How to Test for a Bad Ignition Switch


The ignition switch activates the entire ignition system and powers up other electric components of the vehicle, such as the lights and the radio. Many times, switches will break suddenly without first showing any signs of wear and tear, while in other cases radios will suddenly lose power or the key must be jiggled in the ignition until the car will start. If you're having these problems, you may want to test for a bad ignition switch.

  • Insert your car key into the ignition and turn it to the "ON" position (do not try to "crank" the ignition or start the car).

  • Observe the red warning light in your dashboard. If the light is on, then continue to step three. If the light isn't on, you're in need of a new ignition switch.

  • Turn on your headlights.

  • Turn the key to the "START" position. As the car tries to start, your headlights should dim slightly or turn off altogether. If they don't, then you need a new ignition switch.

Tips & Warnings

  • While it doesn't work in all vehicles, you can also look at the red warning light in your dashboard when performing step four. If the light turns off, you're ignition is fine.

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  • Photo Credit interior of the car image by Astroid from Speedometer image by Sirena Designs from
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