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Summary
  • The ignition switch is the electrical portion of the ignition cylinder. Using a series of electrical contacts, the ignition switch sends a signal to the starter relay, which eventually brings the engine to life.
  • Worn-out contacts, corrosion, and damaged springs can cause an ignition switch to fail.
  • Bypassing an ignition switch should only be seen as a temporary solution to a vehicle’s starting problems.

The ignition switch is the electrical portion of the ignition cylinder. Using a series of electrical contacts, the ignition switch sends a signal to the starter relay, which eventually brings the engine to life.

This activity is only possible if you have the right key that fits into the tumbler. You’ll need to turn the key from the off position to the start position.

Desperate Measures: Conducting an Ignition Bypass

The worst time for an ignition switch to fail is when you’re nowhere near an auto repair shop or when you’re in a hurry to go somewhere important, but your car won’t start.

Under these circumstances, you might be left with no choice but to bypass the ignition switch.

bypassing car ignition switch
Bypassing an ignition switch can be done using several methods.

Bypassing an ignition switch can be done using several methods. These methods closely resemble the techniques other drivers use to start their cars without a key.

See also  Ignition Switch Problems: Signs, Causes, What to Do

Here are some tips on how to start a car with a bad ignition switch.

Using a Bypass Mechanism

A bypass mechanism relies on jumper wires to get the starter motor going.

To successfully bypass the ignition switch using jumper wires, you must first disconnect the battery.

Remove the necessary panels covering the ignition switch and look for the wiring harness that you’ll connect to the jumper wire.

From there, attach one end of the jumper wire to the connection where the signal flows to the starter motor, and attach the other end to the battery. This will create a direct connection between the starter motor and the battery.

The last step is to turn the key to the ON position and press the button on the bypass wire. This should activate the starter. After that, you may release the button.

Try the Drill and Screwdriver Combo

Using the drill and screwdriver combo is quite an extreme measure that should only be done during emergencies.

This method involves drilling a hole into the ignition cylinder to create a makeshift keyhole that will fit the screwdriver.

Keep in mind that this will permanently damage multiple parts of the ignition system, which could also mean additional repair expenses for you.

Via Hotwiring Tactics

Hotwiring is another method you can try to bypass the ignition switch.

Similar to using a bypass mechanism, hotwiring involves creating a direct connection between the battery and the ignition switch.

You’ll need to strip the panels and covers to get a good view of the starter, ignition, and battery wires.

These wires are generally color-coded, and it’s important to have sufficient knowledge of automotive electrical systems to avoid causing permanent damage to the vehicle.

See also  Diagnosing Ignition Troubles: Car Won’t Start but the Radio Works Fine

You’ll need wire strippers to remove the insulation from the individual wires before linking them.

Hotwiring might not work on some vehicles, especially those with advanced security features.

Know the Risks

Tampering with the ignition system can cause serious damage to your vehicle, especially if you don’t have the right tools and know-how on the subject matter.

Some of the bypass methods listed in the previous section should be treated as emergency tactics only, as these can result in more expensive repair tasks and inflict injury to the people involved if done incorrectly.

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Signs of a Failing Ignition Switch

Broken springs, worn-out contacts, and temperature problems will eventually cause the ignition switch to fail.

Once the ignition switch breaks, your vehicle could exhibit the following symptoms.

Key Won’t Turn

A key that won’t turn all the way to the START position may be a sign of a damaged ignition lock cylinder or other related components.

If your key won’t turn, it’s also likely that the engine won’t be able to start.

Stalling

Stalling is a symptom that can be caused by problems in more than one vehicle system. A damaged ignition switch could cause the engine to stall immediately after it starts or after you’ve driven your vehicle for a while.

Flickering Dashboard Lights

A faulty ignition switch could cause some electrical problems with your vehicle, such as flickering dashboard lights.

Quiet Starter

The starter motor should make a sound that indicates a turning engine as soon as you turn the key to the START position. But if the starter fails to make a sound, it could mean that there’s a problem with the ignition switch.

See also  P1682 Code: Ignition 1 Switch Circuit 2

How Much Will a New Ignition Switch Cost?

The cost of a replacement ignition switch can range between $50 and $500, depending on factors like your preferred brand and your vehicle’s specifications.

Is It Legal to Bypass an Ignition Switch?

Regulations on conducting an ignition bypass can vary per state. Regardless, bypassing an ignition switch on a vehicle that’s not yours is generally considered a punishable offense.

There’s no harm in bypassing your own ignition system, but keep in mind that this is only a temporary solution to your vehicle’s starting problems.

Should you be able to do it successfully, a trip to the nearest auto repair shop should be your top priority. This will ensure that your vehicle gets a full workup and a trusted mechanic can conduct the necessary repairs.

The Bottomline

Bypassing an ignition switch can be done in several ways, but the use of jumper wires is arguably the most common one.

It is, however, important to note that bypassing an ignition switch shouldn’t be thought of as a long-term solution to your vehicle’s starting problems.

Ignition switches are more likely to fail due to corrosion, broken springs, and worn-out contacts.

Once they do, the vehicle could exhibit symptoms like a no-start condition, a quiet starter, and flickering dashboard lights, among others.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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