How to Minimize Automotive Electrical Problems

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The electrical system in your automobile is a complex series of wires, relays, and computer chips. It can be so complex that a minor wiring problem can cause major headaches and a lot of money to have repaired. For this reason, it's very important to maintain the electrical system in your car or truck. Here’s how to minimize your chances of dealing with major automotive electrical problems

Jump Batteries Correctly

hands using jumper cables with a car battery

There's a right and a wrong way to jump a dead battery in your car, and we're not just talking about which cables to use.

When you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having a dead battery in your car, never have it jumped by another “running” car. Due to the fact that not all manufacturers use the same voltages for operating their cars, you could damage your electrical system if the car that is jumping yours is running and it has a larger operating voltage (e.g., GM at 14.5 volts and BMW at 12.6 volts).

Jump the battery with the other car off. This way, only the battery power is jumping your car, which has a much lower chance of damaging any of your auto’s electrical components.

Clean Your Battery Terminals

hand cleaning battery terminal with wire brush

Always keep your battery and make sure to keep the battery terminals clean. If dirt and grease build up on your battery, it could cover the vents that allow the gases to escape. And these gases are explosive!

Replacing Your Battery

replacing battery

When replacing your car or truck’s battery, make sure the replacement has the same cold-cranking amps or higher. You also want to make sure it is the same group size.

A battery’s group size indicates the size of the battery tray and the terminal poles. You can find information about your car's specific battery requirements online or in your car manual. And when in doubt, you can also get this information from a dealership or repair shop.

Before you have to replace a battery, though, work on extending the life of your current battery. You can extend the life of your battery, starter, and your vehicle’s electrical system by turning off all of the electrical components before starting them up.

This includes the radio, the AC or heat, the interior lights, and so on. Also, avoid plugging in any cell phones, or anything else that draws on the battery until after the car is started.

Make sure to turn off any lights in your car when you exit your vehicle as well, this will keep your battery from dying.

Make it a habit to have your vehicle’s electrical system inspected every two years. It is better to find out about a problem early before it turns into a problem.

Avoid The Shock

gloved hand working on car electronics

If you don't have experience working with cars, specifically car electrical, avoid making any of your own installations. We've seen more than one car end up with a shortage in the electrical system after someone tried to install their own speakers or floor lights.

While it can be tempting to DIY all of your own car upgrades, you may end up shorting your car electrical and having to get it towed.

Many new cars have a more sophisticated and intricate electrical circuit. If your car uses push start and has several automated features, there's a good chance that your car uses a very advanced electrical grid. Messing with the electrical in these cars should be a job for a professional or an advanced DIYer.

While these steps are simple and somewhat common sense, not many drivers actually adhere to them. You can greatly increase the life of your vehicle and decrease potential problems if you just take the time to add these steps to your regular vehicle maintenance routine.