Sunday, December 2, 2012

That Switch Sucks

A nuisance thing happened to me the other day.  I hopped into my 1956 Ford Fairlane and went to start it, only to find the ignition switch was inoperable.  Oh, it would turn to the "on" position, and the oil/gen light would glow, but it wouldn't engage the starter.  This was not a good thing, as I needed to get somewhere.

I have the car in perfect running condition, but it wouldn't start all of a sudden.  This would certainly be a problem with a more modern vehicle.  With all the sensors and circuits in new cars, you can't do anything outside of a professional shop.  Fortunately, my retro-technology allows for simple solutions in short order.

Here is a pictorial step by step illustration of my immediate solution, and one that could be utilized by anyone who happens to have a faulty switch.  Do try this at home, but only on your own car (jumping someone else's vehicle, especially mine, could result in you being shot; you have been warned).

1: Turning key to "on" position.

2: Fashioning the high-tech bypass tool.

3:  Jumping that relay.  It's alive!

4.  Give her a little gas to keep the ice-cold engine from stalling.  After a few seconds, it has no trouble idling on its own.

5:  Let her warm up for a couple of minutes, and you're ready to go.

There, problem solved.  But now for the more permanent solution. After going over the simple troubleshooting instructions found in the shop manual, I was able to determine that something was wrong with the wire going from the switch to the relay.  When I went to replace the wire, however, I suddenly found that the car would start with a turn of the key!  It turned out that the connection on the back of the switch had just the slightest film of corrosion.  When coupled with the cold weather, it was enough to diminish the power going through the wire and keep it from reaching the starter.  After I cracked the nut and retightened it, everything worked again.  It only took me a couple of hours to trace down the problem.  No need for new wires, no need for a new starter switch.  Aren't I lucky?

This has been a quick car minute.  I hope it has been helpful.


  1. I envy you your mechanical aptitude, Martinus. Mine is limited to changing light bulbs.

  2. This reminded me of my first car. A 73’ Chevelle that had been neglected for years. It seemed like something always needed repaired on that car. When the switch went bad I couldn’t afford the parts so we rigged an old push button switch we found in my uncles garage. Turn the ignition (key optional) and push a button. I liked it so much I kept it that way. I never really needed a key again. Even my friends who knew how to start the car couldn’t find the button so I figured a thief would never figure it out.