Car Care: Your car's electrics demystified

Quick guide to common problems and their simple solutions

It's an awful feeling. You get in your car, turn the key and nothing happens. Could it be a loose connection, or worse, a flat battery?

If the electrics of your car suffer a failure of some kind, do not fret, for there are ways of remedying the situation.

Alert Auto Electrical spokesman Alan Nowacek told Driven: "It pays to give your vehicle regular services, as bigger things like the battery need to be checked."

Here are a few things which could explain the grief you're experiencing:

1. Fuses
Imagine driving along and your headlights suddenly go out. Chances are you have blown a fuse. The fuse box can be found either under the dashboard or under the bonnet.

Each fuse box should have a diagram explaining which fuse does what. A broken or melted blade inside the fuse will indicate you will need to replace it. Replacement fuses are cheap and can be bought at any specialist electrician or automotive stores.

2. Loose connections
If your car's interior lights start to flicker on and off, it is possible you have a loose wiring connection. Look online for your car's wiring diagram to get a better picture. However, it would be best to consult a specialist electrician.

If your car suddenly won't start, don't be quick to blame the battery, as one of the terminals could be disconnected.

3. Signal relay
If your indicators do not turn on when you signal, there is a chance your signal relay has packed up. Fortunately, you can fix this yourself. If you are unsure where the relay is found, consult your owner's manual, then simply remove the relay and replace it with a new one.

4. Battery
Every car needs one of these. Therefore, increasing the life of your battery and taking general care of it is important. Under-charged or under-used batteries will go flat a lot quicker than those that are charged regularly, so keep it charged.

You can check if your battery is holding charge by using a volt meter. Volt meters can be bought from any automotive specialist store. If you find the battery is failing to hold charge, then it is best to replace the battery altogether. Batteries should be replaced every three to four years. An automotive battery specialist will help you out with price and size.

5. Alternator
The alternator is how the battery gets its power. It generates electricity from the engine drive, which it sends to the battery, powers all the electronic equipment and prevents the battery from dying. Electronics losing power at idle could mean your alternator is on the way out. Contact your automotive parts specialists for a new alternator.

- NZ Herald

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