You go to great lengths to keep your car looking like a million bucks, both inside and out. But do you pay as much attention to the electricals in your car? Most people take the electrical system in their car for granted – until, of course, it starts acting up. And that is not exactly good news, since a car’s electrical system is what runs the engine, headlamps, power windows and locks, interior lights and so on. This edition of our DIY series takes a look at automobile electricals and the best way to keep them working fine.
Let there be light
Lights are crucial, because they not only ensure your safety but also that of other road users. While some cars do have systems that direct your attention towards a bulb that is not working or fused, make sure to inspect them regularly all the same. In case you find something amiss, promptly get them changed. The ideal way to check the lights is to get a friend along to your garage or parking lot and see if the lights are functioning. These include headlamps (main and dipped beams), hazard warning lights, indicators (at the front, back and sides) and stop lights. If your car has fog lights, remember to check these as well (PS: Some cars have only one fog lamp at the rear). Just before we jump onto the next topic, a word or two on hazard lights. Hazards are to be used only when you are stationary, or very nearly so. They are not meant to be used in tunnels or in the rain when you are driving well over 10kph. The reason for this is simple: if many drivers start doing this, there are chances that motorists could mistake a stationary car for a moving one.
Get a friend along to your garage or parking lot to help with checking the functioning of all the lights
Next, we come to blown fuses. Now, these can be a pain, but obviously, they prevent electrical damage to the car. Switch off the car and locate the fuse box. A vehicle’s fuse box is typically located on the driver’s side of the car under the hood. Consult the owner’s manual if you have trouble locating it. The inside of the fuse -box lid has a diagram that tells you the different devices each fuse controls. Amperage details, too, will be displayed, so you know exactly what you need to purchase in case a fuse is blown. Use a pair of tweezers or your fingers to pluck the fuse from the box. Check the fuse for a broken filament. If the wire is broken, the fuse has blown. If you don’t have a set of spare fuses handy, call your trusted mechanic and set about sorting things.
Use a pair of tweezers to pluck the fuse from the box
The battery is the next bit that needs to be checked thoroughly. While the topic has been touched upon earlier, here’s a recap. Make sure both terminals are inspected at regular intervals. Every couple of months would be ideal. The terminals should be free from dirt and rust/oxidation. Should they require cleaning, use a clean cloth and a toothbrush. After you’ve finished cleaning the terminals, apply a coat of petroleum jelly. The petroleum jelly will help keep oxidation and rust at bay. What about topping up the battery with water? If you have a maintenance-free battery – and nearly every modern vehicle uses one – you do not need to keep topping it up. On the other hand, if you car has a regular battery, it makes sense to check the acid level. It should be between the High and Low indicators. If you need to top up, make sure you use only distilled water, as minerals in regular water could react with the acid and the electrodes in the battery and damage it.