Signs your Car’s Electrical System is Starting to Fail

Everybody knows fuel is of utmost importance to a car. Without it, your vehicle won’t be going anywhere.

Then again, you can also say the same thing about its electrical system. After all, it’s the electrical system that makes it possible to start your vehicle, among other things.

Your headlights and dashboard also come alive because of the electric system in your car, regardless of whether it’s a classic or a more recent model.

Credit: Adam Carr

While the electrical systems in classic vehicles like the VW Beetle tend to be simpler, systems in modern cars can be a bit more complicated and extensive.

Aside from the ignition, headlights, and dashboard, the electrical system in newer cars seems to power just about everything else, including car audio systems, TV screens, power windows, and even dashboard and backup cameras.

Considering how dependent today’s cars are on their electrical systems, it would be a big problem if they started acting up. Here are some signs that your car’s electrical system is beginning to fail and might need repair.

Your Car Won’t Start

Starting the car is your electrical system’s primary purpose, so when you turn the key and nothing happens, it’s possible that you either have a dead battery or a problematic alternator on your hands.

To confirm if your battery is indeed out of juice, open the door and check if the cabin lights turn on. If they don’t, then it’s highly likely that the battery is the problem.

However, if the cabin lights come alive yet the ignition still doesn’t work, you might want to have a mechanic check your alternator for any issues.

Your Lights Are Dimmer Than Normal

When your car’s electrical system is doing fine, you can expect your car’s lights to burn bright.

Conversely, you’ll know you’re facing an electrical system issue when your car lights lose some of their luster.

There are several possible reasons why your car lights are dimming.

One could be a dying battery. Loose electrical connections or a faulty alternator belt could also be the culprit.

There’s A Burning Smell In Your Car

A car engine is an internal combustion engine, and that means there’s a lot of burning action within your vehicle whenever you drive.

However, if you smell something burning while driving, you should stop the car immediately and have it checked to be sure.

While there are several reasons why there’s a burning smell inside your car, you should consider the possibility that it’s electrical in nature, especially if it smells like something plastic, the coating used for wires, fuses, or other connections. It could be a short circuit, which could damage electronic components, blow fuses, or even drain your car battery.

More Blown Fuses Than Usual

Just like your electrical system at home, your car has a fuse box that prevents short circuits and overvoltages that could damage your electrical system.

And just like your home, your car will likely see a blown fuse from time to time.

If you have to replace blown fuses more frequently than expected, then you are likely facing electrical problems that may range from malfunctioning electrical devices to frayed wire insulation that could cause short circuits.

Credit: Tatu Kosonen

Your Battery Is Damaged or Leaking

Your battery is one of the primary components of your car’s electrical system, along with the starter and the alternator.

With regular use, it can last for about five years on average.

However, if your car battery is fairly new and you’re having electrical problems, it may be damaged or leaking.

Check the battery casing for cracks and any evidence of fluid dripping out of them. If you see bubbling liquid seeping through the cell caps, then your battery is indeed leaking.

If you pop open the hood and a warped, inflated, or distorted battery greets you, you have a damaged battery on your hands that needs immediate removal and replacement.

Ideally, you should bring your car to a trusted automobile repair shop if its electrical issues persist.

With their expertise, experience, and equipment, professional automotive technicians should be able to pinpoint the exact nature of the electrical problem and deal with it promptly.

About the Author

Lauren Bricks is the Content Specialist for Streetfighter Motorsports LLC, a family-operated car audio and accessory installation, sales, and customization facility located in Phoenix, Arizona. She loves cars, and although she spends much of her week writing about them, she still finds the time to hop onto the second-hand Corvette convertible her dad gave her for her 25th birthday and drive to the countryside with the top down.

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