ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

Modern cars are highly reliant on electrical systems to function properly. The alternator, battery, and other electrical and electronic systems control much of the functionality of your car – and if they begin to fail, you may experience a wide variety of issues. By being proactive with routine maintenance inspections you can save time and money in the long run.

 

Winter And Your Battery

Winter puts more stress on your battery, particularly if you park your car outdoors. Avoid the sinking feeling of hearing nothing when you hit the ignition with a proactive check of your battery and charging system now. If you’re battery is over 6 years old chances are it’s past its prime and could leave you stranded. Better to replace it at your convenience, instead of being at the mercy of whatever shop your dead car’s been towed to.

Cold weather slows everything down, especially the chemical reaction happening inside your car battery. In fact, at 0°C, a car's battery loses about 35% of its strength and at -17°C, it loses up to 60% of its strength—but your engine requires nearly twice as much power to start!

By having your battery tested or replaced as part of a routine electrical system maintenance inspection you can avoid a potential no-start situation.

The Engine Won’t Crank Properly

The engine requires electrical power to start. Through the ignition switch, the battery has to provide the spark through a spark plug that ignites the fuel in your engine. If your engine won’t crank properly, this could be a sign of a bad battery, alternator, or another unrelated electrical problem.

The alternator of the car must work well with your battery to charge the vehicle’s electrical system. A bad alternator surely affects your car in many ways.

The most common issue you’ll have is “clicking” when you turn the key and attempt to start our car. This means that there is not enough current flow in the system to engage the engine. Usually, this is caused by a discharged or bad battery, but your starter could also be the source of the issue.

The starter motor should turn the engine over during ignition and allow everything else to happen. The starter motor allows the engine to suck air when the ignition is turned on.

If you hear a “grinding” noise during cranking, this could be because of a bad starter, or a faulty flywheel ring gear. If your car is older and has high mileage, there is a good chance that there is a fault in an electrical system. If these cases are persisting, then an electrical diagnosis is highly recommended. Scheduled maintenance is also advised to make your car stay in good condition.

Main Components

The Battery

Car batteries are responsible for the entire electrical current running your vehicle—the current to the ignition as well as the fuel system. Your fuel system is responsible for creating the combustion necessary for your engine to function.

Changing your battery every 5 years before you have problems will significantly decrease your risk of a breakdown, too.

The Alternator

As the engine is running, the alternator keeps the battery charged, and your electrical system powered. It is possible to start your car with a faulty alternator. However, it won’t be able to run for an extended period. In case your car’s alternator is faulty, your vehicle’s performance will be erratic. Due to a lack of power, the battery will discharge, and as a result, the engine will lose power. Scheduling a complete electrical system repair service with your local mechanic will tell you whether your alternator is generating the proper amount of voltage and current. This way, you are aware of the problem before the alternator finally fails.T

The Starter

The car battery is responsible for supplying power to start up your engine; the starter, on the other hand, gets the engine turning. Your car battery supplies a small amount of power to the starter motor. The starter, in turn, rotates the flywheel, turning the crankshaft triggering engine piston movement. It is due to this complex process that it is important to ensure that your starter works.

You’re Experiencing Battery Problems

If you are believe you're experiencing issues with your battery, don’t just replace it without checking the car’s electrical systems. Most car batteries last about 5 years – less in hot climates – so a dead battery or a faulty battery could be a problem but verifying the rest of the electricla system is functioning properly will ensure your battery will last.

If you think your battery is at fault, start by checking your battery cables for corrosion, and ensure they’re fitted properly because they are the main source of power to the car’s electronic systems. If your battery is in good condition and is confirmed to be working properly, your issue likely lies elsewhere.

By performing an AVR Electrical system test a technician can properly diagnose potential issues. AVR stands for “alternator voltage regulator. With the right equipment, a tech can apply a measured electrical load to the battery and monitor the results. He or she can also display the output of the alternator and the amount of power the starter draws when engaged.

Headlights And Other Lights Are Not Working Properly

Your car’s lights are one of the most important things that your electrical system controls. Turn signals, brake lights, and headlights keep you safe on the road, and interior illumination and lamps ensure that you can see what you need to in dark conditions.

If your car’s electrical system is malfunctioning, you may notice that various lights start to dim. Dimming lights indicate charging malfunctions and low system voltage. The culprit could be a dying battery, loose wires, or a malfunctioning alternator belt.

If the check engine light of your dashboard lights it means that there is a minor or major issue with your car that needs auto electric repair. Check engine light is a malfunction indicator lamp that is signaled by the car’s engine computer saying that there is something wrong.

Corrosion of electrical systems may also be an issue. Unless you have a voltmeter handy (and know how to use it) you probably won’t be able to do electric diagnoses job yourself. If your car won’t start, it certainly has a car electrical issue, so take your car to a mechanic for full vehicle inspections.

Jumpstarting

Jumping your own vehicle can cause damage to the car if not done correctly. Vehicles today are built with more electronics inside than ever before. Improperly jumping your car can cause harm to these electronics. Placing the clamps on the wrong terminals can short circuit or even damage parts beyond repair. It is possible to damage an alternator during a jump start and even after a jump start. The voltage regulator is solid state so any voltage spike from the final connection spark can fry it.

Batteries emit hydrogen gas and there is a chance that in the presence of a spark or flame they will ignite. "They can literally explode. The acid inside is highly corrosive for your eyes, skin, and clothes.

Investing in a portable rechargeable jump starter is a much safer and efficient way to handle an unexpected no start situation.

CCA or Cold Cranking Amps

Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) is a rating used in the battery industry to define a battery’s ability to crank an engine in cold temperatures. 

It measures how much current (measured in Amps) a new, fully charged 12V battery could deliver for 30 seconds while maintaining 7.2V at  0°F (-18°C)

It’s harder to crank an engine in cold environments compared to a warm one. Cold temperature influences the engine and battery fluids. When cold, engine fluids increase in viscosity (thickness or density), making it harder to start.

It’s also harder to crank older engines as internal friction increases with age and mileage.

The cranking power an automotive battery requires to start an engine varies. It’s driven by several factors, including the engine size, temperature, and engine oil viscosity. 

For example, a 4-cylinder engine may not require as much cranking power as a larger 8-cylinder engine. The vehicle manufacturer takes all these factors into account when they spec out the original equipment (OE) car battery. Generally, the rule of thumb is 1 Cold Cranking Amp for every cubic inch of engine displacement (2 CCA for diesel engines). 

Top 3 Causes Of Battery Drain

Human Error

Remember to unplug accessories, turn off all electronics, and make sure your headlights and interior light are off before leaving your car.

Corrosion or Loose Connections

There are two points of contact on your battery—one positive, one negative terminal. Your car has cables that connect to these terminal contacts.

Corrosion around the terminals or loose cable connections can interfere with the battery charge and make it harder for the battery to start your engine. A quick terminal cleaning and cable check can help re-establish contact.

Freezing Temperatures

Park inside a garage or carport if possible, plug your car’s block heater in to make it easier to turn the engine over or invest in a battery blanket.

Make sure your battery is fully charged. A fully charged battery won’t freeze until -60°C, while a fully discharged battery could start freezing around 0°C.

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