A Guide to Electrical System Diagnostics for Students in Auto Repair Training

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A vehicle’s electrical system is responsible for a whole host of vital functions within a vehicle. The battery, alternator and electrical wiring system enable a vehicle to turn on and off, supply power for accessories like lighting systems, car radios, security systems, and more. If you’re seeking a career as an automotive technician, not only will you be responsible for maintaining these systems, you’ll also be utilizing your extensive knowledge of vehicle electronics to diagnose and repair them. Thus, when a customer comes in suspecting an issue with their vehicle’s electrical system, it’s important to be aware of how to conduct diagnostics on this system. Below, discover an introductory guide to this process, which you can use throughout your career as an automotive technician!

Obtain Customer Information When Diagnosing Electrical Issues 

When it comes to diagnosing electrical system issues, the first step is often the most important one. Before even looking under the hood, make sure to spend some time speaking to the customer in order to obtain information about the nature of their complaint, and their observations related to the problem. Since a customer will be the one with the most experience driving their vehicle, their input will be invaluable to the process of diagnosing the electrical system issue. Once you become an automotive worker, make sure to ask them when the problem occurred, the frequency with which it occurred, the conditions where it occurred, and what symptoms they observed with their vehicle.

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Speak to the customer first in order to gain an understanding of the electrical system-related issue

Be Aware of These Common Electrical System Issues

After listening to the customer’s description of the problem, it’s helpful to have a few ideas in mind surrounding the issue the electrical system might be experiencing. Knowing a few common electrical system issues may help you to get to the root cause faster and make a diagnosis. One of the most common electrical system issues to look out for is frequently blown fuses, which indicate an electrical fault or short-circuit within the system. Another common issue is dimming headlights, which could indicate low voltage within the system. Low system voltage could be due to a faulty alternator belt, a dying battery, or loose wires and cables. Battery problems are some of the most prevalent electrical system issues, as a faulty battery can affect the entire system’s ability to function.

Perform a Road Test as an Automotive Worker

After identifying a few possible problems, you’ll want to take the vehicle in question for a road test. Seeing how the vehicle drives will allow you to identify any problems the customer might have missed, and gain a better understanding of how the electrical system is operating. Those with auto repair training backgrounds have the skills to spot an electrical issue when they see one, helping them to run diagnostic tests and come to a solution.

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Once you have an idea of what the problem might be, perform a road test to further assess the electrical system problem

Conduct a Visual Inspection of the System

Once the test drive is over, take a closer look at the electrical system. During the visual inspection, you’ll want to check for loose or corroded battery cables, damaged wires, a worn alternator belt, and other potentially faulty components. Identifying damage within the system will help you to determine which circuit could be faulty, as well as the components that are contributing to the problem.

Perform Additional Tests as Needed

By now, you’ve hopefully identified the potential source of the electrical system issue. However, there are still some additional tests which can be performed if you’re unsure. In order to determine whether there’s a short in the circuit, you can perform a resistance test with a multimeter. To test for an open circuit, you can perform a continuity test, in which the battery is disconnected and the multimeter is used to test for resistance. If a lack of power is suspected within the system, a voltage test can also be performed.

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