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How to properly care for your car's electrical system

Helpful tips from Don's Pro Tech Automotive

When you get into your car and turn the key in the ignition, do you ever wonder how your vehicle works to get you to and from your destination? Don't worry if your answer is "no." Most drivers don't give the inner workings of their vehicle a second thought, until vehicle breakdowns. They have a way of putting a damper on things.

Not only are they inconvenient, but the added expense of the repair work is always unwelcome. You'll hear us say this time and time again – taking care of your vehicle means making a commitment to preventive maintenance. Every system in your car requires maintenance, including the electrical system. In this article, I'll let you know what you can do to properly maintain your car's electrical system. You'll also learn about some telltale signs your car needs electrical system repair.

How does a car's electrical system work?

The electrical system in your car not only powers the engine, but is also used to power the windows and door locks, defroster, headlights, radio, interior lights, clock, sun or moon roof and more. That can put a lot of strain on an electrical system that isn't functioning properly. Here's how they all work together:

Battery – Your car battery provides the electrical current that's used to operate the ignition and fuel systems.

Starter – Current from the battery supplies a small amount of power to the starter. The starter then rotates the flywheel that turns the crankshaft. If the starter isn't working, the engine won't work.

Alternator – Without the alternator, your car battery wouldn't be charged.

How do you maintain a vehicle's electrical system?

Your vehicle's electrical system undergoes wear and tear and needs to be maintained regularly to avoid major problems. Here are a few things you can do to properly care for your car battery, starter and alternator:

Regularly inspect and clean the battery and battery cables – Corrosion builds up on the posts and cables of your battery. It's a good idea to inspect the battery and cables once a month to make sure there's no corrosion build-up. If there is, you can clean the battery posts and cables by using a mixture of baking soda and water or a corrosion removal fluid made specifically for maintaining batteries. Here are the steps to cleaning the battery posts and cables (of course we can always do this for you):

1. Remove the battery cables from the battery posts.

2. Clean the posts and the cable ends using the fluid and a wire brush.

3. Rinse the battery cables and posts with water.

4. Re-connect the battery cables (positive side first).

Inspect the Drive Belt once a month – Open the hood and inspect the belt looking for cracks, dryness and/or glazing along its surface. You'll also want to check the tension of the belt. If you don't know how to do this or don't feel comfortable inspecting the belt, don't worry. We always perform a 27-point courtesy inspection on your vehicle when you bring it in for service. This is one of those areas that we'll be able to inspect and let you know when it's time to replace the belt.

If your car battery is nearing 4 to 5 years of age, replace it – If you don't, your car battery will fail to start your car one morning and you'll be stuck waiting for a tow or service. If you're not sure your battery should be replaced, let us know. We can test it for you.

What are the common signs that indicate car electrical system repair is needed?

1. Your car won't start.

2. Your interior and/or dashboard lights seem dimmer than normal or do not light up properly.

3. You car's headlights dim while you're driving at low speeds or when the car is idling.

The best way to maintain your car's electrical system is to bring your vehicle to Don's ProTechnology Auto Repair (DPT), located at 230 E. Tehachapi Blvd. Our skilled technicians can troubleshoot your electrical system issues and get you back on the road quickly. Contact us at (661) 822-1600.