How to Start a Car with a Bad Ignition Switch [Symptoms and How to fix it]

The first thing you do when you enter your car and about to move is to enter the car key In the ignition and turn it until you hear the starter sound. But what if you try to do this but nothing happened?

When the engine doesn’t start, the first thing may pop on your mind that you may have a bad battery or humid spark plugs or no injector pulse or you need to clean the distributor cap, etc…

There are many reasons that can make the car not starting. But the reason we’re going to talk about is a bit confusing and very hard to diagnose. It is having a bad ignition switch that prevents the car from getting started.

In this article, we’re going to get to know more about this fault, its signs, its diagnose process, and how to start a car with a bad ignition switch.

What are the signs of a bad ignition switch?

Before we dive deep into the signs of a bad ignition switch, we have to know more about the ignition switch assembly and operation. The ignition switch is where you put your key to start your car.

It is the main activator for the electrical systems in the car that allows the flow of the electrical pulses needed for the starter to give the first revolution in the engine.

It also gives the needed electricity for ignition systems such as ECU and ignition coil which gives the operative voltages to the spark plugs through spark plug wire in correct firing order. All these ensure perfect ignition timing.

So if you have a bad ignition switch, you must have one or some of the following signs:

car ignition switch

Hard to turn the key

If your vehicle is still working with the key, you may notice it’s not turning smoothly every time you try to start your car. You may feel that the key is wigging inside the keyhole or it’s stuck there. It means that there is serious damage in the ignition switch and it needs your attention before things get worse.

The vehicle cannot start

The first sign of a bad ignition switch is faulty in starting your car when turning on the key in the switch. This may happen due to the wear of the internal contacts of the ignition switch.

No starter motor sound

Another sign of a bad ignition switch is not hearing the sound of the starter motor when you turn the key. You can differentiate between bad starter motor or bad ignition switch by not hearing any clicking coming from the starter.

Stalling vehicle

If your car stops working suddenly while driving with no warning, this means that you may have a fault in the ignition switch.

Stuck steering wheel

In the ignition switch, there is a mechanical lock for the steering wheel. It stops the steering wheel in order to secure the car while parked. If you have problems with steering lock, this means you have to check the ignition cylinder for maintenance.

How to start a car with a bad ignition switch?

So, if you are facing problems with car starting and you are sure you have a problematic ignition switch, here is how to bypass ignition switch to start the car. All you need are proper tools and you’ll be able to start your car easily with some procedure.

how to fix a bad ignition switch

Hotwiring

If your car produced before the mid-90s, then this trick might work well for you. Once you get in the car, locate the steering wheel column. Then remove the plastic cover that secures all internal parts. That should expose all necessary parts.

After that, locate the wiring harness connector. Locating the specific connector may be somehow hard to do because there are a lot of cables and wires in this area. But most of the time it is located at the centre of the steering column. The other wires, cables, and connectors are related to the lights control wipers and other accessories.

Then you have to locate battery, ignition, and starter connectors. The yellow and brown wires are related to the ignition. The red ones are for the battery. Strip down the battery wires an inch down from insulation and twist them together.

Then connect ignition on/off the wire to the battery wire and you’ll see that the lights came on and the electrical parts started working. Now, to start the engine, strip the starter wire down half-inch and touch it to the connected battery wires. Now the engine must startup. So, try to rev up the engine for a while.

The drill and screwdriver

This trick may also work but beware because it can damage the Ignition switch completely. It also will give you the knowledge of how to start a car with a broken ignition switch.

So, you have to locate the keyhole and get a metal drill and then drill into the keyhole in the same length of the key. This will destroy the internal pins of the ignition cylinder. Then get the screwdriver and put it into the keyhole as it is the key and turn the ignition and the car should startup.

Jumper cables

Open the hood of your car and locate the ignition coil and the battery. Then using jumper cable, connect the positive terminal of the battery to the positive side of the coil. This will give power to the dashboard which is needed to start the engine.

Then locate the starter solenoid and connect the solenoid to the positive battery terminal. Then unplug ignition switch wiring from the solenoid. Using a screwdriver, short the solenoid’s positive terminal to the post where ignition switch connects.

This will activate the solenoid and the car should startup.

How do you test an ignition switch?

We know that An ineffective ignition switch can cause many errors. We’ve already known how to start without ignition switch and how to bypass it. So, it is time to know whether my ignition switch is in good condition or not.

In this section, we’re going to diagnose the ignition switch faults and know how to test ignition switch with a multimeter or with a test light.

As we knew before that the main function of the ignition switch is to provide electricity to the ECU and the ignition coil. So, it has two wires coming out of it. One goes to the ECU and the other to the ignition coil module. The first thing we’ve to detach the switch from its slot.

Using multimeter:

You’d better start testing by getting the switch to the OFF position. Connect the positive probe of multimeter to switch’s power feed wire and connect the negative probe to any unpainted metal in the car.

Now turn the key to the RUN position and set the multimeter to measure voltage. Read the voltage. If you get any result showing less than 90% of the battery voltage, you may have a fault in the ignition switch.

Using test light:

If you don’t have access to a multimeter, don’t worry. You can still test your ignition switch using a 12 V test light. Turn the key to the OFF position then disconnect the module’s cable connector. After that, disconnect starter motor solenoid’s S terminal, this will prevent the engine from cranking even when turning them into RUN position.

Turn the key to the RUN position. Connect the red wire to the test voltage. Then do the same at the ignition coil’s battery post. Then put the key to start position and connect ignition switch white wire.

This should make the lamplight on. If there is no light, then there is faulty in the switch.

How to fix a bad ignition switch?

In this section, we will go through the problems of the car ignition switch. We will learn more about ignition lock cylinder problems and how to fix it. Besides, we’ll learn how to avoid it from happening in the future.

One of the widely known problems related to the ignition switch is the steering wheel safety lockout. It’s not allowing the steering to turn when the key is in the OFF position. Cars equipped with power steering mechanical pump lose pressure and forces steering to lockup pin when you try to turn the engine wheel and your engine is off.

To release the steering wheel lock, you need to turn the steering wheel and turn the ignition key at the same time.

If the dirt and debris get their way inside the ignition switch, they can cause the key to stuck and not turning. In this case, the lock gets jammed and can’t release the steering wheel. The first try, in this case, is to use some rust remover product and apply it with pressure nozzle through the keyhole.

If the problem is not fixed, then you have to try another method which is using a light hammer and try to make several light taps on the key. But you have to be gentle. Do not break the key in the switch.

So, if all these tries came to an end and nothing fixed, the ignition lock cylinder must be replaced. This happens because the internal parts of the switch wear with time.

Troubleshoot the Ignition Switch YouTube Video

Final Words

The ignition switch is the most used device in the car that should always be in good condition to always have a good start. Like any other switch or module in the car, it requires service. It is exposed to tear and wear with time.

So, apply the tips and tricks in this guide to self-diagnose faults and fix them. But if you got stuck in anything, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. This will save you from breaking anything or having a bigger problem.

Tito

Hi There, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanics (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I have been working as a mechanic for over fifteen years. I worked for a long time at Global Rebound Automotive companies (Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others ) as a Mechanic and Mechanics Supervisor.

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