Core Components of a Vehicle’s Electrical System

The electrical system of every vehicle is made up of four primary components. These parts include the battery, alternator, starter, and connectors. While a malfunction in any of these components can render a vehicle useless, there are some common problems that everyone should be aware of. Having a basic level of understanding relating to these problems could save you a trip to your local auto electrician.

The battery is the heart and soul of every vehicle. Without a functional battery, an automobile would not be able to store the electricity it needs in order to start and continue running. The point here is that a vehicle is completely useless without a battery that is operating well. If you have ever hopped in your car and turned the ignition switch only to find that the car does not respond at all then you have probably been the victim of a dead battery.

A dead battery can result from a variety of causes that everyone should be familiar with. First, a battery could have an internal malfunction that has occurred as a result of faulty production or because the battery has simply gotten old. In this case, the battery simply needs to be replaced. If you have a voltmeter, then you can quickly assess if the battery is maintaining a charge by placing the probes on the positive and negative leads. A healthy battery should have a charge of 10 to 12 volts.

When evaluating the battery, it is important to remember that many electrical malfunctions are caused by a problem with connecting wires. Before checking the charge in the battery, be sure to confirm that the connecting leads are secure and free of corrosion. A loose connection or a corroded wire could be the source of your dead battery. This makes for an easy repair and money saved.

Another reason the battery may have died is because of a faulty alternator. The alternator’s job is to maintain the electrical charge while the vehicle is operational. If the alternator is not functioning correctly, then the battery will lose its charge and will eventually die. Common signs of a deteriorating alternator are light dimming and stalling while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. A voltmeter attached to the battery should read 12 to 14 volts while the vehicle is running if the alternator is working properly.

If your electrical system problem relates to an accessory such as a car stereo or is isolated to a series of lights then you may have a fuse that has been blown. Using your vehicle manual, you can easily locate the source of the problem in the fuse compartment and replace the bad fuse with a new one of equal amperage. This process should correct the problem for very low cost. If the new fuse burns out quickly, then you likely have a bigger problem on your hands that should be evaluated by your local auto electrician.

The common electrical problems discussed here can typically be assessed and repaired by the average consumer for very low cost. If you suspect that the malfunction involves anything more complex than the battery, the alternator, or a fuse, then you are probably better off seeking assistance from an expert. Attempting to repair a complex electrical problem on your own can lead to more damage and can end up costing a lot of money.