Types of Switches and How They Work

Switches are very simple components that are typically open or closed and act to interrupt or complete an electrical circuit. Some switches are self-contained and others require multiple pieces, such as an actuator, base, and contacts. The most common switches are push button, toggle, and rotary and C-Tech has you covered with a huge inventory of switches for your construction equipment. Let’s dive into the different types of switches and how they work.


First, Normally Open (NO) push button switches will not allow current to flow in its normal non-pressed state. When you press this push button, you allow the current to flow. One of the most common NO push button switches that C-Tech offers is the joystick enable switch. This switch will only allow the equipment to work if the switch is being pressed with the enable trigger. Normally Closed (NC) push button switches work the other way around. When the push button is in its normal state (not pressed), the current flows. When you press the push button, you interrupt the circuit and the current does not flow, like an emergency stop switch

Next, a toggle switch has a lever that you flip to a selected side to make the current flow to one side or the other, or to interrupt the flow of the current completely. Toggle switches, and even relays, are marked with a series of letters designating the switch’s poles and throws, such as “P” for pole, “T” for throw, “S” for single, and “D” for double. The pole represents the circuits the switch controls. For example, single throw switches have just 1 row of contacts and double pole switches have 2 rows of contacts. The throw indicates how many different output connections each switch pole can connect its input to, see how this works in the diagram below.

Switch Diagram


Finally, rotary switches have several positions that require you to rotate a knob, key, lever, or other mechanism to select a position and select a connection for the current flow. Rotary Switches are designed with a number of positions, such as 2, 3, or even 16. Key switches are a perfect example of a rotary switch at work. 

Still confused about which switch you need? Contact our experts at 877-755-7311, email us at or chat with us live on our website and we’ll guide you to the correct switch for your scissor lift, boom lift, telehandler, or small construction equipment!