How to identify and resolve electrical issues with the car.

Electrical issues with the car can be identified before the appliances start failing. Cars depend on proper conduction of electric current for the most basic functions like starting the engine.

People always suspect a faulty car battery whenever the car won’t start. But the problem could be originating from other areas of the electrical system. When its a faulty battery the starter or ignition switch will be clicking but the engine won’t turn over.

You can test the battery voltage using a multimeter device. If you don’t have such a device, just put on the headlights when the engine is off. Then, start the engine and see if the headlight’s brightness changes. If it changes, the battery is faulty.

However, depending on the type of headlight bulbs you have, them becoming dim could be caused by something other than a low battery. In fact, if you have undertaken vehicle lighting modifications recently, this could be using extra electric current that would go to the headlights.

Installing a voltage regulator alongside an extra new car battery in this situation would be the best option. Issues within the electrical system revolves around the car battery, its charging system, electric connections and inputs that use the electric current.

Table of Contents

How do I know if my car has an electrical problem?

Your vehicle will give you signs that there is an issue with the electrical system and appliances. For example, an engine misfire could be an indication that something is wrong with the spark plugs.

Soot tends to accumulate around the spark plugs over time. Therefore, cleaning it would resolve the issue. However, if that won’t work, you may need a replacement.

a]. Fuses keep blowing up.

Fuse box Car electrical problems

The fuse box provides a balance of electric current being transferred to different electric appliances. When there is a surge in the electric current uptake by the electric appliances, the fuse box acts as a circuit breaker.

Therefore, the fuse box will prevent damage of the appliances. Alternatively, some manufacturers install a voltage regulator to work alongside the fuse box. The voltage regulator is built into the engine control unit (ECU).

If a single fuse blows multiple times or a number of other fuses blow at the same time, there is an electrical system issue. You will have to investigate the problem. Therefore electric current will not reach some appliances.

The fuse box protects electronic system components when the battery and alternator transfers high voltage to the systems. This excess electric current causes the fuse to melt as it tries to brake the circuit.

Replacing a blown fuse within a short period is a red flag. Get a professional to investigate and correct the situation. Further, let the professional install a voltage regulator for more precaution.

b]. Dim light from headlights and other lights.

Dim Headlights

The car’s lights are appliances that rely on electric current from the battery when the engine is off and from the alternator when the engine is running. The entire vehicle lighting system facilitates visibility.

However, leaving either of the lights on for a long time when the engine is off is one of the reasons why a car battery dies. Because the lights will drain all the car battery charge and you won’t be able to start your car.

Often times when the electric system malfunctions, the car’s lights do not work. Alternatively, if they happen to be working, they will totally dim.

This is a sign of insufficient voltage from the car’s electrical system power supply. You will need to investigate the alternator, battery or the car’s electric wiring harness. It is advisable to investigate this immediately because it could leave you stranded on the road.

c]. Engine doesn’t crank.

Old engine car consumes more fuel

There is a difference between when the engine cranks loudly and when there is a clicking sound. Further, if there is a grinding sound accompanying the engine cranking, the starter motor is faulty. However, cranking is caused by faulty spark plugs. Further, clicking is caused by a dead battery.

The process of starting a car engine doesn’t start at the ignition switch. Electric current moves from the car battery to the primary coil which has a secondary coil wound around it.

Afterwards, it creates a magnetic field around the iron core and induces high voltage to the secondary core. Next, the secondary core (which connects to the spark plugs) transfers the high voltage to the spark plugs.

Afterwards, the spark plugs ignites the fuel and air mixture within the engine cylinders. Some manufacturers install one coil for each spark plug.

As soon as the engine starts, the alternator takes over the role of supplying electric current. It recharges the battery to compensate for the volts used during the engine start.

An engine that takes time to start and the ignition is only clicking shows a sign of a bad car battery. A car battery lifetime could be up to 5 years.

If your car battery isn’t that old and it keeps dying, investigate your electrical system components. Afterwards, if you find no fault within the electrical system components, it means that it is car battery replacement time.

d]. Burning plastic smell.

If your sense of smell suggests that something is burning, cease operating the vehicle immediately. The smell could be an oil leakage symptom. Perhaps other engine fluids are leaking or a faulty electrical system component. For example a burning fuse.

So, how do you know that the smell is coming from electric system malfunctions? First examine whether this problem is coupled with other recent issues with the electric system components.

Afterwards investigate the electric system wiring because the smell could be coming from an overheating wire that is burning its insulation. If you can’t locate the problem, have the car towed to a service station for professional investigation. Driving while in this condition could cause extensive damage to the vehicle.

e]. Check the windshield wipers.

Car Windshield Wipers Windshield Driving Raining

When you’re having electrical issues, the windshield wipers usually move slower than usual or they don’t move at all. The engine is usually running during this occasion.

