A Key Piece of Advice: Keep that Key Chain Light


With all of your car’s mechanical maintenance to keep track of, interior and exterior cleanliness and appearance, and of course, your safe driving practices, it seems that the last thing you should have to worry about would be your key chain, right? Well, think again. Hard as it may be to believe, a heavy key chain can damage your ignition switch and leave you with a costly repair.

As difficult as it may be to part with that rabbit’s foot, or the keepsake ornament from that ’05 trip to Cancun…or the two separate keys to your fifth cousin’s vacation house in Santa Fe (don’t forget the dead bolt!) – the time has come: Get an early start on your key chain spring cleaning and remove any non-essential items; better yet, attach your ignition key to a separate ring that is part of the main key chain, and detach the ignition-only key ring when preparing to drive.

Some background: Because the federal government mandates the design of ignition switches (in order to prevent auto theft), the switches on most cars are quite similar; they are also mass produced by companies seeking to keep production costs low. The result is the use of relatively cheap bits or component parts found in the ignition. These bits are somewhat fragile, and when you pit them against, say, a pair of two-inch solid bronze initials hanging on a key chain, well, it’s easy to predict who might win that battle.

Keep in mind that maintaining a reasonable size key chain is a safety issue as well as a cost issue. While a damaged ignition switch can mean a costly repair, a broken switch can also cause the engine to shut off in the middle of a drive. Aside from serving as a locking and theft prevention mechanism, your ignition operates as an electrical switch that allows you to start – and continue to operate – the engine. Damaged ignition bits can ‘go’ at any time, including the middle of a drive.

Of course, if you’re fortunate enough to use a keyless ignition as found on some newer cars, you have nothing to worry about; but for those of you still in the rabbit’s foot club, take stock of your key chain and see if you can’t come up with a little New Year’s resolution to shave a few (or many) ounces off your key chain.