The Types and Functions of Mechanical Switches

Basically, a switch is a type of simple device that can be used to break the circuit to stop the flow of current. It can be either open or closed. When it’s in the ON position, it allows the flow of current. On the other hand, the off mode breaks the circuit. In this short article, we are going to find out about the basics of mechanical switches. Read on to find out more.

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that there are two types of switches: electronic and mechanical. In case of a mechanical switch, you need to touch, move, or press the switch in order to make it work. On the other hand, an electronic switch does not require physical contact to work. These devices use semiconductors like transmitters.

In this article, we will focus on mechanical switches. The reason is that these switches are quite commonly used in the here and now. Let’s go into details.

Mechanical Switches

These units are categorized based on the style of operation, the number of poles, and throws. Many abbreviations are used for differentiating purposes, such as DPDT, SPDT, and SPST. Let’s find out more about these terms.

POLES: Poles refer to the number of different circuits the unit can manage. In other words, one pole controls one circuit, and three poles can control three circuits.

THROWS: A single throw closes one circuit at only one position. On the other hand, double through closes it in two positions.


This type of switch is a simple type of mechanical, on-off switch. It is designed for a single circuit in order to open or close it. These units are comparatively less expensive than the other types listed below.


This type of switch features three terminals. It features double output contacts and single input contact. Therefore, it allows one OFF position and two ON positions.


This type of unit features 6 terminals, 4 output contacts and 2 input contacts. This switch is commonly used in vehicles in order to control turning indicators. When the switch is activated in the UP position, it turns on the car indicator on the front and backside in one direction.

Latching vs Momentary

This type of unit requires to be held or pressed for the repeated operation. The activity will stop as soon as the switch is released. A good example of these units is the buttons on your keyboard. On the other hand, electric switch continues to perform its function until you press it again. A common example of this device is a switch that you used to turn on or off the lights in your home.

In short, this was a simple introduction to different types of mechanical switches, their features, and applications. It is important to keep in mind that these tiny switches can be found in a lot of devices, vehicles, circuit boards, and other stuff. If you are going to buy these units, make sure you consider your purpose, application type, and budget, to name a few.