If the wipers aren’t working, it is a sign that electric current is not being sufficiently supplied within the electrical system. It could suggest a problem with the alternator, wiring or the fuse box.

However, you can conduct the wipers test when the engine is off. It will confirm that something is wrong with the car battery.

What are the common electrical problems on a car?

Standing in front of an open car hood diagnosing car electric issues

You will need to identify the source of the electrical problem after observing any of the signs that are listed above.

a]. Check the battery.

Pop the car hood and locate the battery. Examine the battery terminals to ensure that they are properly fastened in place. Further, ensure that there is no corrosion on the terminals.

Corrosion usually comes from the interaction of battery acid with air and dirt particles. It prevents proper conduction of electric current from the battery.

Therefore, start by disconnecting the car battery terminals. Afterwards, use a tough bristle brush and a solution of water and baking soda to clean the terminal. Then reconnect them again.

Further, ensure that the battery cables are in a good condition. If any of them is worn out, you will have to replace them.

Why is my car having no power but it has a new battery?

There are many reasons for a dead car battery. In fact, this is the number one suspect when a car won’t start. However this is not a common occurrence when you’ve just bought a new car battery.

Therefore, why is your car having no power to start the engine but it has a new battery? There are a number of things that could lead to car power loss when having a new battery.

i]. Faulty alternator.

According to this article by Wikipedia, the alternator is an electric generator in modern vehicles that charges the car battery and powers electrical appliances when the engine is running.

However, a faulty alternator will fail in its sole purpose. Therefore, it will cause the total car battery voltage to be used up completely.

ii]. Car starter problem.

The vehicle’s starter motor is a device whose main function is to initiate an internal combustion engine’s operation under its own power.

If the starter fails, then the car will have no power yet it has a new battery. In order to rule out a problematic starter, check its condition at the starter solenoid.

iii]. Faulty ground connections.

Vehicle ground connections refer to all the electrical system connections whose voltage comes from the car battery negative terminal. The voltage moves within a connection that passes via the engine, chassis or the car battery itself.

iv]. Issues within the fuel system.

This is one of the reasons why there is a loss of power when accelerating. There are a number of parts that make up the vehicle fuel system. They are inclusive of fuel injector, fuel filter and fuel pump.

Any issue within the fuel system is likely to cause reduced engine power or increased vehicle fuel consumption. It doesn’t matter if you have a new battery, the fuel system is equally important in power production.

b]. Check the fuse box.

Incase there is a melted fuse, it means there is a broken circuit. Therefore, locate your vehicle’s fuse box and assess the condition of the fuses. Ensure that they are in a good condition.

Further, check the wiring that move from the fuse box to the electrical appliances. If any of these wires is severed, make sure that you reconnect them.

What damages a car fuse box?

There are a number of things that can cause car electrical problems to originate from the fuse box. These are inclusive of the following;

i] Corrosion.

This happens when the fuse box has been exposed to a high quantity of moisture. This will cause rusting and corrosion to take place on the metallic parts of the fuse box.

Therefore, take care of the fuse box when you’re washing your car. Once you locate the fuse box, you can install protective material around it.

ii]. Power overload.

The fuses within a fuse box draw power before transferring it to the appropriate electrical appliance. Therefore, if the fuses draw too much power, it causes damage to the wiring as well as the fuses.

iii]. Problematic wiring.

Electric current travels through the wires from current sources like the car battery and the alternator. Proper wiring is essential for the current to reach its intended destination. However, faulty wiring leads to a short circuit which may damage the fuse box.

iv]. High force from direct physical impact.

This is highly unlikely due to the placement of the vehicle fuse box. However, incase there is an accident, there can be direct physical impact to the fuse box which can lead to damage of the fuse box.

c]. Defective Diode.

The diode is an electric component that ensures electric current flows in one direction and it blocks it from flowing in the other direction. You will find it around the alternator, voltage regulator and ignition coils.

It works alongside the fuse box to facilitate proper electric current flow. Examine the diode to ensure that it is in a good condition.

Otherwise, a defective diode will cause electrical issues with the car. For example, charging system problems, ignition system issues, dimming lights and weak car battery.

d]. Check the wiring harness.

Wiring harness refers to the layout of wire interconnections that run through out the vehicle’s electric system. Common problems that face the wiring harness include;

  • Corrosion.
  • Disconnection.
  • Damage to the wire’s plastic insulation.

Look out for these issues and take the appropriate action incase any of them is present.

e]. Malfunctioning relay.

A relay is an electrical system component that attaches to various parts within the electrical system appliances. For example, air conditioning, starter, automatic power windows or fuel pump.

It is activated on command when you hit a switch. Alternatively, it could be activated automatically by the engine control module.

When there is a malfunctioning relay, it will cause a failure of the electrical system components onto which it facilitates operation. Look out for the following signs of a malfunctioning relay;

  • Clicking sound. This sound is a result of the relay attempting to activate.
  • Intermittent malfunctions. The electrical system appliance alternates between functioning and failing.

