Astoria Mechanic | Collision Repair | Tolimas Auto Center

Electrical Diagnostics

Electrical Diagnostic

As cars become more complicated we get more cars come in for electrical diagnostic. 20 years ago cars were much more simpler and more components under the hood of the car were mechanical. They were driven by the engine via the serpentine belt. Now more and more components are electrical driven off the electricity generated from the alternator and the battery. This adds complexity to the components. Mechanical components make noise or leak when they are failing. Electrical components are harder to diagnose because they make minimal noise and usually don’t leak fluids to help diagnose a problem.

In the last decade more and more components are now electrical. Water pumps were once belt driven but now electrical. Thermostats used to be simple parts that could be bought at most auto parts stores for $20 or under are now electrical computer controlled and can cost hundreds to replace. Steering systems were once hydraulic so when there was a problem we could check for leaks or clogs in the system. Now they are more commonly electric. We had a customer come into Tolima’s Auto Center with a complaint that it was hard to move the steering wheel. After some diagnostic we discovered that the battery terminals were bad and the electric power steering system wasn’t receiving enough voltage to operate smoothly. Our customer was lucky because he was able to have his issue resolved quite cheaply instead of paying thousands of dollars for a new electric power steering unit, installation, and alignment. To fix his car we simply replaced the battery terminal and problem solved!

Modern cars are so sensitive to having low voltage that the first thing we check with most electrical problems is the battery and the terminals.

First Step to Diagnosing an Electrical Problem

We find that the best place anybody can check are the battery terminals. Damaged, corroded, loose, or poorly maintained battery terminals can cause a drop in the electric current supplied to sensitive components causing them to not work correctly or set off a check engine light.

Battery Terminal
What a clean battery terminal should look like

Checking the Battery Posts and Terminals

Battery terminals are clamped on to the battery posts mechanically with a bolt to tighten or loosen the clamps. Terminals can lose good contact with the battery posts by over tightening and deforming the soft metal of the battery posts or someone manipulating the metal to make an incompatible battery fit.

Mnagled Battery Terminal
Deformed Battery Terminal

Loose terminals or terminals that weren’t tightened down enough when the battery was installed. We have also seen loose terminals caused by batteries that were missing the battery hold down that prevents the battery from shifting as you drive around and take corners.

Battery Acid and Corroded Battery Terminals

Corroded battery terminals are caused by the bluish powdery build up from the battery posts that is caused by battery acid cooling off or overheating. This powder can accumulate and greatly reduce contact between the terminals and battery. Here at Tolima’s Auto center we have seen there be so much build up that the customers have their cars towed in because the engine won’t start and all it needed was a through cleaning of the battery posts and terminals.

Corroded Battery Terminals
This Customer’s Battery was completely covered in Battery Acid

Simply a Worn Out Battery

Most batteries have a production date sticker on them. Depending on the quality of the battery they tend to average a lifespan of 4 to 6 years. If they are 4 years or older after confirming the terminals and posts are in good condition we connect the battery to our tester. Then if it fails we recommend putting in a new battery. Simply by doing that most electrical problems tend to get resolved! There is the saying that the simplest explanation is the most likely cause. At our repair shop we find that to be true. If you are having electrical problems or would like to ask a question feel free to Contact Us.

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