Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: What do I do if my car switches get dirty?

asked by on

What do I do if my car switches get dirty?

The switches in most modern vehicles do have electrical and mechanical parts behind them. This includes power windows, locks, mirrors, and even the radio or climate control. Like the keys on a keyboard, these devices are sensitive to dirt and moisture; anything from spilled food and beverages, to a dusty environment, can allow dirt to enter the vehicle and accumulate. Due to the conductive nature of water, or the abrasive nature of dirt and sand, these factors are dangerous for the electric controls throughout the vehicle and may cause a failure. It may be necessary to discontinue the use of any switch that seems to have been compromised.

First of all, one should avoid using a household spray-on cleaner or any type of solvent on vehicle controls; chances are, your interior switches are not waterproof, and spraying household cleaners into them can cause a shorted circuit. Furthermore, solvents can damage the finish, and even warp the plastic outer shell of a switch. Many local stores sell cans of compressed air, which can be used to force large pieces of dirt out of the tight corners and cracks of switches. Electrical contact cleaner is another product sold at many auto parts stores for cleaning the electrical contacts of the switch; this is also safe to use on the outer shell.

To clean switches, use an absorbent cloth or paper towel to wipe the area around the switch clean. Afterwards, use a can of compressed air to force out any stubborn particles. Do not use toothpicks or sharp metal tools to dig into the switches, as these may break off into the switch, or damage the switch itself.

Once the area is clean and the pieces of dirt have been removed, one can use a dry microfiber cloth to remove any remaining debris. Activate the switch to see if function has changed at all. Electrical contact cleaner may be required for especially dirty control switches in the event of spilled food or beverages. Take care not to flood the switch with any cleaner; use it sparingly until all debris has been removed.

If a switch function has failed, consult an expert mechanic to inspect the electrical system, and the switch itself, to see which component has failed. After the inspection, your mechanic will be able to estimate the cost of repair.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: What is the fuel pump shutoff switch?

Your car is equipped with a fuel pump shutoff switch designed to activate during an accident. This prevents fuel from pumping if the lines or engine has been damaged, preventing a possible vehicle fire. If the engine will turnover but...

Q: Driver's side window not rolling all the way up, but the motor still works.

I actually drive a Honda Element myself and have also experienced driver side window issues. If you hear the motor running while attempting to roll up the window, but the window still is not going up, it is likely that...

Q: Car interior/dome lights won't turn on.

Hi there. For the interior lights not working after replacing the battery, first check the switch to make sure that the light is on. If the light is on the door selection and will not turn on, then one of...

Related articles

How Long Does a Heater Control Valve Last?
Keeping the right amount of coolant in a car is essential in keeping the engine at the right temperature. Failing to have the right amount of coolant or even bad elements...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...