Modern cars have a complex array of electrical systems responsible for everything from starting the engine to powering the radio. Electrical issues are common and have become harder and harder to diagnose as vehicles get more complicated. If you suspect your car or truck is having electrical problems, there are several common areas to check. These are the six most common automotive electrical issues.
Dead Battery or Bad Cables
If your car does not start, the very first thing to check is the battery. A dead or weak battery will be unable to power the starter, leaving you stranded. An easy way to check your battery is to turn on the headlights with the engine off. If the lights are dim or do not come on, your battery may be dead. Corroded or damaged battery cables can cause the same issues as a dead battery. A visual inspection of the terminals and wires can quickly rule this problem out.
The alternator converts energy from the engine into electricity to power the electrical components in your vehicle. The alternator is also responsible for keeping the battery charged. A failing alternator can cause issues with every electrical system in your car. You may notice the radio, headlights, or power windows not working correctly. A dead battery can also be an indicator of a failing alternator.
The starter motor is responsible for cranking and starting the engine when you turn the key. If the starter motor has burned out your car will not turn over or start, you may hear a clicking noise when you turn the key, and in some cases, after prolonged attempts, the starter may smoke. A bad starter can be caused by bad wire connections, corrosion, or broken components in the starter motor itself. If you turn the key and the dash lights and headlights come on but the engine doesn’t start, the starter may be to blame. This test can rule out other electrical issues and isolate the problem to the starter motor.
The ground strap or wire is an essential component in your vehicle’s electrical system. The ground allows for excess electricity to safely escape from your car or return to its source in the event of a ground fault. A frayed or disconnected grounding wire in any of your vehicle’s electrical systems can cause a range of issues from no start conditions to dim and flickering lights. A bad ground can cause countless issues and is a good place to begin when diagnosing an electrical problem in your car.
If you notice a single component like a tail light or your radio is not working, you may have blown a fuse. A fuse protects components in a circuit by stopping the flow of electricity when too much current passes through it. Fuses are found in a fuse box, which typically contains labeling indicating which fuse belongs to which system. Visual inspection of the fuse will tell you whether or not it is blown. Excessive current will cause the metal band in the fuse to melt, breaking the connection.
Spark Plug Issues
If the wires running to your coil packs or sparkplugs are damaged, dirty, or disconnected, the engine in your car will not be getting the spark it needs to run properly. A misfire like this can lead to other issues caused by unburnt fuel, like damage to the catalytic converters. You will also see a check engine light and experience poor performance if your spark plugs are not working.
Determining the cause of an electrical issue in your vehicle can be tricky. The system is interconnected, meaning one symptom can indicate a variety of different issues. At Lake City Auto Care, we take the guesswork out of solving electrical problems. Bring your vehicle to one of our three locations and we will diagnose and fix the issue, whether it’s a blown fuse or a faulty alternator. Give us a call or schedule an appointment today!