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A Car Electrical System


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A car electrical system basically has three parts. The first part is the battery, the second part is the alternator and the third part is the starter. It is important to take care of the car electrical system so that major repairs can be avoided and the life of the car can be extended.

The car battery serves as a storage place for energy in the car electrical system. One way to take care of the car battery is to keep its connections clean. It is also important to keep in mind that if the car battery ends up needing to be replaced to replace it with the same or higher rating.

The alternator is a very important part of the car electrical system because it produces the electricity used to maintain battery storage charge and to help run all the electrical accessories. If it is not charging properly or if the connections are bad, your car will not run properly. The average alternator is lucky to last 4 years, which is why a dead battery may actually be caused by a dead alternator.

The other major component in the car electrical system is the single largest power user and the most critical to your car's operation, the starter. The starter is simply a DC motor that turns the engine crankshaft through the flywheel, starting the combustion process by creating compression within the cylinders. The voltage to the starter is supplied directly from the battery and is controlled by a relay operated from the ignition switch.

The car electrical system should be professionally checked and tested every two years. Many problems with a car electrical system are caused by voltage variations. Checking the voltage should be the first step in troubleshooting any problem with the car electrical system.

A complete and thorough test of the car electrical system involves more than sticking a voltmeter on the battery. The average do-it-yourselfer does not have the test equipment nor do they need it. Professionals should do these tests.



Most auto parts stores offer a free service test that should be good enough to notify you of any major problems. Most car electrical system problems actually start from poor electrical connections due to loose connections and/or buildup of corrosion, especially at the battery posts. It is very important to the car electrical system to keep the battery clean.

These are the basic components of a car electrical system, but each make and model of car will have problems specific to just them. Sometimes BMWs have issues with dome lights remaining on and draining the car battery. Some Acuras have problems with the glove box light remaining on after the car is off and draining the battery. Sometimes a Jaguar will have a low state of charge because the cooling fans stay on after the ignition has been shut off. There is a lot of information on problems specific to every car model available to everyone on the internet.


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