Ignition key switch replacement

Andrew Sarangan

My Kia Rio would sometimes not turn over when starting, and it would take a several attempts turning the key to get started. Even when it did turn over, the cranking power seemed pretty low, almost like it was a bad battery or a failing starter motor. After replacing the starter motor and battery and seeing no improvement, I traced the problem down to the ignition key switch. This is hardly ever talked about, so I assume it is a rare problem. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to fix.

The ignition key switch contains two components, One part is the lock cylinder where the key goes into, and the second part is the electrical switch. It is a simple rotary style switch. The start position was not making good contact, which was the cause of my problem.

The first step was to remove the top and bottom covers around the steering wheel. The bottom cover is held by three screws and the top cover is just snapped into the bottom cover.  The rotary switch is a white plastic part attached to the end of the lock cylinder. Removal requires access into some tight spaces and a right angle screw driver would be needed. The lock cylinder does not have to be removed.

The same wire bundle also goes to a separate push button switch that attaches to the side of the key slot. This is the switch that senses the key in the slot and makes the beeping sound.

After replacing the key switch, the starting performance was noticeably better. It had the same effect as if a dying battery had been replaced.

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