Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Electrical issue

asked by on

Hello. I have a 01 Toyota Camry..I started having a problem with my dash light dimming ( (barely enough to notice at first)..when I turned on my high beams, I lost all lights on car..head lights, dash lights, tail lights..everything. I was in the middle of a bridge.. I hit the high beams again and all lights came back on... several miles later I again hit the high beams and lost all power to car. As soon as I did the engine died and had nothing. I had no brakes, hard steering etc. I sat for a few minutes and tried starting the car and it started with no problem. I had lights too..Starting the car this morning, there seemed to be a power surge in the lights and dash board is again dimming and lighting up..lights went off and on twice. Any suggestions???

My car has 226000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: Its tough to know exactly what is going on ...

Its tough to know exactly what is going on in this situation. Your dash lights are a symptom of another problem. For your lights to make the car die while driving, there has to be a short to ground somewhere in the system to kill the ignition system. When failures of this sort occur, there will be all sorts of strange symptoms. I suspect there is a wiring problem in the steering column because this is one area where the lighting and ignition system wires run side by side. To know for sure will require someone with experience to know what direction to go to find the source of the problem.

If your so inclined, you could remove the steering column covers and look for burned or chafed wiring. The ignition switch electrical is a good place to start. It is possible the failure will be internal in an electrical component. This will require some direct testing with a test light and some deductive reasoning. In any case, I would begin with a thorough visual inspection under the hood and under the dash. More times than not this will reveal the source of the problem.

A few more detail about your description. The hard brakes and steering is the result of the motor turning off. This is a normal situation when the motor dies while driving. Electricity has a mind of its own and once you restarted the car, the short that is still present simply didn't conduct electricity anymore. All that is needed for it to begin conduction again is some movement in the wire, change in temperature or atmospheric pressure and the short is back. This is nothing more than a property of how electricity flows.

If you'd like to get this fixed, I'd recommend getting some help from a certified mechanic who can diagnose your electrical issue and help you find the failure.

Good luck!

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Save up to 30%

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Randomly stalls when driving

This may be related to many different things such as fuel-related issues like dirty or leaking fuel injectors, a bad mass air flow sensor, low fuel pressure. Depending on the symptoms prior to the truck stalling, this may also be...

Q: How do I turn on the fog lights?

The fog lights are an important safety feature that give your vehicle added visibility in foggy conditions. These lights are controlled by the fog lamp band, which is located on the turn signal lever. To turn on the fog lamps,...

Q: My car moves in all gears but reverse. Is something wrong with the transmission?

This is a sign of a faulty transmission control module. The transmission control module is the heart of the automatic transmission; without it, the vehicle won't be able to effectively adjust to various driving conditions. It also helps regulate fuel...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
P2428 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Gas Temperature Too High Bank 1
P2428 code definition A P2428 trouble code signifies that the PCM has detected a problem in the exhaust gas temperature sensor circuit in bank 1, which subsequently contains the number one...