Ignition switch question

What are the symptoms that the ignition switch needs to be replaced? I have a car which occasionally will not start – battery, starter, alternator all checked out. This problem will happen when car is cold.


Well, a failed ignition switch will certainly keep the car from starting, but “not starting” is a pretty vague term. Do you simply get no action from the motor when you hit the switch (ie does not crank), or does the motor crank but not run?

And what kind of car are we dealing with, here?

Next time it doesn’t start, put the gear selector lever in neutral and try to start it. If it starts, it may be a defective neutral safety switch. When it doesn’t start, take notes on what does, and doesn’t, happen. Does it turn over at the normal speed (sound-wise)? Do you hear any clicking? Anything?

You need to provide a shred or two of info first. What kind of car, auto or manual transmission, and what are the no-start symptoms; sluggish cranking by the starter motor, click and no crank, no starter solenoid click, cranks fine and won’t start, etc.

Ignition switch symptoms can vary; it depends on the what the car is or is not doing.

It’s a '96 Chevy Silverado, auto transmission. There’s a single click, or clunk, then nothing. Dash lights do come on. I may try a second time and it may start right up. I have not tried to start it in neutral yet. It’s been in the shop today, and predictably, started up fine every time at the shop.


Start by checking the electrical connections on the battery, starter, and the ground cable on the engine. Make sure they are clean and tight.

If you’re getting a “clunk”, power is getting to at least part of the starting system, so it’s probably not the ignition switch. A weakness in GM vehicles with side terminal batteries is corrosion under the rubber covers on the battery cable terminals, especially the positive terminal.

I will call the shop and have them check the battery cable terminals under the rubber covers. They have been tightened but I’m not sure if they were checked any further. The connection to the starter was checked too. Not sure about the ground cable on the engine. I’ll ask them about that tomorrow too.

The car has been starting like a charm at the shop for the last 2 days. It’s a little frustrating. But they can check the battery cable terminals and the connection to the ground cable whether the car is starting or not.

Once the connections have been cleaned up (the terminals have to be removed and properly cleaned inside and out) if this problem persists, replace the starter solenoid mounted on top of the starter.

The first thing the shop did was to get the battery cable terminals. Everything listed above has been checked.

The car is still starting up great.

If the car won’t act up while it’s at the shop I’m just going to have them replace the starter.

“If the car won’t act up while it’s at the shop I’m just going to have them replace the starter.”

Why?? Sounds like cleaning the cables cured the problem…But it’s your money…

I will just pick up the truck. The only thing is that it’s the 2nd time in three weeks that the cables are have tightened. Perhaps they were not cleaned the first time…

You guys are right again! The problem must have been corrosion at the battery cable terminals. The truck has been starting up fine.

We hear you, Kristen. I caution anyone, sometimes, it is something else in the daisy chain of components which is defective. A good mechanic will add test and evaluate to whatever “guess” comes to mind. A poor (in ability, not money) mechanic may guess only…and, you, the car owner, will pay dearly for those guesses.