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Warning Signs of Ignition System Failure

Has your car been struggling to start lately? You might be tempted to ignore it; if you can still get your car running, how bad could it be, right? However, as with many car troubles left unattended, ignoring ignition issues can cause bigger problems for your car (and you!) down the road. You might eventually find that your car won’t start at all. In this post, we’ll discuss several common signs of ignition system failure – and how a dependable auto repair shop can help you remedy these ignition-related issues.

Your Car Won’t Start

auto repair portland orThis one’s easy. If your car won’t start because your key will not turn in the ignition, it’s likely an ignition switch issue. Of course, this could mean a lot of other things as well; it could also be as simple as a dead battery, or a problem with a more complex part. Many newer cars these days have fobless ignitions, which means that your EIS (electronic ignition system) could be failing. You’ll need to seek diagnostics, especially if you have limited symptoms. EIS modules, steering lock modules, and gateway modules can also cause issues with starting your vehicle.

If it does turn out to be an ignition problem. Keep in mind that ignition system replacement often goes hand in hand with immobilizer (anti theft feature) and ECM reprogramming. Without proper programming, your vehicle will not recognize your key and will not start your vehicle. 

Your Car Keeps Stalling

Ignition coil issues might make your car stall, however the most common issue is rough running known as misfires. If the coil isn’t supplying enough power to the spark plugs, they won’t be able to properly ignite fuel. This can lead to your vehicle stalling while driving or even shutting off completely when stopping. Both of these issues are very inconvenient and can even cause unburnt gas to get into your exhaust system, causing what is called ‘catalyst inefficiency’ faults, which can get expensive; it’s a good idea to get your car looked at as soon as you can if you have these issues.

Dashboard Lights Flashing

A faulty ignition system can cause your dashboard’s lights and electrical accessories to flicker. This might happen while starting the car, but if you notice them flickering while you’re driving, it’s more likely to be a problem with the electrical system. This isn’t a common symptom, though, so it’s not the only thing to be on the lookout for.

Change in Engine Noise

Even if you don’t pay close attention to the noise your car’s engine makes, you might notice when it changes in some way. If you hear a new noise or you don’t hear one that’s usually there, it could be a sign that your car is ailing in some way.

No noise

You might think that no noise is good noise. Even this, though, could indicate a problem with your ignition system. If your car won’t start at all, rather than an issue with the ignition system as a whole, you might think your problem is with your starter motor. If your starter motor doesn’t make any sound when you try to start your car, it’s likely that part isn’t the problem. If your starter motor is having problems, it’s more likely to click than it is to be silent.


If you notice your engine coughing or sputtering while trying to start it, you may have a problem with your ignition coils. Engine misfires can also happen while driving, indicated by jerking movements at higher speeds or under load. Also, if you notice that your car vibrates excessively while idling, you might be looking at a misfiring engine. This is caused by irregular sparks from your spark plugs.


You’ll notice if your engine backfires; it’s loud and can be very jarring, especially if it’s never happened to you before. Engine backfires can be caused by several problems – and among them, problems with your ignition system. Backfiring happens when fuel combusts somewhere outside of the combustion cylinders. It causes a loud noise and darker exhaust, as well as a strong smell of gasoline. Not only is this nerve-wracking, but it could also damage parts of your car that aren’t built to handle combustion. If your car’s fuel isn’t igniting where it should, your ignition system could well be the problem. It’s a good idea to take your car to an auto shop to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse.

Key Won’t Turn

It’s possible that a faulty system might make it harder for you to turn your ignition key. Of course, this can also happen when the steering lock is in place, so this symptom isn’t diagnostic of a faulty coil. If you notice that this happens when the steering lock is not engaged, though, it could be a warning sign that your ignition system isn’t doing so well, or that a module is not communicating properly to the immobilizer or other.

Your Car Isn’t Running Well

Of course, there are many reasons that modern vehicles might fall from peak performance; a faulty ignition system is only one potential issue. The following symptoms in particular, though, tend to be tell-tale signs that the issue is with your ignition system. However, the only way to know for sure is to check with a qualified auto mechanic who knows their way around the make and model of your car. They can use diagnostic equipment to make sure they catch the problem.

Reduced Gas Mileage

A car with an ignition system issue might start to consume more fuel than usual. This happens when your fuel system compensates for a lack of power by injecting more fuel. An ailing ignition coil sends less or no power to your car’s spark plugs, so the fuel system tries to make up for it by burning more gas. This results in lower gas mileage and higher gas spending for you.

Oil Leak

A leaking valve cover or spark plug tube, depending on the make, can cause oil contamination on your ignition coil. This can cause high resistance thus causing misfires. This, of course, reduces your car’s overall performance. Not only can it result in costly repairs, but it could also become dangerous. If you notice anything leaking from your car, you should take it to a mechanic as soon as you can.

Call Steve’s Imports!

If you think your ignition system is struggling, give us a call! At Steve’s Imports, we’re experts at working on imported cars; we have over 40 years of experience backing us up! We’re knowledgeable mechanics passionate about repairing Euro and Asian import vehicles and making sure our customers get the best possible comprehensive repairs – the first time. We also pride ourselves on effective communication and great customer service – we want to work with you to ensure the best possible user experience. Whether you need routine maintenance or something more significant, we’ve got you covered. We’re sure we’ll become your go-to shop for quality auto repair. Don’t let little problems pile up. Check out our website and call our auto repair shop today!