Without a properly working electrical system, your vehicle is simply an expensive hunk of plastic, metal, rubber and glass. It’s the heart that dictates how smoothly your car or truck runs. Ensuring the components (battery, starter and alternator) are in good condition is the first step towards keeping your vehicle on the road.
To start with, your battery is the piece that provides the energy your electrical system uses to get you going. It’s a chemical storage unit that, when working properly, provides power to your starter to get your engine going. In addition, it provides an even flow of energy when your alternator is briefly unable to supply enough for components such as your lights or radio.
Next in line for your electrical system is the starter. The starter takes stored energy from the battery and turns the engine over. When this happens, an electrical spark is provided and starts the combustion of gas in your engine, which forces the cylinders to turn. Once your vehicle has started, the next step in the process is your alternator, which provides through mechanical means, the energy to recharge your battery.
The alternator is attached by a belt and pulley that turns with the cycles of the engine caused by the combustion of gasses. This generates electrical power that is then passed to the various components of your vehicle, such as lights, radio, computer, A/C, etc. The excess power is then returned to your battery and converted back in to chemical form. This is a cycle that repeats endlessly as your vehicle runs.
If any of the components to your electrical system should fail, the others either will not work, or will work poorly until they too fail. For example, if your alternator is no longer providing power back into your battery, then the battery is drained until it can no longer provide power to your starter. This can and will cause damage to your battery if not taken care of right away. As your battery weakens, your alternator is required to work harder in order to maintain its charge. This causes excessive heat and therefore damage. If your starter goes bad, well, your vehicle isn’t going anywhere until it’s replaced.
Electrical System Failure Signs
When your electrical system begins to fail, you may notice several things begin to happen. For example:
- Your “battery” light turns on. This is actually a reflection of your how your alternator is charging.
- Dash lights/headlights dimming or flickering, speedometer and other gages erratic (sign there is not an even flow of power)
- Corroded battery terminals (excessive heat in battery, sign of overcharging)
- Slow cranking of engine when turning the key (symptom of low battery charge)
- Single click when turning the key (starter issue symptom)
- Multiple clicks when turning key (symptom of low battery charge)
*Please note: While these are the most common symptoms, they may also point to entirely different problems. Only a proper diagnostic can say for certain.
Maintaining Your Electrical System
The average life span of a battery is 3-5 years. As the battery ages and slowly gets weaker, there is additional wear on the other components of the electrical system. Once you’ve reached 3 years, it’s a good idea to bring your vehicle in to Bob’s and have your electrical system checked. Chances are your vehicle will get a clean bill of health, but it’s a good idea to make sure. The checkup takes about 30 minutes and we will take care of the following:
- Clean battery cables, connections and posts
- Test the alternator A/C output
- Test for voltage drop
- Check for amperage draw
- Test battery for charge level and ability to maintain charge
To ensure your vehicles electrical system is in tip top shape, call us at 541-757-7042 and set up an appointment now.