The Inner Workings of an Ignition Switch

Car Key in Phoenix

Car are complicated contraptions – at least mechanically speaking. When your car won’t start or the key won’t turn in the ignition tumbler, fixing the problem can be a confusing and expensive proposition. If your vehicle won’t start, you may worry that you need a replacement car ignition, but that’s not necessarily the case. Once you learn the difference between the ignition switch and the ignition key tumbler, you may realize that you can save yourself some time and money by taking your car to an automotive locksmith instead of to an automotive mechanic.

Technically, the place where you insert your car key is the ignition key tumbler and not necessarily the ignition switch. The ignition switch is an electronic switch housed behind the lock tumbler. When the lock tumbler is removed, the car can be started using just a screwdriver inserted into the ignition switch. Thus, if your car didn’t have a lock tumbler any thief could easily insert a screwdriver and take your vehicle for a joyride. For these reason, lock tumblers are difficult to remove and often have anti-theft devices. You should read your car’s owner’s manual and also learn about your car’s anti-theft devices before you attempt to remove or replace your ignition key tumbler.

The engine must already be turning in order for a car to run. The ignition switch or starter is the mechanism that makes this possible. When you insert your car key and rotate the lock tumbler, it turns on the ignition switch by completing a circuit. The ignition switch is directly connected to the battery, which emits the necessary jolt of power to make the engine turn over. Before the existence of electric ignition – or starter – switches, it was necessary to force the engine to turnover manually by using a hand crank.

When you need a replacement ignition key tumbler, you won’t necessarily need a replacement car ignition switch. Ignition switch problems and ignition key tumbler problems have different symptoms. If your key won’t turn or if you have other problems with the manual operation of your car key, you probably just need a new ignition key tumbler. For instance, the pins in the lock may be worn or stuck. However, if your key will turn but the car will not start, you might need a replacement car ignition switch or possibly a new battery.

Although the term ignition switch is often used interchangeably to refer to either the electric starter switch or the ignition key tumbler, it is important to understand that these parts are different and perform different functions. In some cars the ignition switch and the tumbler are connected such that you cannot replace one without replacing the other. In other vehicles, the two are separate assemblies. Consult your car’s owner’s manual to determine whether you can order replacement tumblers and ignition switches individually. If you are experiencing ignition key tumbler problems, you may be able to save yourself a great deal of money by calling a certified professional automotive Locksmith in Phoenix instead of calling an automotive mechanic or car dealership.

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