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Your Cars Electrical System
When the automotive industry was in its infancy, it used electricity only to ignite the fuel inside the engine. By the late 1920's, the electric starter replaced the hand crank, electric headlights made acetylene lamps obsolete and the braying of the electric horn drowned out the squeak of the hand-squeezed air horn. Today, an automobile requires an elaborate electrical system of circuits just to produce, store, and distribute all the electricity it requires simply for everyday operation.
The first major component in the electrical system is the battery. The battery is used to store power for starting, and for running auxiliary devices such as clocks, radios and alarms when the engine is off. The next major component is the starter motor, which is used to start the engine. The third component is a charging device powered by the engine, known as the alternator. It powers the electrical system when the car is running, and restores the charge within the battery. With these basic components, the car maintains its supply of electricity. A device called the voltage regulator keeps the power level stabilized, and the fuse box keeps minor problems from becoming major ones.
Many different auxiliary electrical devices are used in modern cars, such as: radios, cellular phones, rear window defrosters and electric door locks, as well as a vast array of motors powering everything from the moon roof on down.
The above information is directly from the Auto Insight program, which you can buy online from AutoEducation.com.
I don't think there is a tougher system to troubleshoot on your car than the charging/starting system. This is due to the fact that there are many things that can go wrong and it's tough to test some components without special equipment. Let's go over some possible situations and their possible causes.
As you can see there are plenty of things to go wrong with the charging system and it is always best to take the car to your mechanic and have it tested before you go replacing parts blindly.
Preventing problems with your electrical system:
How to jump start your car:
Jump-starting your car does not have to be a hard task. First lay out the cables on the ground between the two cars. Make sure that the cable is not tangled and none of the end clamps are touching each other. The car with the good battery should be running.
Step 1: Take the positive (red) clamp closest to the car with the good battery and hook it to the positive terminal of that car. The positive terminal will have a + sign on it and usually a red wire running to it.
Step 2: Repeat this step on the car with the bad battery, hooking up the positive clamp to the positive terminal on the battery. Make sure the clamps are contacting well and can not fall off.
Step 3: Take the negative cable (black) closest to the car with the good battery and hook it to the negative terminal of the battery. The negative terminal will have a - sign and usually a black wire running to it.
Step 4: This is the last step and the most important. Take the negative clamp closest to the car with the bad battery and attach it to a bare metal part of the engine. DO NOT hook it to the batteries negative terminal as there maybe hydrogen gas present from the battery and a spark from the connection could cause an explosion.
That's it...... turn the key on the dead car and the car should start. If it does not, try revving the engine on the good car to boost the charge coming from the alternator. If this does not work, try wiggling the cables to assure you have a good connection. GOOD sets of jumper cables are a necessity. I have had cheaper sets not jump-start a dead car. I actually had to double up two cheap sets to get enough current to start my car. The cheaper sets will have thinner cables, which cannot carry enough amperage to start some stalled cars. I would suggest buying a cable, which has 4,6 or 8-gauge wire.
About The Author
Kevin Schappell maintains http://www.carbuyersclub.com where he gives advice on buying, selling, insurance, and financing. A mechanical engineer and car guy, Kevin has decided to spend his online time helping others learn about automobiles. To learn more about how your car works, Kevin has created http://www.mycarwizard.com.
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