Modern cars are more advanced than ever. So, when you run into car trouble, it can be difficult to diagnose the problem. Electrical components are responsible for the proper operation of everything from your vehicle’s locks to its starter.
If you find that your vehicle isn’t behaving the way it should, there’s a chance it’s an electrical issue. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the most common problems with a car’s electrical system to help you diagnose and fix the issue.
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What Causes Electrical Issues in Cars?
There are a number of potential causes for car electrical problems. It could be the car battery (including the battery cables), a blown fuse, bad alternator, loose wires, or an issue with the whole system. Take a look below for a list of issues and the common signs you need to look out for.
Your Battery is Dead
Most of us have had a dead battery at some point. You put your key in the ignition, turn it, and *click*…
A dead battery is a very inconvenient problem, but it’s also one of the most common auto electrical problems. Usually, you can simply jump-start your vehicle by using jumper cables to connect your battery to that of another car, or to a battery box.
You can reduce the risk of experiencing a dead battery by keeping the internal lights off until needed and limiting the use of tablets, DVD players, and other accessories that connect to the vehicle.
You Have Failed Spark Plugs
When your spark plugs are loose, dirty, or just old and failing, this can cause your engine to misfire. You may notice your vehicle lurching when you accelerate or “jumping” a bit when you’re idling.
Thankfully, spark plug issues are pretty easy to fix. If you have a little bit of mechanical savvy, you can do it yourself for around twenty bucks. Or, take your car to the mechanic and she’ll replace your spark plugs for the cost of parts and labor.
You Have a Blown Fuse
Fuses control the flow of electricity throughout your vehicle. They stabilize the current, which protects your car from electrical overloads and subsequent damage. Check out your vehicle’s owner’s manual to get an idea of what the fuses control and protect.
If your radio’s not working correctly, you find that your wipers aren’t wiping or you can’t operate your headlamps, you may have a blown fuse. There’s good news, though! You can buy a box of 100 fuses for about ten bucks. Replacing a fuse takes around three minutes, and you can absolutely do it yourself.
Your Starter is Faulty
The three most common auto electrical problems listed above are generally easy fixes and won’t cost you much. When your starter is faulty, however, the repairs begin to add up a little more quickly. Your starter is a motor that causes your engine to, well, start, when you turn your key in the ignition.
When you have a dead battery, you’ll hear a “click” when you attempt to start your car. If the problem is your starter, you’ll hear nothing. Crickets.
Depending upon who fixes your car and the make and model of your vehicle, you can expect the repairs to cost anywhere between $500 and $800.
Your Alternator is Bad or Faulty
Your car’s alternator is what causes your battery to charge while the vehicle is running. It’s the reason why you don’t have to charge your car every time you run to the grocery store.
When your alternator is bad or faulty, your battery isn’t receiving adequate charge during normal use. You may notice that your dash lights are flickering or that your headlights periodically dim while you’re on the road. This is likely because your alternator isn’t performing properly.
Alternator repair or replacement is not typically a DIY task. You’ll probably need to take your car to a mechanic, who will charge you for parts and labor. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, expect to pay between $300 to $1,000. You can keep these costs down by installing a remanufactured alternator instead of a new one.
You Have a Short Circuit
The last of the most common electrical problems on our list is a short circuit. Any overload of power to a circuit has the potential to damage your car. You may notice the smell of burning plastic or rubber. Take this seriously; do not ignore it!
If a wire in your vehicle has been burnt due to a short circuit, it can cause your car to catch fire or even explode. It’s important that you pull over, diagnose the problem and seek appropriate repairs. You can often find the source of the problem simply by following your nose!
The cost to repair a short circuit will obviously depend on the extent of damage to your vehicle. You can expect, however, to pay a mechanic at least $200 to remedy this common electrical problem.
At What Point is a Car with a Faulty Electrical System Not Worth Fixing?
The point at which it’s not worth fixing is the point that the repairs are so extensive that they cost more than the value of the vehicle. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where it will be better to scrap the car and buy a new one.
How Much is a Diagnostic Test on a Car?
It depends, but the average price is usually around $80 to $90. It can be a small price to pay to diagnose a major electrical issue and potentially put your vehicle on the road to repair.
What is the Hardest Thing to Fix on a Car?
Swapping spark plugs can be a nuisance as they are small and fiddly, but generally, the most difficult parts are the engine and the clutch.
How Much are Car Batteries?
You can usually find a car battery for between $50 and $130.
How Much is Auto Electric Repair?
There are too many factors to consider, as it depends on the issue and the car. A blown fuse and other minor car electrical problems could be quick and cheap, but the same can’t be said for issues with the starter motor.
Conclusion: Problems with Your Car’s Electrical System
Today’s cars are as reliant on their electrical systems as they are on the fuel you fill them with. When something goes wrong, it can be hard to pinpoint the problem.
Before you bring your car to a mechanic, check for a few of the most common auto electrical problems. Chances are the fix is just a few dollars and a few minutes away!