Auto Electrical Maintenance Guide
Fun fact: cars and computers are fairly similar systems. They both overheat, they are both complex integrations of multiple systems (at vastly different scales), and they’re both a pain to repair sometimes. And when it comes to electric systems in automobiles, you get everything from both sides… and then some…
It takes a special set of skills and purpose-built tools to diagnose and repair electrical systems in a car or truck. Today we’re gonna talk about some of the steps in that process. We can’t honestly suggest you do your own electric work on your car due to the wide variety of important things you can break, but with this guide at least you’ll have a better footing when it comes to finding a good auto electrician.
Signs Electrical System Went Wonky
Manifestations of problems caused by or effecting the electric system express themselves in many different ways, but usually share some common similarities including:
Examples: radio front panel LED is turning on and off; headlights are blinking or strobing; audio is stuttering or cutting out for long period; rear lights turn on and off rapidly.
Systems won’t power consistently, or at all
Examples: car won’t start, radio won’t turn on, headlights won’t come on, can’t roll up windows or pop trunk or use windshield wipers.
Erratic and otherwise unexplainable behavior
Examples: radio keeps losing or changing stations, phone keeps dying even though it shows as charging, USB cables and other accessories don’t work correctly when plugged in to the car, popping or hissing over audio feeds.
At the absolute, unlikely extreme, you may even see, hear or perhaps even smell the result of the electric system sparking due to poor grounding or an electrical short. That kind of risk of fire is why we don’t suggest unqualified electrical system service (call us instead!)
How We Diagnose Electrical Problems
The auto tech’s toolset for electrical problems is vast and varied and changes for every make of vehicle, and sometimes even across models. It’s not cheap to be ready for every job, yet we try our best at Tedious Repairs. Some of our tools and methods include:
An electrician’s sixshooter, we use voltmeters to check power draw at load points through the electrical system. No draw, too little draw, or excessive draw are different problems that sometimes require different solutions, and once we know what we’re dealing with, it’s easier to suss out where it’s probably coming from. For more information on diagnosing electrical problems in automobiles using a voltmeter, check out this article from AA1Car.com: https://www.aa1car.com/library/tselec.htm
We use a variety of brand-specific and job-based computer systems that we attach to your vehicle in order to pull diagnostic data from the car’s CPU memory, when that’s available (most modern automobiles). We look for variances in the data and check to see if they’re outside of manufacturer’s specifications to help us further characterize the problem.
Look, we’ll be honest. A lot of the time it’s just a quick and easy battery replacement, frayed bad wiring, or a cheap alternator replacement and that’s that. If you need a battery replacement- something you should do about every 3 years- just give us a call at (530) 826-4275. For other parts and diagnostics, give us a call and we’ll setup a diagnostic appointment to suss it out.
Time for Electrical System Service?
We love giving helpful advice on how to solve your own auto repair problems, but the electric system is something a trained auto electrician or auto technician should handle. There’s a reasonable risk of harming electronic components and causing expensive damage, or even a very small chance of fire. Please do not risk it.
If you need help with your car or truck electrical system, please get in touch using the contact information below. You can call, text, or schedule and appointment online, whatever works for you. And check in next week for more posts about auto repair and other fun car stuff.
Thanks again for reading. Until next time
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