This is­sue’s the­matic Q&A ses­sion is about en­gine ig­ni­tion and a mis­fir­ing mo­tor.


This is­sue’s the­matic Q&A ses­sion is about en­gine ig­ni­tion and a mis­fir­ing mo­tor.

I am driv­ing a nine-year-old Toy­ota Corolla Altis. I send my car for ser­vic­ing ev­ery 10,000km at Bor­neo Mo­tors.

Lately, when I crank the mo­tor to start, I find it rather dif­fi­cult to get it started. I have to use full force with both my hands to start the en­gine. The me­chan­ics at Bor­neo Mo­tors could not find any fault with the sys­tem. They lu­bri­cated the key­hole, but af­ter a day, the prob­lem came back. What could be the cause of this prob­lem? From your de­scrip­tion, it ap­pears that the prob­lem is with the ig­ni­tion key switch it­self.

This unit, which is at the steer­ing col­umn where you in­sert the key, in­cor­po­rates elec­tri­cal con­tacts for var­i­ous func­tions, in­clud­ing main ig­ni­tion, starter re­lay and also the steer­ing lock.

Dif­fi­culty in its op­er­a­tion oc­curs when an in­ter­nal part of the switch as­sem­bly has worn down or chipped off. This will cause in­ter­fer­ence be­tween the hous­ing, which is fixed, and the ro­tat­ing core, which is where you in­sert the key.

Lubri­cat­ing us­ing light oil or WD-40 will only al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem in the short term.

The ig­ni­tion switch as­sem­bly, un­for­tu­nately, is not some­thing that can be dis­as­sem­bled and ser­viced. So the only re­course is to re­place the whole unit.

Once re­placed, how­ever, it will not be pos­si­ble to use the ex­ist­ing ig­ni­tion key. Hence you will end up with two keys – one for the ig­ni­tion and the ex­ist­ing one to un­lock your car’s doors, glove­box and boot. Also, with some makes of cars, you can have the whole set of locks re­placed so that you will have just one key. Your dealer should be able to tell you if this is pos­si­ble and how much it will cost. I re­cently re­newed the cer­tifi­cate of en­ti­tle­ment on my car. It has been re­li­able ex­cept that lately, the crank­ing dur­ing startup is very slow. I re­placed the bat­tery, which was about a year old. De­spite that, the crank­ing im­proved only a lit­tle ini­tially. What could be the prob­lem? Slow crank­ing is usu­ally at­trib­ut­able to a worn starter

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