What Does the Ignition Switch Warning Light Mean?

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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 Since the key is no longer valid, it is likely that you will not be able to restart the engine once you have shut it off.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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Matthew

32 years of experience
704 reviews
Matthew
32 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
First off he was on time....actually 30 mins early which was great. Everything he described was what I was going through and he knew exactly what I needed before he even looked at the car. Other mechanics i feel were trying to take advantage because I am a woman but he made me feel comfortable. Still have to get work done on it but at least I know exactly what the problem was.
Chevrolet Tahoe - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Very detailed and takes the time to explain what is being done. Willing to answer any questions you may have. I would definitely use his services again and have already been telling my coworkers about this site. I have a unique electrical situation going on with my truck that none of the dealers could assess. Just by Matt doing some general maintenance , my truck is already driving smoother. Matt asked that I monitor things to make sure we don't need to troubleshoot anything else. I feel quite confident.

Quentin

18 years of experience
13 reviews
Quentin
18 years of experience
Volkswagen Tiguan - Warning Light is on - Nottingham, Maryland
Quentin was very professional and meticulous with locating the issues with my car. Great spirit and explained and answered all of my questions.

Travis

12 years of experience
69 reviews
Travis
12 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz C230 - Warning Light is on - Charlotte, North Carolina
Travis came out to determine cause for the Check Engine light. He did so and told me what needed to be done and the cost.

Juan

8 years of experience
50 reviews
Juan
8 years of experience
Suzuki Grand Vitara - Warning Light is on - Durham, North Carolina
I won't go into details about the actual work performed - the result was completely satisfactory. Juan is knowledgeable about how these computerized engines work . He's very personable, polite, patient with my questions, and when I need service again, I'll request Juan. He put in more time than originally scheduled and seems to want to see things through and honest enough to tell you if the job is beyond his expertise and suggests taking car to dealer for more extensive diagnostic tests. I am well pleased.

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