In order to ensure road safety, vehicles are equipped with a turn signal switch. This switch must be in good working order at all times, or other motorists will not know when you are turning. This guide is a complete resource on the car turn signal switch. Use it to learn how the switch works, its repair and proper replacement steps.
What is a Turn Signal Switch?
A turn signal switch is a type of lever-operated switch that drivers use to activate turn signals. All vehicles come with flashing indicator bulbs mounted on all four corners. These light up to show when you intend to turn, ensuring safety when on the road.
Pushing the turn signal switch lever up or down sends a signal to the appropriate turn signal bulb, causing it to light up. The bulb then flashes continually. This helps to let other drivers know that you are about to turn.
The typical turn signal switch assembly is made of these main parts:
- The turn signal switch mechanism
- A cancel cam to turn off the indicator lights
- Lever/knob to operate the switch
- The switch wiring system
On most modern vehicles, the turn signal switch does more than turn on the turn the indicator lights. It may also operate the headlights, fog lights, the windshield wipers or even the horn; all these by moving the turn signal switch lever to different positions.
Because of these other functions, the turn signal switch sometimes goes by other names such as combination switch or multifunction switch. Some people also call it the turn signal flasher switch, others the turn signal lever.
Where is the Turn Signal Switch Located?
The location of a car turn signal switch depends on the make and model of the vehicle. In some cars, you may find it mounted in the steering column, just below the car’s steering wheel. In other cars, the switch is located on the side of the steering column and secured with screws.
The switch location ensures it’s always visible and within the easy reach of the driver. This allows the driver to operate turn signals while still in control of the steering wheel.
Now that we have covered what the automotive turn signal switch is and where to find it, how does it work? Continue reading below to find out, including the different turn signal flasher switch circuits.
How Does a Turn Signal Switch Work?
As we’ve already seen, a turn signal switch is a vital safety feature that allows you to communicate with other drivers on the road. By indicating your intentions, you give other drivers time to react and avoid potential accidents. Here is how it works.
- When the turn signal switch lever or knob is pushed up or down, it activates the turn signals and the corresponding dash indicator lights.
- Usually, pushing the lever up will activate the right turn signal, and pushing the lever down will activate the left turn signal.
- When the turn signals are activated, they will stay on until they are canceled or until the vehicle has made the turn. Most turn signal switches have a cancel cam that automatically turns off the turn signals.
Turn signal switch technologies vary: In older cars, the switch is hardwired unit that sends a signal to a type of thermal/bimetallic switch called the turn signal flasher unit. This is what causes the characteristic clicking sound when you’ve activated the turn signal circuit.
In most modern vehicles, the switch doesn’t rely on a mechanical device to blink the indicator lights. Instead, it sends signals to the car’s light system module or any other car computer system. This activates a circuit that will operate the indicator light.
Note that most electronic flasher mechanisms will still produce the turn signal switch clicking sound. This sound is aimed at providing drivers with an audible confirmation that the turn signal is working.
Turn Signal Switch Problems
The turn signal switch, being both an electrical and mechanical device, is prone to various problems. For example, over time, some parts may wear out or become loose, which can lead to problems with the signal activation. This list of turn signal switch problems will help you understand the things that could possibly go wrong.
1. Worn Out Turn Signal Switch
The most common turn signal switch problem is that it wears out over time. This is usually caused by the lever or knob being turned on and off too many times. The solution is usually to replace the entire turn signal switch assembly, especially if the wear is severe.
2. Loose Turn Signal Switch
Over time, the turn signal switch can become loose, which can cause the signal to become intermittent or not work at all. Many parts could cause this problem. For example, you may have a loose turn signal lever, loose mounting screws, a loose wire harness, and so on. If that happens, you may need to fix the affected components or install a new switch.
3. Broken Turn Signal Switch
A broken turn signal switch can also cause the indicator lights mechanism to malfunction. Several reasons could cause this problem. Most of the time, though, turn signal switches break down from years of use or from a sudden impact. It is important to replace the broken switch as soon as possible or your safety when on the road will be at risk.
4. Corroded Turn Signal Switch
Corrosion can also cause turn signal switch problems. This is usually due to years of exposing the contacts and other metal parts to the elements or other corrosive materials. This can cause the switch to become stiff and difficult to move. If you notice your turn signal switch is becoming difficult to move, have it checked out and cleaned.
5. Bad Turn Signal Switch Connector
The turn signal switch connector can become loose or it can break. When that happens, it risks getting burned due to a short circuit. You could replace a burnt or broken connector (these are often sold as individual components), but only if the other parts are intact.
Bad Turn Signal Switch Symptoms
How do you know if your turn signal switch is going bad? Bad turn signal switch symptoms range from indicator lights that will not come on to problems in other systems operated by the switch. Here are some signs to be on the lookout for:
Indicator Lights Do Not Work
One of the most obvious signs of a bad turn signal switch is if the indicator lights do not work. If the turn signals and the corresponding indicator lights do not come on, then it is a sign that the switch is not working properly.
Turn Signals Do Not Cancel
Another sign that you have a bad turn signal switch is if the turn signals do not cancel. If the turn signals stay on after they have been canceled, then it could be a sign that the switch is not working properly. This could be an intermittent problem or an issue that will not go away.
