What Happens If You Hold The Ignition Too Long?

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Am I gradually damaging my engine if I leave the ignition on for too long? Well, it depends on the type of car you drive and how often you do this.

There is no reason to put or leave the car in “ignition” while the engine is started already. However, there’s need to know what happens if you hold the ignition too long.

In this article, we are going to touch several aspects regarding “ignition” and “starting a car.” Just sit tight and read up.

First, lets’ look at what happens if you hold the ignition too long!

What Happens If You Hold The Ignition Too Long?

What Happens If You Hold The Ignition Too much

When you leave the key in the “Start” position for some time, even after the engine has started, you will not likely damage any system in the car.

However, this action affects the “starter motor,” which houses a mechanical overrunning clutch that transmits torque in a single direction.

This clutch that passes torque in one direction powers the motor to start your engine by rotating the flywheel. Thus, when the car is left on “start” or “ignition” for some time, the “starter motor” keeps getting charged/power to spin freely, and if held too long, the motor might overheat.

Also, it is important to note that the moment you turn your car key to “start,” a gear pushes forth to meet the teeth on the outer ring of the flywheel; this move is to spin the flywheel.

Thus, after the car is started and you still hold the key in “start,” the gear that moved to the flywheel’s teeth will keep engaging, and this is bad.

While the gear keeps engaging, it can possibly damage its teeth or that of the flywheel. Simply put, there’d be a little bit of commotion when the ignition is on for a long time. You will hear a cracking sound for this action.

So, when you hold the ignition too long, you are simply inviting severe damage that could cost you a lot of money. The damage could be on your flywheel, solenoid, the gear, or any other component around the starter motor bay.

However, in some modern cars (equipped with electronic ignition and fuel injection), this action won’t cause any known harm to the vehicle.

Things to note and watch out for

  • When you start to hear a cranking sound, turn off the car, and you turn it back on, do not leave it at ignition for too long.
  • Flywheel costs very high. If the teeth are broken, you will have to replace the flywheel entirely.
  • Most car manuals suggest that you leave the key at “start” for a maximum of 10 seconds. When you frequently ignore this time limit, it may cause serious damage over time.


Just as leaving your car too long without starting it can be dangerous, leaving the car in “ignition” for too long is dangerous, too. Here, we have explained what happens if you hold the ignition too long.

If this is not something you frequently do, then it’s not a problem, but if you frequently do this, it’s obvious that you’re calling on potential expensive damages. Always be careful how you run your car engine; it is your car’s powerhouse and should be utilized cautiously.

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