Auto electric problems can be invisible. Unlike a broken bolt or leak, they often are not seen or heard. Late-model vehicles are packed with a network of several computers connected to just about everything. Do you suspect your car, truck or van has an electrical problem? Whether it’s the starter motor, lights, alternator or accessories, skilled troubleshooting is vital because of the complexity of a vehicle’s electrical system.
Auto Electric Problems Starting Up
When turning the key to start your vehicle, if nothing happens or you hear a single click, most likely the problem is the battery. But it could also be due to a failed starter motor or starter solenoid. If the engine turns over normally but never starts, most likely that’s a fuel or ignition system problem.
Car Battery Electrical Problems
When properly maintained, most car batteries last 3 to 7 years. A clue that it’s time for a new battery is when your headlights dim while stopped or driving slowly. Sometimes you won’t know your battery needs to be replaced until the starter motor turns the engine over slowly or won’t turn it at all.
A good auto electric shop can perform a visual inspection and load-test to determine the problem. If your battery is older, a quick battery check up before a road trip is a good idea, especially if the weather is cold. An engine needs more power to crank in the cold, while at the same time batteries have lower output at lower temperatures.
Most vehicles today use electronic ignition, with timing controlled by one of the power-train computer modules. Some vehicles still use the old-style ignition system of coil, distributor, and spark plugs. Although the plugs remain in the newer systems, they provide greater power and fuel economy.
If your engine is misfiring, idling roughly or has lost some power it may be overdue for new spark plugs, or it could be an electronics problem. Old spark-plug wires can cause similar problems due to the extremely high voltages involved.
A faulty alternator can produce similar symptoms to an old battery. The alternator generates electricity while the engine is running to recharge the battery and to meet all the other electrical needs of the vehicle. Problems in the charge controller which is now usually part of the on-board computers can cause the same symptoms.
Most vehicles have numerous – often a dozen or more – computer chips connected to sensors spread throughout the entire vehicle. They control just about everything in the engine, transmission, emission controls, cooling system and accessories. Besides improving performance while reducing emissions, they also control the dashboard warning lights which send out codes to a mechanic identifying the exact nature of many problems. These can be very beneficial, but the electrical network itself can have faults. It take sophisticated test instruments and more than a little experience to determine exactly what’s wrong.
Auto Electric Accessories
Your vehicle’s electrical system includes countless other features and functions. Air conditioning and heater fans, brake lights, headlights, defrosters, dashboard lights and gauges, power windows, electronic door locks, turn signals, power windows, radio and CD players are all part of the electric system. So are amenities found in luxury vehicles like seat warmers and self-adjusting suspensions.
Pacific Automotive for All Your Auto Electric Needs
To find a shop that is skilled in troubleshooting, you’ll want to go where there is an electrical and electronics diagnostics expert. They should have up-to-date test equipment and access to the latest manufacturers’ data. And of course they should also be well-trained and have extensive hands-on experience.
At Pacific Auto, our ASE-certified master mechanics have been in business satisfying customers for over 20 years. Conveniently located just off the 5 freeway near La Jolla, it’s easy to stop by or call us for an appointment.