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Summary
  • Not all vehicles have an ignition relay, per se. GM vehicles are the most likely to have an actual ignition relay which powers up a bus that provides voltage to more than just the ignition coils.
  • Some of the symptoms of a bad ignition relay include an unresponsive ignition switch, stalling, and a drained battery. Your vehicle can also start intermittently.
  • A brand-new ignition relay typically costs around $10 to $100.

GM vehicles are the most likely domestics to have an actual “ignition relay” (see schematic). The ignition relay on this platform powers up a bus that provides voltage to far more than just the ignition coils.

Note that not all vehicles have an “ignition relay” per se. At its base, the ignition system refers to the elements that provide the spark through the ignition coil.

In that case, the ignition relay would power up the coils (like the ASD relay on a Chrysler-based platform) and the trigger for the coils will come from a module or the PCM.

When we think of the “ignition switch,” we’re talking about a switch that does a lot more than simply energizing the ignition system.

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Early fuel-injected Ford engines had an EEC relay to power up the engine controller and a separate fuel pump relay for that purpose. However, the ignition coil was directly powered from the switch and not through a relay. So, on a system wired like those Fords, the term “Ignition Relay” is meaningless because those Fords have no ignition relay.

GM ignition relay schematic diagram
Ignition relay schematic of a GM vehicle | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Faulty Ignition Relay Symptoms

Like most electronic components in your vehicle, the ignition relay can fail over time. If it fails, it might exhibit symptoms such as the following:

Unresponsive Ignition Switch

If nothing happens when you turn the key to the start position, the ignition relay might be to blame. This may be caused by a worn-out electromagnet inside the relay or by corroded contacts that prevent current from flowing.

You might also hear a click from the ignition relay when you turn the ignition switch. This is the sound of the electromagnet trying to complete the circuit. Take note that this issue can also be caused by a flat battery.

The Vehicle Starts Intermittently

Corrosion and residue buildup inside the relay can sometimes restrict the flow of the current, which may lead to the ignition switch functioning intermittently. As a result, you might also only be able to start your vehicle intermittently.

Stalling

Since the ignition relay also sends power to the fuel pump and ignition coils, failure to send power to these components will cause the engine to stall. Sometimes, the engine may start again if the faulty relay cools down, but it will likely stall again when the relay heats up.

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Drained Battery

If the ignition relay has shorted, it might keep the battery connected to the ignition and fuel systems. This can cause the battery to continuously power components like the fuel pump and ignition coils, which can drain the battery and cause faster wear on the fuel pump.

The ignition relay might just be a small component inside your fuse box, but it provides power to a lot of critical components. This is why a faulty one can prevent you from using your vehicle. Make sure to get a replacement ignition relay as soon as you can to get your car back on the road.

female hand inserting keys in the ignition switch
Your vehicle might be exhibiting ignition relay issues if nothing happens when you turn the key to the start position.

How Much Does a Replacement Ignition Relay Cost?

A brand-new ignition relay typically costs around $10 to $100. The price largely depends on the specifications of the ignition relay and the vehicle for which it is made.

Where To Get A New Ignition Relay For Your Vehicle

A faulty relay can cause serious damage to your vehicle, so don’t put off replacing it. Problems like stalling, drained batteries, and difficulty starting the engine can make driving a hassle. Fortunately, CarParts.com is here to help.

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Go to CarParts.com, search for ignition relays, and narrow down the catalog to compatible parts using the vehicle selector. Use our filters to view the ignition relays with your preferred brand and price range. We have everything sorted out for you, so you can place your order and check out securely with just a few clicks.

Our wide selection of ignition relays are available at competitive prices and ready to ship from strategically located warehouses across the US. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our round-the-clock customer service team for assistance.

Don’t wait for your ignition relay to cause problems with costly fixes before getting it replaced. Check out our excellent collection of ignition relays at CarParts.com.

About The Authors
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.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

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.

File Under : Ignition System , DIY Tagged With :
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Linda

Can an ignition relay cause your to shut off when you are driving and then not starting. When I turn the key it will not crank. There is power to gauges except the gas gauge. The needle on the gauge will not move and the fuel light wZrning light is on. I just filled the tank the day before, so I know it has plenty of gas. Have any ideas of what else might be the problem.

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