Electrical System

1If your automobile’s electrical system isn’t working properly, your car isn’t going anywhere, because even the starter is an electric motor, and just about every other part of your automobile has some electrical component to produce, store, distribute or use all the electricity an automobile requires to function properly. It’s a tough system to troubleshoot because so many things are involved, from big things like alternators to accessories like radios, rear window defrosters, electric door locks, and even the little light in your trunk that could be left on and draining energy. Testing electrical components requires special equipment, so let the certified mechanics at Mike's Service Auto Body in Narragansett, Rhode Island be sure that your alternator, generator, ignition switches, fuses, computer, wiring system, lights, battery, and all the rest of your electrical system are all in good working order.

The automobile’s battery is an essential part of the electrical system.

An automobile’s battery is a storage place for electrical current used throughout the automobile. If the battery is not constantly recharged, it will go dead, and in fact, the battery is usually the first part of the electrical system to go out. Batteries can be working perfectly one minute, dead the next. If your car won’t start, check the battery first. Check fluid levels in each cell of the battery, being careful of the battery acid. Use distilled water to fill the cells. Sometimes a cell goes bad, causing a short in the system. Also check battery cables for corrosion. If they are dirty, clean with a wire brush and reattach. A light coat of grease on top of the terminals prevents corrosion. Most mechanics recommend that you replace your battery every four years, but before you decide you have a bad battery, have the electrical system checked for electrical drain caused by any of the parts of the electrical system malfunctioning.

The solenoid is the next component.

1When you turn the ignition switch, electrical current goes to a heavy switch called a solenoid. The ignition switch is too small to carry the heavy electrical current needed by the starter motor, so the current goes through the solenoid and then makes a direct electrical connection between the battery’s positive terminal and the starter motor. If there’s something wrong with the solenoid, it’s no go for your automobile. Sometimes a grinding noise points to a bad solenoid.


Now comes the automobile’s starter motor.

The starter motor withdraws electrical current from the battery. It turns a special little gear that engages a larger gear called the flywheel, which attaches to the crankshaft, which turns the pistons, camshaft, valves, and so on, and soon everything starts moving. Once the flywheel gets going, the starter motor turns off. When your car won’t start, and jump starting the car doesn’t work, and all of the battery cables are fine, then the next thing to suspect is the starter. Incidentally, the starter motor uses more energy than headlamps or radio or many other components. So the battery needs to be frequently recharged. That’s the job of the alternator.

The heart of the charging system is the alternator.

Once the crankshaft is turning, a belt on the crankshaft powers the alternator, which is really a small generator, a little power plant inside your car. It creates alternating current which supplies the electricity for the car’s use and also recharges the battery while the car is running. When the alternator isn’t working properly, it can’t produce enough electricity. For awhile, the battery takes up the slack. But this eventually wears out the battery. Loose wires, corrosion, or a loose belt can cause the alternator not to work properly. Check the alternator belt for cracks or slippage and have it replaced.

The voltage regulator makes sure the alternator doesn’t get carried away.

The voltage regulator measures the electrical demands made by the air conditioner, heater, ignition system, wipers, radio, moon roof, etc., and constantly adjusts the amount of voltage needed to meet changing requirements.

And from there, electricity goes through all the many fuses, wires, switches, cables, etc.

Just like in your house, your car’s fuse box ensures that any minor electrical faults do not develop into major problems such as a fire or damaged parts. But the fuses themselves can go out and need to be replaced.

In fact, there are many parts to your car’s electrical system that can go wrong, so be sure to have the trained mechanics at Mike's Service Auto Body in Rhode Island help you with routine maintenance and with any specific problems with the electrical system.





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