All cars these days have auto electrical systems, regular vehicle maintenance looks at issues with the electrics as much as the physical components of the car.
Auto electrics power some fundamental parts of the vehicle such as the starter motor, the indicators and the lights. Other components include the door locking system and the power windows, the windscreen wipers and any fancy automatic features such as seat controls, auto rain detection, rear view cameras and more.
Auto electric issues can often be more difficult to diagnose, so our advice is to be familiar with the electrical system of your vehicle to help give your mechanic clues about what may be the issue.
Here are some auto electrical diagnosis tips for the most common problems.
The Battery vs. the Alternator
The average lifespan of a car battery is 3 years. If you’re having issues sooner, have your alternator checked or investigate the connections in the electrical control unit, as they may have been disabled.
Bear in mind that heat and also driving style have an effect on the life of your car battery, so that is the best place to start if you are having issues in the heat or after some intense driving. Check too that all cables are connected correctly. If you aren’t sure, see your mechanic.
The alternator is the part that charges your battery and keeps your car running. However if your car is ticking over but not starting, you may have an alternator problem. If this is the case, you may also notice that your lights and radio aren’t working.
If your battery is new or has recently been replaced, the alternator is most likely to blame.
Blown fuses can be a common cause of electrics not working in your car. Headlights and electric windows are often the victims of fuse issues.
The good news is that a blown fuse is easy to identify and replace, and it is not an overly expensive repair either. A broken fuse will have the thin stand of metal that passes between the two sides of the fuse broken. That means it is blown. When replacing a fuse, make sure you replace it with the same amp rating. This is the amount of energy that can pass through the fuse. To make things easier, this will be colour coded.
Low voltage is caused by a connection issue or by improper grounding. You will notice that your headlights may be dimmer than usual, or the car may be starting slower than it normally would.
Causes of low voltage are generally due to broken or corroded wires. Having a mechanic do the testing is recommended as it can be difficult to pinpoint where the issue is within the electrical system of your car. Your mechanic can run a voltage test to diagnose the issue.
Loose or broken ground circuit connections can often cause the whole system to shut down. Wires can get loose from heat, general ware and vibration.
Your car’s body is the ‘ground’ and needs to connect each part of your vehicle’s system to the battery. Each component is connected via the grounding system. To fix the problem, check all of the car’s wires and tighten where needed, but as always it is recommended that you have your reputable repairer do this for you safety.
Good and regular maintenance can be the answer to prolonging the life of your starter motor. The starter motor’s health is vital to your car as it does what the name says…it starts your car.
You can hear whether it is the starter motor that is the problem with your car. The sounds to listen for are buzzing, clicking, whirring and grinding.
If you hear any of these check first that you do not have a loose mounting bolt in your engine. Also check the battery for corroded terminals and do a battery test to check that the battery isn’t the issue.
And as always, we recommend that you take your car to the mechanic at the earliest possible sign of problems. At the least we can diagnose the issue and let you know what that means in terms of repairs, time frames and costs, and best of all, you defer a complete breakdown and a pricey fix.