Neutral Safety Switch (Everything You Should Know)

The neutral safety switch is a less-known but equally important component of modern cars. This switch is mechanically controlled but electrical in nature.

It prevents your car from getting into gear. This is important because it can cause serious damage and surprise your vehicle if it starts and goes into reverse.

Continue reading to learn more about the neutral safety switch, its function, and what to do if it fails.

Imagine getting into your car without knowing it’s in gear, and then you start it; if your vehicle does not have a neutral safety switch, then whatever is in front or at the back, depending on where you moved the gear, will get crushed by the car.

So the neutral safety switch helps to prevent such accidents.

But as long as the transmission gear is set to park or neutral, the neutral safety switch will allow the ignition switch to send current to the ignition system which will then enable the car to start.

Where Is The Neutral Safety Switch Located?

The neutral safety switch is found in the transition box or the linkage to switch gears in an automatic transmission. The switch stops the car from starting if the gear is not in neutral or pack.

The neutral safety switch is found on the clutch pedal in a manual transmission. The clutch pedal will need to be wholly pressed down before manual transmission will begin.

The neutral safety switch activates the ignition process by allowing the electrical current from the ignition switch to cycle to the engine starter.

This is to protect the starter motor and transmission from damage and to minimize the possibility of accidents.

Also Read: Car won’t start? Causes and How To Fix

Bad Neutral Safety Switch Symptoms

Bad Neutral Safety Switch Symptoms

The following are some bad neutral safety switch symptoms you should look out for.

1. The Engine Does Not Crank In Park But Cranks In Neutral

The starter should be activated when the driver turns the ignition switch when either the automatic transmission or manual transmission is in the park.

However, whenever you plug in the car key to initiate a start and the car does not crank over, the problem will likely be a faulty or failed neutral safety switch located in the clutch pedal or inside the transmission. 

There could be other reasons for this, such as the faulty battery, bad starters, or other related component failures. It’s advisable to take note of these other neutral safety switch signs to verify that it is faulty.

2. Engine Does Not Crank In Neutral But Cranks In Park.

If the car does not crank in neutral but cranks in park, it could be as a result of a faulty neutral safety switch.

There may be a problem with one of the switch’s internal components, causing the switch to initiate just in park and not in neutral.

It may also be due to an electrical failure or loose switch and needs to be adjusted. If this problem is detected early enough, a certified mechanic will be able to fix it.

3. Engine Does Not Crank At all, Regardless Of The Transmission Gear.

The most regular symptom of a failed neutral safety switch as a result of an electrical fault is the inability of the engine to crank.

In such cases, power is not transferred from the neutral safety switch to the starter. This prevents the starter motor from starting the engine.

The symptom suggests a complete open electrical circuit inside the neutral safety switch, resulting from a bad relay, blown fuse, or the switch itself having an electrical problem.

4. Engine Cranks In Any Gear

If you can crank your engine while it is running, but the transmission is still in gear, this is an indication that the neutral safety switch has suffered a short circuit internally.

This is a dangerous safety hazard. It will seem almost as if your vehicle doesn’t have a neutral safety switch.

To avoid injuries or serious accidents, it is important to replace the safety switch as soon as possible.

How to Test a Neutral Safety Switch

How to Test a Neutral Safety Switch

The following steps address how you can test a neutral safety switch.

Step 1: Locate the neutral safety switch in your vehicle

Although the exact location of the neutral safety switch may differ between vehicles, the test procedure is universal.

For most cars, the neutral safety switch is located near the shift mechanism, and it will look like a cigarette lighter.

Column-shift vehicles have the switch threaded onto the side transmission near the gear shifter.

Step 2: Examine the wiring. 

Wires are connecting the switch to its starter solenoid. The switch stays open to prevent the starter from fusing to the electrical current when the transmission is in gear. 

The ignition switch can be moved to the “Start” position by moving it to the “Park” or neutral gear. This allows the current to flow towards the starter.

Refer to your vehicle’s service manual to find the wiring diagram for your particular vehicle. Then, disconnect the switch from its wiring connector.

Step 3

Place the key in the ignition and place the gear in Reverse. Do not turn the engine on. Verify that the wiring harness is still functioning. Use a 12-volt test light.

If the test light shows an illuminated bulb, it is powered, and the circuit is functioning properly. Connect the wire connector to the neutral switch.

If the test light doesn’t illuminate, check all wires for damaged or loose connections and then retest. Replace the neutral safety switch if power is not available.

This is a common replacement job that can be done at a reasonable price. It is inexpensive, and the mechanic can replace it in a short time. This will also make the labor cost affordable.

Also Read: Vehicle Control Arm – Everything You Should Know

How To Bypass A Neutral Safety Switch

Bypassing a neutral safety switch is not advisable but it isn’t difficult to do. Follow these steps to know how to bypass a neutral safety switch

  1. Find the neutral safety switch.
  2. Turn your 1/4-inch open-end wrench counterclockwise to release the lock nut.
  3. Turn the adjustment screw clockwise with your crescent wrench until it is clear of the clutch pedal.
  4. You can use your wire pliers to cut the black and the red wires coming from the switch.

For a more visual explanation, watch this video to know how to bypass a neutral safety switch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Neutral Safety Switch?

The neutral safety switch is a safety switch that allows you to start your car only when the auto transmission is in Park or Neutral. The neutral safety switch prevents the car engine from starting when it is in gear which could make it launch forward unintentionally.

Where Is The Neutral Safety Switch Located?

The neutral safety switch for an auto transmission is located in the transmission case or the linkage that allows you to shift gears. This switch stops you from starting your engine if the transmission is not in Park or Neutral.

Can a bad neutral safety switch cause shift problems

A faulty neutral safety switch can cause shift problems and more serious mechanical problems or accidents. The neutral safety switch is a part of the transmission. It prevents the car from backward roll when it’s parked.

What happens when the neutral safety switch goes bad?

If the neutral safety switch has serious electrical problems, your engine won’t crank in neutral. The switch is what the starter relay uses to receive power. The starter motor won’t crank if it doesn’t have the power it needs.

Can You Bypass A Neutral Safety Switch?

You can bypass a neutral safety switch but it is not advisable. To do this, connect the purple wire to the clutch switch. It should only be used temporarily for testing. It would be unsafe and unwise to keep it this way since it keeps the vehicle from being started unless the clutch is pressed in. If the clutch is not pressed in, the vehicle will lurch forward immediately after the ignition is turned.

Will a bad neutral safety switch cause no sparks?

The neutral safety switch will prevent you from changing gears if you aren’t in the right one. This means you won’t be able to ignite your engine’s air-fuel mixture, and your car will not start.

How much does it cost to fix a neutral safety switch?

A neutral safety switch replacement cost can range from $95 to $150. Parts cost around $50, while labor costs are between $45-100.

How long does a neutral safety switch last?

This neutral safety switch is designed to last as long as your car. This may not be possible in some cases due to damage the switch can sustain over time. The heat can cause damage to this part due to the wires in the switch.

How important is a neutral safety switch?

A neutral safety switch is an essential safety feature for all modern cars that have an automatic transmission. This is a useful safety feature that prevents your car from starting in gear and taking off unintentionally.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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