Roll Out The Barrel: Is My Car's Ignition Barrel Failing, And What Can I Do About It?

Without a functioning set of locks your car would be the easiest target a thieve or carjacker could possibly dream of, and if your vehicle has a keyed ignition barrel this unique type of lock is just as important as the ones fitted to your car's doors and boot lid. As such, keeping your ignition barrel in good working order is vital to smoothly and safely starting your car, and any signs that your barrel is starting to wear out should be tended to immediately.

How can I tell if my ignition barrel is failing?

Obviously, the most distinctive sign of a faulty ignition barrel is a car that fails to start. However, this does not conclusively prove that your ignition barrel is at fault, as the car may not be starting due to problems with your key, or more profound electrical problems with the ignition system as a whole. If the starter motor turns over when you twist the key, but does not start the engine, you can safely rule out ignition barrel trouble.

To rule out other potential reasons your vehicle won't start, you should keep an eye out for other symptoms of ignition barrel failure. Difficulty inserting and removing your key is a characteristic sign, as it generally means that the tumblers inside your barrel have worn out and are no longer aligned properly with the barrel's keyhole.

Another characteristic sign of ignition barrel failure is some ignition settings functioning properly while others do not. For example, if your vehicle's lights and electrical accessories do not power on when the key is twisted to the second position, but do when the vehicle's full electronic suite is activated at the third position, this implies that the barrel has worn out at the second position and must be repaired or replaced.

What should I do if my ignition barrel is faulty?

Vehicle ignitions are relatively complicated components, and the DIY ignition repairman will often find himself in a heap of trouble. As such, it is generally a better idea to call in a professional automotive locksmith service, who will come equipped with the tools and experience necessary to accurately determine the cause of your failed ignition. 

To speed the repair process along, you should try and determine whether or not the ignition barrel is truly at fault before you call in a locksmith. However, if you cannot rule out other issues for certain, a locksmith will be able to ascertain whether the ignition barrel is the cause of your problems, saving you time and money on expensive inspections by motor mechanics.

If the ignition barrel is the source of the problem, the locksmith will be able to either repair or replace your barrel as required. Repairs are generally a cheaper option (although they can take more time to achieve), and will allow you to keep your original set of car keys/transponders.

However, ignition barrels that have failed as a result of age, wear and tear are far more difficult to repair, so these barrells are generally replaced. Your locksmith will be able to provide you with new keys and transponders to operate the new barrel, helping you get back on the road as soon as possible.