How an Electrical System Works
The number of electrical components offered on today's vehicle is staggering. One of the most important components of an electrical system is the battery. The electrical system starts and stops with the battery. From the battery the engine utilizes electricity necessary to start the vehicle. While the vehicle is operating the electrical system is energized and recharged by the alternator that is powered by the engine.There are dozens of electrical components related to the electrical system, most include one or more of the following: alternator, battery, fuse, switch, relay, computer PCM, fusible link, wire, and electrical connectors. Any combination of these components is necessary to route power to the desired accessory. Each vehicle has several fuses that are necessary to safe guard electrical circuits. A fuse is designed to break stopping the voltage flow in the event of a power overload or short circuit. When troubleshooting an electrical problem start with the battery. By using a volt meter determine if your battery has enough voltage to operate the electrical system.
Battery VoltageComplications can occur if there is a loose connection somewhere in the system. While this condition is not a shorted circuit problem this condition simply breaks the flow of electricity. To troubleshoot this problem consult a repair manual to locate the wiring schematic for your car. Repair the broken connection as needed and recheck system. The battery voltage should read between 12.6 and 12.4 volts, if not recharge or replace the battery. Next check all system fuses to determine that none of them have blown. If a blown fuse is discovered replace it with a new unit. Always replace fuses with the manufactures recommended amperage. If the new fuse blows immediately you have a shorted circuit somewhere in that wiring system. Then troubleshoot the system by inspecting the wiring harness and accessories, repair as needed and recheck system.
Other complications can occur if there is a loose connection somewhere in the system. While this condition is not a shorted circuit problem this condition simply breaks the flow of electricity. To troubleshoot this problem consult a repair manual to locate the wiring schematic for your car. Repair the broken connection as needed and recheck system. Electrical problems are less complicated when the proper information is available. If technical assistance is needed ask our team of certified technicians to ask a repair question.Electrical connectors are a vital part of every vehicle on the road today. Electrical or wire connectors vary from a single connector to many wires depending on the application. The exact type of connector used on the vehicle will depend on the duty of the connector. For example, wire and connectors that carry reduced amps tend to be small, while those connectors that are handling heavy loads tend to be much larger. Connectors can snap together, slide together, and simply clip together; there are numerous types of connectors available. The range of options available is dramatic. All power accessory systems use connectors for example: radio, antenna, power window and even the alternator all use various forms of connectors. Most of the electrical connectors are designed and constructed from plastic with small metal components inside which transfer electrical power from one wire to another.The wiring system in a vehicle has developed into an elaborate system of wires and wiring harnesses. The key to understanding and diagnosing electrical problems is to study a wiring schematic. Think of wiring as a little highway that delivers electricity to a particular component. Use a wiring diagram to follow the flow by using a test light. Intermittent failures can be difficult to diagnose, but with a little persistence the problem can be detected and repaired. A car wiring system is made up of many smaller systems that can communicate with each other when needed.
The primary purpose of an electrical fuse is to help protect a circuit from damage in the event of a short. A fuse is designed to break, stopping the voltage flow in the event of a power overload or short circuit. Each vehicle has several fuses that are necessary to safe guard electrical circuits.
Additionally it is very important to note that many electrical problems can cause a fuse under the dashboard to blow which will require the fuses to be replaced in order to actually fully repair the electrical problem. Without replacing the electrical fuses, you are not going to be able to determine fully if the electrical problem is corrected. Often if the problem is corrected it will not blow any additional fuses, however if the electrical problem is not fully solved it is highly likely to still blow several more fuses in the process. The most common cause of a short tends to be when a piece of wire has a small exposed area that is bare.
This piece of bare wire can often rub against metal and create issues for the electrical system because of the sudden surge in electrical current. While there can be numerous causes for a blown fuse, the majority of the causes of a blown fuse tend to be quite simple to repair. Once the failed wire is located the solution usually takes only a few moments to correct. Usually something as simple as repairing a bare wire. Looking under the hood on occasions for bare wires can also help. Anything that looks bare, or appears to be losing its insulated coating should be thoroughly taped with electrical tape to help ensure that the wire does not start causing problems with your fuse system or other electrical components. Avoiding proper maintenance on your car, no matter how simple can result in costly repairs.MaintenanceCommon maintenance suggests inspecting electrical connectors that are visible. Broken connectors are not common but possible, especially in older vehicles due to aging plastic the connector is made from. Connectors that are inspected can spare much aggravation and prevent malfunctions of equipment in the vehicle. To keep your vehicle in top running condition perform a battery check as part of a regular maintenance program. Other electrical components should be checked periodically to confirm proper operation. Battery terminals can develop corrosion due to the flow of ions, because of this cleaning is necessary to remedy this condition. If this condition is left untreated it can hinder a full connection from the battery to the cables. This can often result in the vehicle acting as if the battery is dead, when in actuality it is unable to pull sufficient power from the battery due to a corroded connection.Common Problems and SolutionsThe most common problem that can occur with a connector is a short circuit. This condition occurs when a wire close to the connector breaks or high resistance is present inside the connector itself. It is also possible for a connector to overheat and melt, this occurs when high amperage or resistance is present. If a connector within your vehicle has melted, turn the key off, disconnect the battery, repair or replace the connector as needed and recheck system. One problem that is quite common with connectors is the safety clip that holds connectors together can break.There might be some circumstances when electrical tape is needed to hold the connectors together. Determining which solution is best for your situation and on how tightly the connector fits together. Another common problem is when a connector comes loose. This is one of the easiest problems to correct because it just involves pressing the connectors back together. Carefully pressing the ends together should allow the connector to snap into place.
If further assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready to answer your car questions.Related Car Repair Information