Your car’s electrical system has several components that include the starter, alternator, the battery, battery cables and in the most modern vehicles, the computer system. The complicated nature of these components requires the use of specialized diagnostic equipment to ascertain the root cause of the underlying issues. Unlike mechanical problems where the brakes squeak and the engine rattles, electrical problems are subtle and troubleshooting the particular component that has developed problems might be difficult. To help you know what to look out for when such happens, below are signs to warn you that something with the car’s electrical system is amiss.
The car won’t start
This is probably the most common and problematic electrical issue in most cars. If your car doesn’t start, the problem can be narrowed down to either the battery, the alternator or the starter. To ascertain the case, turn the key, and if you hear a clicking noise, it means the current flow getting to the starter isn’t enough to engage due to a dead or discharged battery. If you turn the key and the interior lights turn on, but the car won’t start, then you have a problematic alternator. If you, however, hear a grinding noise during cranking, the culprit is a bad starter.
A leaking battery
Make it a habit to regularly check for corrosion stains, and acid build up around the terminals that might prevent the connectors from getting power. Such signs signify a battery that is leaking or nearing the end of its life. If the corrosion is minimal, you can remove it with a chemical cleaning solution. However, be sure to use gloves since the battery contents are corrosive and can damage bare skin.
A single lighting problem most likely needs a bulb replacement. However, if you are experiencing dim headlights and brake lights, you probably have a wiring problem or malfunctioning electrical components. Dim lights might indicate low system voltage especially if you have an old battery that is charging slowly or having trouble holding charge. Another reason could be a loose alternator belt that prevents the alternator from working efficiently and maintaining the optimal battery voltage. If you are not comfortable fixing the alternator yourself, call for a technician who will further test for faulty components in your car.
A burning smell
Does your car have ‘plastic or rubbery’ burning smell? Such smell is caused by an electrical component in your car that has shorted out. When a component shorts, it draws more power than it needs and this causes heating up and eventually melting the plastic insulation around it. It’s therefore paramount to never ignore any burning smell or smoke emanating from your car-because anything burning is a potentially dangerous issue.
Your car has dozens of electrical components that continually send power to the car system to ensure your daily commute is not interrupted. If one of these parts fails, it keeps your car from running. Be on the lookout for these common yet problematic signs that indicate potential car electrical problems. The good news is that, most electrical problems are comparatively affordable and easy to fix.