You’ve checked your car battery, your cables, and the spark plug, and even though everything appears to be fine, your car still won’t start.  

It's a frustrating situation to be in. But have you checked your ignition switch? And if it appears to be faulty, do you know how to start a car with a bad ignition switch?

It’s incredibly common for drivers to fail to troubleshoot their ignition switch when a car fails to start. It makes you want to take your car to junkyard and get a new one.

The good news is that there are solutions you can try even if you are stuck with a car with a bad ignition switch. 

This article will cover the A to Z of dealing with ignition switches, including the common signs to look out for and how to fix the issue.

Let's get started.

How Can You Tell if the Ignition Switch Is Bad?

You can directly test the ignition switch to confirm if it's faulty, look for signs of a malfunctioning ignition switch, or single out the ignition after troubleshooting all other possibilities. 

Testing the Ignition Switch

The ignition system itself is made up of the ignition cylinder, ignition switch, ignition key, ignition coil, ignition wiring, and is even connected to the steering wheel lock.

The ignition system is responsible for sending vital electrical signals needed to run, start, and protect the car. The principle to testing it is to check if those electrical currents are sent to the ignition coil and Engine Control Unit (ECU).

To test, use an electrical multimeter to read the voltage and make sure it is greater than 90 percent of the battery voltage. Turn the ignition key off and set the dial to measure voltage.

Then, place the positive pin of the multimeter on the ignition switch power feed wire and the negative pin on any bare/unpainted metal surface in the car. Turn the key on and check the voltage.

You can also use a 12-volt test light to confirm if the ignition switch is making the required electrical contacts. Turn the ignition key off and disconnect the ignition switch connector and the terminals on the starter solenoid.

Turn the key on and connect the wire to the switch's wire connector and the ignition coil battery terminal.

Signs of a Faulty Ignition Switch

When a car refuses to start, the frequent culprit is a dead battery. However, that’s not the only thing you should look out for. It could also be the starter, an electrical circuit problem, or your ignition switch. You don't need to start considering buying a new car if the fault can be easily repaired.

Some of the common signs that your ignition switch is faulty include:

  • The ignition is hard to turn.
  • There is no clicking sound from the starter motor on start attempts.
  • You have a malfunctioning steering lock and/or stuck steering wheel.
  • There’s irregular stalling without any signals.
  • The key gets stuck in the ignition.

How To Start a Car With a Bad Ignition Switch

How To Start a Car With a Bad Ignition Switch (3 Ideas That Work)

Jump-Starting Your Car

If you have jumper cables or a portable jump starter, you can jump-start your car.


  • Using the jumper cable or portable jump starter, connect the positive terminal of the ignition coil to the positive battery terminal.
  • Connect the starter solenoid terminal to the positive terminal of the battery.
  • Unplug the ignition switch from the starter solenoid.
  • Connect the solenoid to the place where you previously unplugged the ignition switch wire.
  • This will shorten the solenoid to start the car immediately.

Hotwire Your Car

Even if you have no idea how to start a car with a bad ignition switch, you have probably watched a movie where someone bypassed having a key entirely.

This is usually done by connecting a couple of wires beneath the steering column, also known as "hotwiring.” The idea is to power the electrical parts so you can directly activate the starter motor. 


  • Unscrew the plastic cover beneath the wheel to expose the electrical components. 
  • Locate the ignition wire, battery wire, and starter wire underneath the wheel in the wiring harness connector.
  • Cut the wires open and strip the coating on the wires down to an inch.
  • Connect the ignition wire and the battery wire to each other (the light indicators will come on).
  • Now connect the starter wire to the open splice (where the battery and ignition wires meet).

The engine should come on after the previous step.

The only problem is that the hot-wiring solution is no longer feasible for newer cars. Today's auto trends have moved to remote hacking vehicles. However, if you have a classic old model car, you can still give this a try.

Bypassing the Ignition Cylinder

Breaking into my own Camry and hot wiring it, literally!

This is our least recommended option as it will most likely destroy your ignition switch. You can either manually remove the ignition cylinder lock or remove the plastic part from under the wheel.

You can also drill directly into the ignition cylinder and destroy it in the process, exposing the prong inside.

Afterward, simply use a plier to turn the prong in the start key direction and the car should start normally.

Common Ignition System Problems and Solutions

Ignition Cylinder Not Turning

This often occurs when the steering wheel is turned after the car is turned off. The steering wheel lock will be initiated and the ignition lock cylinder won't turn. It's a safety measure to prevent thieves from using the steering wheel without the key.

Hot Fix: Turn your steering wheel back and forth with your key in the ignition to release the lock.

Faulty Ignition Switch

A faulty ignition can cause your engine to stall and turn off unexpectedly.

This is often a sign that the ignition switch contacts have worn out. This issue is also often caused by a heavy keychain, so make sure your keychain is light.

Hot Fix: Replace the ignition switch after troubleshooting all other possibilities.


Now you know how to start a car with a bad ignition switch, so a faulty ignition will not keep you from your destination or send you to an expensive mechanic!

Check out other similar posts that will help you make the most out of your car.