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Your car’s electrical system powers everything from the ignition and fuel systems to accessories such as your radio, headlights and wipers. The electrical system is, in turn, powered by the engine. Here are the three key components of the electrical system:
When your car’s engine is off, the battery provides the required power to the rest of the system, as well as during start-up (cranking). It also supplements the power from the charging system during periods of high demand.
This is the heart of the electrical system. It consists of three main components: the belt-driven alternator, various electrical circuits, and a voltage regulator. The alternator supplies power to the electrical system and recharges the battery after your car has started. Just like it sounds, the voltage regulator controls the voltage, keeping it within the operating range of the electrical system.
This system consumes more electrical power than any other component in your car. The starting system consists of three components which work in tandem: the ignition switch, the starter relay or solenoid, and the starter motor. The ignition switch controls the starter solenoid, which activates the starter motor. The starter motor then turns the engine until your car starts.
Tips if Your Check Engine Light Comes On
Check your dashboard gauges and lights for indications of low oil pressure or overheating. These conditions mean you should pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can find a safe place to do so. On most cars, a yellow “check engine” means investigate the problem giving you time to schedule an appointment to have your vehicle diagnosed.
- Try tightening your gas cap. This often solves the problem. Keep in mind that it may take several trips before the light resets.
- Reduce speed and load. If the “check engine” light is blinking or you notice any serious performance problems, such as a loss of power, reduce your speed and try to reduce the load on the engine.
- In most cases, you’re probably better off taking the vehicle to a professional instead of trying to diagnose the problem yourself. Make an appointment with a service center to have the code read and the problem fixed.
- Don’t go for a state emissions test. In a late model car, an illuminated “check engine” light probably is a sure sign your car will fail the test. By the way, don’t bother trying to fool the inspection station by disconnecting the battery or using any other method to erase the trouble code and turn off the “check engine” light. Your vehicle’s computer will let the inspection station know that its codes have been erased, and you’ll just have to go back again.