Electrical problems in cars are a fairly common occurrence. Batteries wear out, electrical connections can become loosened or the car could blow a fuse. Beyond the obvious Check Engine Light flashing at you from your dashboard, a few other signs could clue you into a bigger, though potentially easy-to-resolve, issue in your vehicle. Some of the most common signs of an electrical issue you should pay attention to include:

  • A car that won’t start
  • Dim lights
  • An engine that struggles to crank
  • The smell of melting plastic
  • Replacing the same light over and over


If you’ve noticed any of the above issues, you may want to consider taking a closer look under the hood to determine if the problem is a quick fix you can handle yourself or something you should rely on your preferred auto mechanic to handle. A quick visual inspection could help you determine a cause and decide your course of action:

1. Open the hood and confirm that the battery connections are all secure. Look for signs of corrosion on the battery that could indicate a leaking battery at the end of its life.
2. Next make sure the alternator belt is secure and doesn’t show any fraying or looseness, as this can lead to poor performance.
3. Ensure the spark plugs are secure and the wires are all firmly connected.
4. Lastly, check your fuse box. Your car has a fuse box just like your home. By locating the fuse box either in the hood or under the steering wheel of your car – the most common locations – you can do a quick visual check. Use your car’s manual to help you locate the fuse box and follow instructions about how to open it. A blown fuse will often have telltale signs such as black marks. You should also inspect each fuse to make sure the wire isn’t broken. This can usually be seen easily through the clear plastic casing of the fuse.

Can You Fix it Yourself?

Some electrical problems are simple to fix. They rely on similar switches, relays and circuits that are used on common household appliances like washers and dryers. If you are a DIYer at home you could potentially resolve an electrical issue in your car at a low cost. While every vehicle has its own nuances to learn, there are some basic fixes similar to most cars on the road today. Here’s how to know if you can fix it yourself:

Check and replace your battery

Most electrical issues lie in the battery or the alternator so these are good places to start. You could check the battery yourself with a voltmeter. A voltmeter can be purchased for around $20. With the engine off, you would be looking for a reading of between 12.4 and 12.7 volts to confirm the battery is still in good working order. You could also take your car to an automotive parts store and they may provide this service for you. Most batteries have a lifespan of around 4 years, so making sure to check and replace the battery in your car can help you avoid any surprise electrical issues.

Check and replace the alternator

Using your voltmeter, you will check the battery again, but first you need to start your car and rev the engine to 2000 RPM. With the engine still running the voltmeter should jump to at least 13 volts and increase or decrease with any fluctuation of the RPMs. If you don’t see a fluctuation in voltage, then there is a problem with the alternator. You could choose to replace the alternator yourself or take your car to the mechanic for further assessment. A faulty alternator could leave you stranded on the side of the road, so make sure to consider this step carefully.

Replace a broken fuse

Ensure that your car engine is off and, once again, look for any black marks or wires that have been disconnected. It is important to note that removing a fuse could erase valuable diagnostic information from your car’s computer, which is vital if your car needs to be taken to a mechanic for repair, so do not remove any fuses unless you are certain you know what they control and that you can replace them. The lid of the fuse box will typically show you which part of your vehicle each fuse supports. If you’re confident you’ve located the blown fuse, a variety pack of fuses can be purchased online or at your local auto parts store ranging in price from $10$35. Simply remove the blown fuse and replace it with a new fuse of the exact same amperage. If your replacement fuse is not the right amperage you could cause major damage to your vehicle, so be very careful in reviewing the car’s manual or the lid of the fuse box to ensure you have the correct replacement fuse. Once the fuse has been replaced, if your car starts without issue you have likely solved the problem. If the fuse blows again though, it is time to go to your mechanic for additional diagnostics.


Call Your Trusted Auto Repair Team

Electrical issues can feel overwhelming, and if not addressed correctly could put you or your loved ones in danger or leave you stranded on the side of the road. If you live in eastern Wisconsin, don’t hesitate to call our team at Dell’s Service Center. We have all the latest equipment and technology to accurately diagnose and repair your car.

With our location convenient to Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, and Manitowoc, WI we specialize in European car models but can provide you with the service and repairs you need for any vehicle make or model.

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