How to Troubleshoot a Faulty Ignition Lock

Published: 06th July 2010
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The ignition lock in your car is the entry point to the engine. It is the gate between your battery and the starter motor. When the key is turned in the ignition lock, electricity flows to the starter motor which spins and causes your engine to spring to life thereby starting your car. Having problems with the ignition lock can be very frustrating because lots and lots of devices can cause the car not to start and pin pointing the problem to the ignition lock is not an easy troubleshooting task.

The part that is responsible for starting the engine when you turn your key in your ignition lock is the starter relay or starter motor. This device transforms the small amount of electric current coming from your battery into the amount suitable and required by the spark plugs in your engine to send those sparks that ignite the fuel mixture in the engine's cylinders. Without the starter motor, having the sufficient power to start the engine is practically impossible.

The ignition switch is the device that opens the gate between the small amounts of current from your battery to the starter relay. The ignition lock or switch is composed of two parts. The first part is the cylinder lock which is the part where you insert the key and turn when you need to start your car. Right behind that part is the second part which is the electric switch. Some cars have these two parts bundled into one package or in separate components. If you are going to replace your ignition switch yourself, you might need to find that manual and see what type of ignition switch you have in your car.

Failure in any of the two parts will lead to the same result which is a non-starting car. Although the end result is the same, the symptoms are different, which is good news if you will need to diagnose the problem for a home-made removal or replacement operation.

The symptoms for a faulty cylinder include:

• The lock cylinder does not turn.

• The key comes out even when the car is running.

• Having any key being able to start your car.

The symptoms of malfunctioning ignition switch include:

• A problem with the spring loaded "on" switch position.

• Not hearing the start motor cranks even when the battery is fully charged, this might mean that the switch wiring is not delivering power to the motor.

There are steps you can follow to replace your own ignition switch. Many articles on the net provide detailed explanation and walk-through of this process. However, it is almost always a better choice to seek the help of a professional. Have a look at for great deal of information about ignition locks.

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