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Electrical Problem Analysis

Do you run and hide when an electrical fault is pulled into your bay?
Monday, April 27, 2015 - 07:00
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When vehicles with electrical concerns come to your bay, do you run and hide or jump up and down with joy with anticipation of another electrical challenge? If not, why not? Electrical problem analysis can be very rewarding if the technician is properly trained and has the proper equipment.

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Ah, the proper equipment? This could be something as simple as a good quality digital multimeter or as advanced as a labscope with all the trimmings. While we are talking about equipment, let’s not forget about the need for a great source for wiring diagrams. Without the proper wiring diagram (the electrical road map), the technician is wandering around in the dark electrical world without a flashlight.

After working with electrical problems for many years, I have found a few things that can help simplify electrical circuits and make your troubleshooting challenges a little less challenging.

• Electricity goes in circles and without a completed circle, it does not go. In other words, the electrical circuit must be complete for the circuit to perform its required task.

• Any ungrounded circuit (open circuit) will have system voltage anywhere in the circuit between the power source and the place where the circuit is open.

• Any simple circuit will have the same current flow anywhere in the circuit.

These few pieces of information seem very simple, but they are very important things to keep in mind when working on electrical circuits. I always smile when I hear someone say, “I have a short to ground, since there is voltage everywhere in the circuit. A short to ground would have one of two things, a blown fuse or a fire!”

When working on late model vehicles, there are several different kinds of circuits. There are computer communication circuits, computer sensor circuits, very high current circuits (starter supply circuits) and high current circuits such as headlight and taillight circuits. Each of these circuits conducts electricity but perform different tasks. This is a very good reason to familiarize yourself with the circuit before you start the problem analysis. Knowing what the circuit is designed to do and the purpose for its function will give you a head start on a direction before you start the testing process.

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