Other Turn Signal Switch Functions Not Working
With the turn signal switch not working, the other systems that the switch controls will also not work. Depending on your type of car, these may include the headlights, the fog lights, and sometimes also the wind shield wipers.
Turn Signal Switch Repair
Without a functioning turn signal switch, you would not be able to indicate to other drivers when you are turning, which could lead to accidents. So, if your turn signals (or other functions associated with the switch) are not working, it is crucial that you take quick action.
You can either replace or fix turn signal switch assemblies when they break down. Whether to fix or change it depends on several factors, such as the severity of the problem, the cost of replacement, and your own skills.
Turn signal switch repair involves testing it for electrical problems and performing a physical inspection. That’s because faults in other components associated with the switch can also make it not to work. Examples include a faulty turn signal switch relay, a blown fuse, or even issues with the bulbs themselves.
This is how to fix a turn signal switch if you decide on the repair.
How to Test a Turn Signal Switch
Start the repair by testing the switch for electrical problems. This will enable to you find out if the switch is the problem or if there is another issue. You can so this with a multimeter.
Set the multimeter to the right setting and touch the probes to the connections on the switch. You will need to refer to the specific turn signal switch wiring diagram. That’s because different types of these switches use different wiring systems.
Testing your car turn signal switch is aimed at confirming circuits that are working and those that are not. If the switch us faulty, proceed to the next step.
How to Fix a Turn Signal Switch
If you have diagnosed the turn signal switch as the problem, then you can try to fix it. Turn signal switch repair should not be difficult: it only contains a few simple parts. Here is how to go about it.
1. Disconnect the battery
2. Remove covers that will allow you access to the switch
3. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws that hold the switch in place.
4. Pull out the turn signal switch and disconnect any wires that are still attached to it.
5. Inspect the switch for physical damage. Look for cracks or breaks in the plastic. Also, check to see if the lever or knob is loose.
6. Tighten any loose parts. Clean corroded or worn contacts to restore their electrical connection. You can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol for this.
7. Re-install the switch and reconnect any wires.
8. Test the switch to see if the problem is gone.
Important! Some cars, depending on their type, may have the turn signal switch located just behind the steering. This switch requires a different procedure to remove, which may include taking out the airbag. This can be dangerous.
Be sure to wait for at least 10 minutes after disconnecting the battery before working on any airbag-related components.
This will allow the electrical system to discharge completely and prevent accidental deployment. If you are unsure about working on your car’s airbags, it is best to take it to a professional mechanic.
Turn Signal Switch Repair Cost
When you have your turn signal switch broken and not working as it should, you want it fixed or replaced as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may be able to repair the switch yourself.
For example, if the problem is that the contacts are corroded, then you can easily clean them. However, if the problem is that the switch is broken, then you will need to replace it.
The turn signal switch repair cost, depending on your type of car, can range from $40-$100. The lower end of the cost is if you are able to do it yourself, and the higher end is if you need to take it to a mechanic.
Turn Signal Switch Replacement
When you cannot repair turn signal switch assemblies, for example, if the switch is too damaged or too corroded, then you will have to replace it. It is a straightforward process that anyone can do with the right tools and a little bit of know-how. The turn signal switch replacement steps are given below
How to Replace a Turn Signal Switch
Here is a general overview of how to install a turn signal switch:
1. Disconnect the battery. You do not want to work on powered electrical components.
2. Remove the panel or panels that give you access to the switch.
3. Unplug the wiring harness from the switch.
4. Remove the screws that hold the switch in place.
5. Pull the switch out of the housing.
6. Install the new switch by reversing the above steps.
7. Replace the panel or cover.
8. Reconnect the battery.
9. Test the new turn signal switch to see that it is working properly.
Turn Signal Switch Replacement Cost
Should you decide to replace a turn signal switch yourself, you will only need a few tools and some time: a new turn signal switch, a screwdriver, and pliers. Replacing a turn signal switch should not take more than an hour from start to finish.
If you opt to have a professional do the job, then it will cost you anywhere between $40 and $100. The turn signal switch replacement cost will mostly depend on the make and model of your car, though, and can be higher than the quoted amount.
The cost will also depend on the labor costs in your area. Many car owners opt for a DIY replacement, given the easy steps to change the switch. That said, below is a look at the price if turn signal switches.
How Much Does a Turn Signal Switch Cost?
The turn signal switch cost mostly varies depending on the type of switch, the type of vehicle and its year of manufacture, the vehicle model, and the make. For example, a turn signal switch for a 2020 Toyota Tacoma may cost more than a turn signal switch for a 1995 Ford F-150.
A luxury car’s turn signal switch will also cost more than that of economy cars. The price also depends on whether you’re purchasing an OE or aftermarket part: an aftermarket turn signal switch will usually cost less than an OE part.
We recommend purchasing a quality switch from a reputable parts manufacturer: it will operate reliably and last longer. You can find a wide range of turn signal switches at most auto parts stores or online retailers.
A turn signal switch is an important component on your vehicle. Responsible for turning on your indicator signals, it lets other drivers know when you are turning and ensures your safety. The switch is also a requirement of the law in most regions around the world, and one of the first things inspected during a vehicle safety inspection.
A car turn signal switch, being electromechanical, will often become damaged or corroded over time. This can cause it to stop working properly or to stop working at all. If you notice that your turn signal switch is not working correctly, it is important to replace it place or fix it without delay.