Do you understand how your ignition switch works?

The ignition switch channels power produced from the battery to the various electrical components of the car, and helps you prevent car theft. Check inside for more details!

I bet you know where the ignition switch of your car is located. It’s right below the steering. And you may already know that the ignition switch channels power produced from the battery to the various electrical components of the car, but are you sure how this system functions inside or how beneficial it is? brings you basic knowledge and tips on how your ignition switch works and common applications of it in modern day.

a hand putting key in ignition switch

Modern ignition switch can prevent car theft

Tasks of the ignition switch

An ignition switch is made up of four positions in the entire car system such as:

  1. On or run: It powers the engine and electrical components of the car, setting or keeping the car moving.
  2. Off or lock: This is the opposite of the on or run position. It sends signals to the electrical components of the car to stop.
  3. ACC or Accessory: As the name implies, it powers only the electrical accessories of the car. The engine does not respond to its command.
  4. Start: The start position simply puts on the engine without setting it in motion.

Ignition switch anti-theft functions

Car theft can hardly occur when the ignition switch is working properly. The ignition switch has a set of pins framed in a cylinder. When the key is inserted, the lock opens if the key pattern aligns with that of the pins.

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How ignition switch interlock works

In some application, the electrical component of the switch is separate from the cylinder. In time past, the switch could be rotated manually after removing the cylinder. Thanks to the modern anti-theft system, this is no longer viable. Automakers have devised ways to embed digital codes in the switch, making it hard to crack. The switch can only open when the computer system recognizes the codes.

The anti-theft system may read mixed signals if there are multiple keys on the key ring, especially when the other keys are for similar car models.

Ignition switch interlocks

To heighten your safety, you can also lock your steering wheel with the ignition switch. Automatic transmission vehicles have an inbuilt shift lock to insure the transmission against being shifted out of Park mode.

Column lock should be avoided as it could make the switch to malfunction. It prevents the switch from turning, when the key is inserted into it. In some cases, the key gets stuck in the ignition switch, and can’t be removed after the engine is turned off.

Honda accord ignition lock

The illustration of Honda Accord ignition lock

Another area where you might encounter problems is in the shift interlock solenoid. It makes it difficult for the transmission to be shifted out of Park mode. Factors responsible for this include binding in the shift interlock linkage, bad solenoid, and interlock solenoid among others.

Overall, ignition switch in modern-day cars are highly secured. When you lock your car, you can go to bed with your two eyes closed, rest assured that you’ll meet it where you parked.

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However, to avoid unnecessary repair bill related to this component, we Naijauto team recommend that you know how to check the starter and alternator with the ignition switch of a car properly before purchase.