Torque shop

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 WD40 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 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.

Shreejit Changaroth

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Torque shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe