Auto electrical problems are on the list of the most frequent types of vehicle repairs required. This makes sense when you consider how many systems on today’s vehicles use electrical and electronic components. Because these systems are so complex, we are no longer able to diagnose and fix the minor electrical problems on our vehicles.
Here are several questions that you might have about electrical problems on your car. Included are answers with brief explanations to help you understand what’s going on and dialogue with your repair shop professional about the problem.
How can I know what to do with warning lights or messages on my dash?
We understand your concern. Normally, when you turn the ignition key on, your entire dash lights up with icons, most relating to an electrical or electronic system on your car. When one of these lights doesn’t turn off or a different message comes on after a few seconds, it means your vehicle’s computer has identified a problem. Now you need to know what to do next.
As boring as it sounds, the best way to get an introduction to the display lights and what they mean is to read about them in your owner’s manual. You don’t need to memorize every warning, but a brief review will help familiarize you with which of your vehicle’s dash lights indicate auto electrical problems are present. Earmark the page so you can quickly find it when a warning light displays and you need to know what to do next.
How do I find my car’s battery if I think I have a battery problem?
For years you could always find the battery under the hood. Due to high temperatures in the engine area and less space to place a battery, many manufactures have moved the battery to a space under a rear seat or in the trunk.
If you need to jump-start your car there is usually a “jump post” under the hood, even though the battery is not there. Check your owner’s manual for its location.
How do I find the location of a fuse?
Many vehicles have two or three fuse boxes. Some are located under or in the dash while others are located under the hood. The dash fuse boxes usually have a small removable cover to allow access to the fuses.
Again, since locations vary from car to car, the best way to find the fuse box location is with your owner’s manual. It will usually provide the location and even identify which fuses are in the box. Boxes under the hood usually have a plastic cover to protect the electrical connections at the fuses. These plastic covers frequently have a description of the fuses on the cover. If you think you have some auto electrical problems cause by a fuse, read the FAQ below about how to do a quick test.
How can I do a quick test of the fuses to see if one is bad?
If your car has auto electrical problems, the cause could be a bad fuse. It’s easy to do a quick test to see if one or more fuses have failed. If you know how to use an automotive test light or multi-meter you can turn the key on and check for voltage by touching the small metal pin at the top, left, and right sides of the fuse. If the pin on one side has voltage but the other side does not, the fuse is bad.
You may find that some fuses don’t have voltage on either side with the ignition key on. In those cases, turn on the electrical component operated by the particular fuse to provide power to the fuse.
Always use caution when checking fuses or investigating any electrical or electronic component in your vehicle. Your safety is the first priority, but a close second is to avoid doing something that results in additional auto electrical problems.