If you find that you insert your car key and yet the car won’t start, you may have a dead battery – or you may need to get your ignition switch changed. But, before you go call a mechanic, you should learn about some of the different possible ignition switch problems, as well as their causes and solutions.
First, you should be aware that the term “ignition switch” is actually used to refer to two distinctly different mechanisms in your vehicle. One is the ignition key tumbler, the place where you insert your key. The other is the electronic ignition switch housed directly behind the tumbler. In order for your car to run, the engine must already be turning. In the old days, that meant that before driving a car, you had to turn a hand crank that would cause the engine to turn over. Now, an electric ignition switch – also known as the starter switch – does that for you.
Nowadays, when you insert your key into the tumbler and turn it to start, you cause the ignition switch to move and complete an electric circuit. The ignition switch is directly connected to the car’s battery, which emits a jolt of energy sufficient to cause the engine to turn over. Thus, when you are having ignition problems and think that you need to get your ignition switch changed, that might entail two completely different things depending on whether the problem is actually your ignition key tumbler or the electronic ignition switch itself.
If the problem is a malfunctioning electronic ignition switch, then you will be able to insert the key and turn it properly, but the car just won’t start. This can also happen as the result of a dead car battery, so you should check your battery as well if you are experiencing this problem. However, if you realize that the problem is not the battery, then you may need to see an automotive mechanic to have your electronic ignition switch changed. (Or, if your car was built before World War I, you may just need to get out and hand crank the engine.)
When your ignition key tumbler is not working properly, you won’t be able to insert the key completely or if you can, you won’t be able to turn it all the way to start. If that’s the case, you may need to see a professional automotive locksmith. You should be aware, though, that in some vehicles there is a steering column lock that will prevent the key from turning properly unless the steering wheel is in the proper position. Thus, you should try jiggling your steering wheel while applying constant pressure to the key and see if that solves the problem.
If your ignition key still won’t turn, do NOT use pliers or other tools to force it. Keys are made of relatively soft metals and they may bend or break if you apply too much force to them. You may also want to try lubricating the ignition tumbler. If that doesn’t work, though, you may have stuck pins in the tumbler. In that case, you will need to seek out the services of a professional Locksmith in Tacoma.