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?

A: The switches in most modern vehicles do hav...

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・Save up to 30%

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: One time dtc for ecm staying on when car is off.

Hello. I usually start by load testing the battery and the alternator. Both of these will cause this if they will not pass a load test. If they are fine then there are a number of circuits that can cause...

Q: How do you tilt the moon roof?

While your moon roof can slide forward and backward to let in lots of light and fresh air, sometimes you don’t want quite so much. In this instance, tilting the moon roof allows you to vent the interior of your...

Q: Interior lights will not shut off

There are two possibilities that can cause the problem you describe. One of the door ajar switches first may not work when you open the door, making contact and signaling the body control module to turn on the interior lights....

Related articles

How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
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...