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ZZDaryl, Chevy Technician
Category: Chevy
Satisfied Customers: 12549
Experience:  28 year experience, Master Mechanic
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Symptoms of a bad ignition switch.

Customer Question

If you have a bad ignition switch,what would the symptoms be? Mine runs for a second and then cuts off.

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Chevy
Expert:  ZZDaryl replied 6 years ago.
What is the reset procedure you used? Is the security light flashing after it stalls?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

A guy came over and replaced the starter. When he couldn't get the car to start, he tried to start the car from the starter solenoid with a jump wire. The car ran for about 2 seconds before cutting off. We left the car alone for 6 months and had a mechanic come and look at it. He says that the guy burned out the magnet in the key cylinder. He replaced the key cylinder and reset the computer by disconnecting the battery for a while, but the car still only ran for about 2 seconds. The mechanic say's that the ignition ignition switch itself is bad, not the key switch since that part has been changed. Before the mechanic changed the key switch,the theft light would blink constantly and never stop. Now the theft light just stays on. Is the Mechanic on the right track ? Or do you have any advice?

Expert:  ZZDaryl replied 6 years ago.

I do not believe they are on the right track, this sounds more like a security issue to me so I would try the below procedure.

Below is a relearn procedure that is typically needed to be done after replacing the ignition switch/lock cylinder so I would try that.

1. Perform a security system relearn. 2. Let the vehicle sit for more than 10 minutes with the key off. 3. Attempt to start the engine, leave the key in the run position monitoring the security system indicator. 4. After 10 minutes, the security indicator will change state (turns off or stops flashing). 5. Turn the key off and wait 10 seconds. 6. Attempt to start the engine. If the engine stalls, wait another 10 minutes with the key on. 7. After the second 10 minute timer has expired, turn the key off for 10 seconds. 8. Attempt to start the engine. If the engine stalls, wait another 10 minutes with the key on. 9. After the 3rd 10 minute timer has expired, shut the key off for 10 seconds. 10. The security system will relearn on the 4th starting attempt and the engine should start and run.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I watched the mechanic do just what you said today. The mechanic said that my car has a 30-minute learning curve and he did just what you said 3 times, but the car still won't crank. That's when he said that the that the switch (ignition?) the key turn's is bad. He say's that the switch is only working in the start position and not the run position, that's why it cuts off when he releases the key.

Expert:  ZZDaryl replied 6 years ago.
If that was tested then he is probably correct,
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I really appreciate your feedback, but your answers haven't addressed my concerns. I want to know what's wrong and what needs to be done to correct it.

Expert:  ZZDaryl replied 6 years ago.

I thought you just wanted to know if the mechanic was on the right track and if he tested the ignition switch for the problem then he is probably correct. For me to say it is one thing or another you will need to do some electrical testing for me so that I can determine the cause if this problem, if you can do that let me know and I will tell you what to test.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

The mechanic came over today and changed the ignition switch (black box with 2 plugs), he did that reset procedure again and the car crank right up.

Expert:  ZZDaryl replied 6 years ago.
Great, I am glad you got it repaired.

Bad ignition switch explained

An ignition (starter) switch is a control that runs the internal combustion engine of a vehicle. The switch stimulates the primary electrical system. Besides giving the vehicle power to the starter and ignition, the switch also helps power other electrical systems such as the radio, power windows, and headlights.

In most vehicles, a key is inserted into the ignition to start the vehicle. Inside the ignition is the ignition switch. This switch activates the electrical system providing power to the starter solenoid, engine control unit, ignition coil, and starter motor. A person can hotwire the vehicle to bypass the ignition locking system.

Bad ignition switch symptoms

If the vehicle is stalling, this might be a good indication that the ignition switch is bad. Below is a list of troubleshooting options to determine if the ignition switch has gone bad. 

  1. Check the status of the ignition switch – A common indication of a bad ignition switch is when the vehicle is in the “ON” position, but the lights on the dashboard do not come on.
  2. Issues with the vehicle starting and running – When starting the vehicle, the ignition coil will grab power from the battery and put it towards the spark plugs. When doing this, the fuel burns to make the vehicle run. A common symptom is if the vehicle does not start. Trying to start the vehicle too many times could cause the battery to go dead.
  3. Switch overheating – Another symptom is if the ignition is hot to the touch. Overheating is an indication that there is an ignition switch problem due to the electrical system. The ignition is attached to many high-resistance wires and terminals that can get hot. When overheating occurs, the vehicle can jolt and not start no matter how many attempts are made.
  4. Dashboard lights – Hearing clicks when trying to start the vehicle. The dashboard lights should come on when trying to start the vehicle. When the vehicle is switched to the “ON” position, the oil, charging light, brake, and other warning lights should come on. However, if the ignition switch is bad, the lights usually will not come on. Also, test the reliability of the ignition switch by turning the vehicle to the “START” position. If the vehicle tries to start, release the key. Allow the key to go to the “RUN” position and make a note of the warning lights that come on. If these lights go off instantly, then this a good indication the switch is bad.