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: Why wont the fan start? Smoking near fan, cooling fan new but wont start. engine overheats.

Hey there. As you alluded, this is a sign of a bad cooling fan relay switch. The cooling fan relay switch comes on when the temperature reaches a certain level to help cool down the radiator. When this is faulty,...

Q: Driver's side window not going up or down.

The Toyota Solara uses a cable type window regulator. As these regulators wear out the will often times move slower and have crunching type noises before they fail. Another possibility is the window motor itself. My advice is to have...

Q: My 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander sunroof wont work

Hello there, many common faults will cause your 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander sunroof to not function. The most common failure points are the sunroof switch, wiring harness fault, sunroof track, or sunroof motor failure. If no noise is heard at all...

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...
How to Renew Your Car Registration in Oklahoma(DELETED)
Having your car registered with the Oklahoma Tax Commission is an important part of driving legally in this state. You will need to do this within 30 days of moving to Oklahoma...
How Much Does a Mechanic Make in Vermont?
Automotive technician jobs in Vermont have an average mechanic salary of $37k, with some mechanics earning a salary of $53k.