Friday, December 22, 2006

Shakes, Rattles, Squeaks & Thunks...(Electrical) Part 1

By Gordon Ficke

SUMMARY: Self-help automotive tips for the motorist who likes to save money on expensive automotive service bills. This article is designed for the average car owner who can perform some simple maintenance tasks to keep their vehicle running optimally.

Knowledge is everything, and ignorance is not always bliss. That is pretty much good advice, right? When it comes to driving old reliable why do you see some cars passing you on the highway belching blue smoke, or chugging past you like a steam locomotive on a mountain pass? Are these drivers oblivious to the fact that something is wrong with their vehicle or are they thinking that the problem may just disappear?

Let's face it, maintaining our car's health may not be our favourite pastime, but if driving is a daily part of our lives, then it is imperative and our obligation to ensure that we keep an ongoing check on those normal wear and tear items. A little sage advice is in order here.

Today let's take a look at some electrical problems you may encounter from time to time. Are you experiencing starting problems, vehicle stalling, your lights going dim or don't go on? For the most part, electrical problems like these occur from neglect.

There are some simple checks you can do starting with inspecting the acid level in your battery. If your battery is of the non-serviceable type, there may be eye or dot on top of the battery, which indicates battery charge. Note, that this dot only indicates the charge on one of the battery's six cells, and should be only relied upon as a reference point only for your battery's condition. Battery experts will tell you that it is possible for any of the other battery cells to be completely discharged. For the most part, if the dot is green in colour, then the battery should be fully charged. Yellow indicates a partially discharged battery and black means the battery is discharged and needs to be recharged.

Check the sticker on top of your battery to determine the battery's age. The year and month the battery was purchased will be punched out. Today's batteries can last from three to seven years, depending on the vehicle they are installed in, the situations and conditions they are used in, etc. If the battery has exceeded it's normal lifespan, then replace it.

Older serviceable batteries can be topped up have a lifespan of up to ten years, and that is simply because of maintenance. Most important of all is to keep the battery tops dry as water conducts electricity. A damp battery top means that electricity can travel from one terminal to another, resulting in a fully discharged battery.

While you are checking the battery level check to see if there is excessive corrosion on the battery terminals. Corrosion on the terminals will reduce current flow throughout the vehicle's electrical system, especially during startup, when there is a huge current and voltage demand by the starter.

If the battery registers below 12 volts, then repercussions can occur throughout the electrical systems of your car or truck. Starting the vehicle becomes more laboured. The operation of electrical motors, such as those used in door windows, seats, windshield wipers, fans, etc., slow down. Lighting systems go dim and peculiar things can happen when you use your turn signals, such as certain dash lights come on that shouldn't. All these systems start from a 12 volt source and your car or truck's battery is the heart of the whole electrical system.

Which battery lasts longer? As a rule, the lifetime non-serviceable battery should outlast the serviceable type because it is sealed. However, Murphy's Law applies here and sometimes this is just not the case. Good advice is to buy the best battery you can afford.

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