What causes electrical problems in cars?

In order to effectively diagnose the electrical issue that your car has, it’s important to know where the problem originates. Though it’s a tough task to correctly diagnose the electric problem when you’re not a professional. There are some common causes of electric issues in cars. These are;

  • Alternator.
  • Battery.
  • Fuses.
  • Car electric wiring.
  • Ignition coil.
  • Spark Plug.
  • Defective diode.
  • Malfunctioning relays.

1. Alternator.

An alternator is part of the vehicle’s charging system and it operates when the engine is running. A system of pulleys and belts connect it to the vehicle engine crankshaft.

The main function of the alternator is to charge the car battery. This is possible because it spins to generate electricity and then sends the electricity to the car battery.

Electrical problems caused by a faulty alternator.

Whenever the alternator is not fully functional, it leads to the following electrical problems;

  • Dead car battery that causes the car not to start.
  • Dim vehicle lighting system.
  • Vehicle engine misfire during starting and stalling while on the journey.
  • Vehicle electric system short circuit.

2. Ignition coil.

The ignition coil is an internal combustion engine part that transfers electric current from the car battery to the spark plug. This is in order to start the combustion of fuel and air mixture for the engine to get power.

Therefore, we have established that the ignition coil is part of the vehicle’s electric system. Therefore there are some electrical system issues that can stem from a faulty ignition coil.

What are the symptoms of a bad ignition coil?

These are some of the things that can point you to a conclusion that the electrical problems with the car come from a faulty ignition coil.

  • Car won’t start.
  • Engine misfires during ignition.
  • An increase in vehicle fuel consumption.
  • Vehicle stalling while you’re driving as the engine turns off abruptly.
  • The check engine dashboard warning light shows up.

3. Spark plug.

Spark plugs are found within internal combustion engines. Their main function is to ignite the air and fuel mixture within the combustion chamber in order to produce power for the engine.

Can spark plug cause loss of power?

Yes, a faulty spark plug can lead to loss of power. Incase there is a problem with the spark plug, the fuel and air mixture will not burn accordingly. In fact, the vehicle engine may fail to start entirely.

Since the spark plug initiates the process that generates power for the engine to accelerate, if it is faulty this power production will be affected. You will notice that you’re pressing the accelerator but the vehicle isn’t increasing its speed.

Further, a faulty spark plug causes the engine to misfire during ignition. Additionally, it leads to an increase in fuel consumption. A faulty spark plug also causes the engine to turn off while you’re in the middle of your journey.

What are the symptoms of a bad spark plug?

Vehicle engine performance largely depends on a fully functional spark plug. Therefore, it is important for you to be aware of some of the symptoms of a bad spark plug. They are inclusive of the following;

  • Engine misfire.
  • Constant engine cranking without turning over.
  • Rough vehicle idle and stalling.
  • Reduced engine power and performance.
  • More fuel consumption.

How do I know if my spark plugs are misfiring?

If your spark plug is misfiring, then there are some symptoms that you can look out for. Ensure that a professional looks into the problem when you notice the following things.

  • Rough idling.
  • Slower than usual vehicle acceleration rate.
  • An increase in fuel consumption such that distance coverage reduces in relation to the fuel being used.
  • Engine backfiring when it produces a loud pop sound.
  • Check engine light shows up on the dashboard.

How do you know if spark plugs are bad without removing them?

There are a few things that can let you know if the spark plugs are bad without removing them. Most of them are seen within this article. They are inclusive of the following symptoms of a bad spark plug.

  • The smell of gasoline when the engine is running and for a while after you switch it off.
  • Engine noises like clunking, knocking and popping sounds.
  • Continuous engine cranking and failure of the engine to turn over when you try to start it.
  • Poor fuel economy.
  • Reduced vehicle acceleration power and poor engine performance.

How often should you change your spark plugs?

Spark plugs are made to last for a prolonged period of time. But they tend to face challenges such as soot accumulation over time which reduces their effectiveness.

Some car manufacturers recommend that you change your spark plugs between 30 thousand and a hundred thousand miles. However, you can consult your owners manual or visit a qualified mechanic to get an estimate of when it’s appropriate to change your vehicle’s spark plugs.

Is it safe to drive a car with electrical problems?

Driving a car with electrical problems isn’t safe at all. That’s because these electric problems lead to safety concerns that make the vehicle unreliable.

For example, vehicle stalling while you’re on journey may cause an accident. Additionally, loss of engine power will cause the vehicle to move slower than usual.

Other electrical problem concerns are inclusive of sensor malfunctions which affect the braking and steering systems. Therefore, these further raise safety concerns for a driver.

When you notice that your vehicle has electrical problems then get a professional’s input. Because driving the vehicle while it’s in that state will lead to further damage alongside safety concerns.

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