Fixing Your Car's Electrical System

A car is a complex machine, requiring hundreds, if not thousands, of individual pieces and parts all working in tandem to get and keep your car running. Like most things, these parts can eventually wear out due to continuous use and old age, or break, prompting your car to stop running as it should. One of the most important components of your vehicle is its electrical system, comprised of dozens of components. Each is necessary to ensure many aspects of your car - the engine, power windows, radio, dashboard lights, turn signals, etc - are all working properly.


Everyone has the unfortunate experience of returning to your car only to find it won’t start. The likely culprit is a dead battery, which can occur for a variety of reasons. The most common, of course, is leaving your car’s headlights or dome light on, which sucks the battery away. While newer batteries can typically withstand such usage, batteries that have plenty of miles on them have a much greater chance of dying and leaving you stranded. The quickest fix is a jump start using cables and another car; however, if you noticed that the battery loses its charge quickly, the problem could be the alternator.

The alternator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy, which in turn helps power many of your car’s electrical components, such as the dashboard lights. When it comes to your battery, however, the alternator is responsible for keeping the battery charged. Therefore, if you find your battery doesn’t hold a charge for very long, then you may need to replace the alternator. If the car still doesn’t start, then the issue could be with your starter. A starter is a small motor that operates the internal combustion engine of a vehicle. If you find that your car won’t start and it’s definitely not the battery or the alternator, you may need a new starter.

A number of electrical problems can occur that are not related to these three primary electrical components. Loose wires, blown fuses, a dead ignition switch, and other myriad problems with the car’s complex circuitry may all be contributing to the electrical issue you’re experiencing, so before rushing out and buying a new battery, alternator, or starter, you should always have a qualified mechanic run proper diagnostics on the entire car’s electrical system to rule out every possible cause.

Auto electrical repair is a bit more complex and difficult than a generic oil change or tire rotation, so you should always have an expert look at the car, especially if you have no experience. A good mechanic will troubleshoot and diagnose before making any changes or charging you, and in some cases can even show you how to fix the problem in the future.

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Posted on June 7, 2012 at 9:33 AM