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Your auto's electrical system explained

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Your auto's electrical system explained

If you are a novice to what it is that makes up an automobile's electrical system you might imagine it to be a jumble of wires but it is so much more. Those wires are a minuscule part of a large system that creates a circuit to distribute the electricity for your car's needs. This article will help you learn about your vehicle's major electrical system components in an easy to understand approach.

When the automobile was first produced there were few electrical parts to it. As the automobile industry has progressed, so have the electrical components of a car. In modern times all vehicles necessitate a sophisticated and complex electrical system. This elaborate system of components produce and store the electrical energy it takes to deliver the electrical needs for a vehicle's daily operation.

The electrical system consists of a battery, starter, solenoid, alternator or generator, voltage regulator and fuse panel (box). A very basic explanation of how the electrical system works, without mentioning all the components and how they work can useful to understand the overall system. The electrical system as a whole is not hard to comprehend.

The battery makes 12 volt power accessible for all of the auto's electrical needs. The battery is recharged by the alternator or generator. An alternator is connected to the engine by a belt and generates the electricity needed to charge the battery. The voltage created from the battery then goes on to the starter and allows you to start your vehicle by turning the ignition switch.

Now let's go into a little more detail. The main component that everyone is aware of and has probably had changed out a few times during the life of their car is the battery. The battery stores the power necessary for starting the car. The battery's stored energy also runs the auxiliary apparatus such the radio, clock and car alarm when the engine is not running.

A battery consists of six cells that are stacked with positive and negative lead plates. These plates are separated by insulators and immersed in electrolyte, a combination of water and sulfuric acid. These six cells produce and store the electrical energy needed for the car.

The alternator produces the electricity used to maintain the stored charge created by the battery. This helps to run all of the electrical devices such as the ignition and engine controls. The alternator is driven by a belt connected to the engine and produces an AC power which is then converted to DC power.

If you have an older vehicle it might be equipped with a generator instead of an alternator. A generator needs higher RPMs to generate this electrical energy and that is why it was replaced by the technological advanced alternator many years ago. Modern cars that contain alternators also contain a voltage regulator whose job is to maintain the proper system voltage level.

Another major component of a car's electrical system is the starter. It is generally only used a few times a day but is the biggest consumer of power in the whole system plus critical for your car's operation. The starter works by turning the engine's crankshaft via the flywheel thus starting the combustion process.

Once the combustion process has started it creates compression within the cylinders. From this procedure voltage to the starter is supplied by the battery and administered by the solenoid, or relay. The ignition switch controls the starter solenoid which in turn activates the starter motor. The starter motor cranks the engine over until it catches and the car starts.

The fuse panel is the final main component of the electrical system. Every electrical component in your vehicle is connected to fuse box by wires or wiring harnesses. The fuse box is generally located near the kick panel of the driver's side or in the glove box. Inside of the fuse panel there are, as you would guess, many fuses. These fuses protect your car from short circuits and/or power overloads that could possibly cause major damage or even a fire. When a momentary overload occurs a fuse might blow. When this happens it needs to be replaced.

There you have it, your automobile's electrical system in a nutshell. It is not really a system of wires as you would first think, though they are involved, but of major components such as the battery and starter. You now should be able to understand not only how the whole system works but what it means when your mechanic says the alternator is not working. Being able to converse with a mechanic and understand what he is saying is indeed a great accomplishment.

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