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Q: Electrical issue

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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!

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