Each system on your car is controlled by a switch. The ignition and starting system are controlled by the ignition switch, your power windows and door locks are operated by switches, your heater controls have buttons and switches, and even your radio has switches on it. Each system has unique requirements, including:

  • Voltage
  • Number of positions
  • Style of switch

Replacement parts need to be very specific because each system is so unique.

Replacing regular switches with a universal switch

If you are looking for replacement switches, you will come across universal switches. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles, colors, operating voltages, and number of operating positions. Universal switches are not manufactured for a specific use, but are instead matched up specifically for the use you require. In order to shop for a universal switch, you need to know:

  • Your voltage requirement or current load
  • The size of switch you need
  • How many positions you require

If you know these items, you may be able to use a universal switch as a replacement switch in your vehicle. Often, universal switches are not an exact fit for your application and their appearance doesn’t match that of your interior or other controls. You may find that the switch is too deep to fit in the location you desire, or it does not mount in the same way as your failed switch.

Best practices for replacing switches

If you are replacing a switch in your vehicle, the best practice is to use a direct replacement switch from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) source.

If you are installing a new accessory, usually a universal switch comes with the kit. Some of these kits include:

  • Fog light kits
  • Off-road lights
  • Winch controls

These items and others usually contain their own specific universal switch. You can mount them in an accessible location at your discretion, and they are wired into your vehicle separately. These systems are not as difficult to find replacement switches for as they are usually sourced from readily-available stock.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Can My Car Use Universal Switches? and was authored by Jason Unrau.


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