#auto electrical repair
Auto Repair #9:
Understanding Your Import Car’s Electrical System
Today’s auto electrical systems are getting more intricate and are stressing the limits of current technology but they are basically the same design as 30 years ago. What can today’s do-it-yourselfer do to keep from being electrically-challenged in the middle of nowhere? A quick overview of your car’s electrical system would be a good start. The major components of your car’s electrical system are explained below, along with some troubleshooting tips.
Your Import Car’s Battery
The battery is a storage device, currently 12 volts, used to start the engine and help operate the electrical accessories installed on your car. The battery consists of six cells of stacked positive and negative lead plates, separated by insulators and immersed in electrolyte, which is a water and sulfuric acid mixture. Each of the six cells produces 2.1 volts for a total of 12.6 volts (although it’s actually stored energy, not produced).
The chemical reaction created between the lead plates and the electrolyte creates dangerous, explosive gases that vent through the battery cover vents. Care should always be taken when charging or jump starting low batteries and whenever working under the hood of the car. Always keep the battery clean to allow proper ventilation.
Some batteries use a gel to replace the electrolyte for a somewhat safer battery and the use of maintenance-free batteries has eliminated the need for refilling the electrolyte. However, all batteries lose charging capacity over time through the loss of the electrolyte, deterioration of the plates and chemical breakdown of the connections.
Whenever a car exhibits symptoms of a charging or starting system failure, the most basic test that should be performed first is a visual and voltage test of the battery. Knowing the exact condition of the battery is the best way to know whether or not to suspect other system components and can prevent the unnecessary installation of a starter or alternator, which cannot repair the vehicle until the battery is up to snuff.
To analyze the condition of a battery, very little high-tech equipment is really needed. While there is excellent equipment available for big $$$$, all that is really needed is a good DVOM (Digital Volt Ohm Meter), a battery charger, some patience and a little common sense.
A quick way to tell if a battery needs recharging is by observing the eye on the battery and being able to determine what the color of the eye is telling you. Below is a chart of various battery manufacturers that use a colored eye, as well as what the different colors mean: