What Does the Ignition Switch Warning Light Mean? | YourMechanic Advice

What Does the Ignition Switch Warning Light Mean?

Modern cars have multiple security measures in place to ensure that the correct key is being used to start the engine. Car keys are electronically coded specifically to work only with certain engines that have learned this code. Even if someone was able to copy the key and turn the ignition, the engine still would not start.

Without the correct key, it is very difficult to start the engine of most modern cars these days. Most vehicles have an ignition switch warning light to let you know of any problems occurring with the ignition.

What the ignition switch warning light means

Depending on the vehicle, this warning light could mean a few things. It could indicate an issue with the ignition switch or show that there is a problem with the key being used. An issue with the ignition switch is usually mechanical and it would prevent the key from turning. This may be caused by worn out tumblers, a worn out key, or if dirt and debris lodged in the mechanism prevents movement. You can try cleaning out the keyhole, but you may need to replace the switch and potentially even replace the key to fix the problem.

If this light comes on while you are driving, chances are the key can longer be verified. This is typically a computer glitch, and while rare, it can still happen. Since the key is no longer valid, it is likely that you will not be able to restart the engine once you have shut it off. Take the car immediately to an auto shop or service center where you can have the car relearn the key’s security code.

Is it safe to drive with the ignition switch warning light on?

In either situation, you should have the car checked out. While it is possible to do the key learning procedure without any special equipment, it typically requires two known, valid keys which could be difficult to gather, if you’re out and about. Any mechanical issues will also require cleaning or replacement of the ignition switch.

If you are having any troubles with your ignition switch, our certified technicians can help you diagnose any issues you may be experiencing.


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Travis

12 years of experience
425 reviews
Travis
12 years of experience
Volkswagen Beetle - Warning Light is on - Stillwater, Minnesota
Unbenoest to me when you change a battery on a 18 yr. old car you also need more than a code reader to reset the new battery.
Audi A8 Quattro - Warning Light is on Inspection - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Very helpful and very knowledgeable will be using this service again thank you Travis for everything trumbs up

Nicholas

10 years of experience
361 reviews
Nicholas
10 years of experience
Chrysler 300 - Warning Light is on - Durham, North Carolina
Excellent diagnostician. Knowledgeable and caring. Created a desire for him specifically, to do the job. Hope we get him every time!
Honda Accord - Warning Light is on - Garner, North Carolina
I was very happy with Nicholas and his knowledge and expertise about diagnosing the issues with my car. He is honest, reliable and professional. He is now my Mechanic that I will call on for all my car's needs.I will also recommend him to my friends whom have been taken advantage of by other car shops as I have been, and are looking for someone honest , that will not take advantage of them Thank you so much Nicholas for resolving my issue with my car. I feel relieved and happy with the outcome

Robert

15 years of experience
24 reviews
Robert
15 years of experience
Chrysler 300 - Warning Light is on - Maricopa, Arizona
Very professional, knowledgeable. Explain everything in great detail. Will definitely use Robert again.

Arturo

26 years of experience
183 reviews
Arturo
26 years of experience
Volvo XC90 - Warning Light is on - El Cajon, California
Arturo was very professional and friendly. Diagnosed my problem immediately, and I feel confident the service will be to my satisfaction when my radiator arrives for installation.

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