While the heart of your car might be mechanical, modern vehicles incorporate a significant number of electronic devices. From your turn signals to your radio, electrical components are everywhere. When they work properly, they’re invaluable in providing convenience, comfort and enjoyment. However, there can be problems here, and they can be mystifying.
How this system works:
The modern automotive electrical system is incredibly complex, requiring miles of wiring, transistors, resistors, solenoids, switches and more. However, the basic operation of the system is relatively easy to understand.
When you crank your car, the battery sends electricity to the starter and the spark plugs. However, once the engine is running, the battery’s role is done. The alternator now takes over. Think of the alternator as a generator – it generates electricity by spinning magnets within a winding of copper wire. That electricity is sent down miles of wires to operate various components in your car, as well as to burn fuel in the engine.
Each electrical component on your car has its own individual circuit, as well as operational controls (fuses, relays, solenoids, switches and the like). If any one of these controls were to fail, it’s possible that the component will not operate. Then there’s the possibility of wiring damage – this can cause single components to fail, or even the entire system to not operate properly.
Common reasons for this to happen:
Blown Fuse: Most of the smaller (less electricity intensive) components on your car require a fuse in order to operate. The fuse acts as a safeguard against voltage spikes. If too much electricity flows through the wires, the fuse blows, breaking the circuit.
Wiring Damage: Wiring damage has many causes, and it can happen almost anywhere in your vehicle. Rust and corrosion at a ground point can render a component inoperable, and rodent damage to the wiring harness under the hood is another common issue.
Failed Relay: Think of relays like big fuses. They work on a similar principle, and there are quite a few of them on your car. The most important one in this instance is the main relay, which operates the car’s computer and fuel pump. If the main relay fails, none of your electronics will operate.
Bad Alternator: If your alternator fails during vehicle operation, the vehicle will begin pulling power from the battery. Because the alternator is no longer recharging the battery, it will eventually run down. The initial symptoms mimic a bad battery, but without replacing the alternator, you won’t be going far.
What to expect:
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to inspect the entire starting system and determine the source and cause of the problem. Considerable diagnostic time may be required to pinpoint the exact cause of the electrical problem. The mechanic will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
How it's done:
The mechanic will need to inspect the vehicle, including testing the inoperable electronic components. It may be necessary for the mechanic to conduct voltage testing on multiple components, as well as testing both the battery and alternator. The mechanic will need to narrow down the range of possible problems, and then advise you on the next step in the repair process.
How important is this service?
Really, the importance of this service depends on the electrical components that aren’t working. If you have a widespread component outage, having a professional assess and diagnose the problem is critical. If the problem is only with a single component that’s only necessary for entertainment, it might not be that critical.
However, it is still important to have all electrical problems professionally diagnosed and resolved. This is particularly true if the problem is widespread. One of our mechanics can inspect, troubleshoot and diagnose your electrical problems and have you back up and running.