are experiencing any of these bad ignition switch symptoms, it is probably time for a replacement. Ignition switches are not too expensive and fairly easy to replace if you have a little older car model.

How Do You Test an Ignition Switch?

We already covered the most common bad ignition switch symptoms, but it might still be hard to determine if your ignition switch is failing, and you might want a mechanic to take a look.

But there are a few things you could do to test your ignition switch. The most common way is with a circuit tester or multimeter. Another option is using a test light.

Here is a guide on how to test your ignition switch by motorverso.com

Ignition Switch Replacement

Once you’ve been able to identify that it is the ignition switch causing you trouble, replacing the ignition switch is often fairly easy to do. And in most cases, you can do it yourself with just some basic hand tools.

Here is a step-by-step guide on How to Replace an Ignition Switch by wikiHow.com

Make sure to consult a professional mechanic or a specific repair manual for your car before starting this project on your own.

And if you are unlucky, you’ll need to replace the whole ignition lock barrel, which is a much more expensive and complicated procedure that you can’t do yourself.

You’ll need to take it to a mechanic, and they will be able to do it for you.

Ignition Switch Replacement Cost

The average cost for an ignition switch replacement is between $20 and $50, but this does not include labor costs. For both the part and labor, you can expect to pay between $150 to $350.

The ignition lock barrel is usually only sold by the vehicle’s manufacturer and needs to be coded by a specialist. You can expect to pay $1000 or more for this kind of repair.


How Do You Tell If the Starter or Ignition Switch Is Bad?

One way to test is by checking the voltage at the starter. If there is no voltage, then it’s likely that the ignition switch is bad. Another way is to try to jump-start the car. If the car starts with a jump, it’s more likely that the starter is bad.

How Do You Fix a Bad Ignition Switch?

If your ignition switch is having issues, the best thing to do is to replace it with a new one. You can find replacement ignition switches at most auto parts stores. Be sure to get one that is compatible with your car.

Can You Jump Start a Car With a Bad Ignition Switch?

You can try, but it’s not likely to work. A bad ignition switch usually means no power is going to the starter, so jump-starting the car will not do anything.


So to summarize the article, the ignition switch is responsible for activating your car’s electrical system and is essential for keeping it running.

Some of the bad ignition switch symptoms are that the car won’t start, the key gets stuck and won’t turn, your car stalls, no noise from the starter, the ignition doesn’t go off, or the dashboard lights flicker.

Replacing an ignition switch is usually not very expensive, around $20-50 for parts and $100-200 for labor. It is much more expensive if you need to replace the whole ignition lock barrel.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Happy driving!

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Rickard Cefalk

Rickard is the owner of Caraspect.com and a dedicated and avid do-it-yourselfer who has always enjoyed working on his own vehicles since childhood. He now devotes his time to sharing his expert knowledge of car maintenance and other car-related information through his website.

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