Most people primarily think of gasoline (or diesel) as the fuel that powers cars, but this is only one half of a car’s power source. In addition to gas, vehicles also need electricity to run – and a few things can go wrong with a vehicle’s electrical system. Discover three common electrical problems that can develop in vehicles and what to do about each one.

1. Dead Battery

If you turn the key in the ignition only to hear a clicking sound and have nothing else happen, your vehicle’s battery is likely dead. A dead battery is especially true if the temperature is extremely cold or you notice a light switch left in the on position. Cold weather inhibits a battery’s performance, and a light that’s left on can drain a battery.

The clicking sound that you hear in this situation is the starter trying to ignite the engine. The starter is unable to get the electric power it needs from the battery, however, and you won’t be able to start your vehicle until the battery has power. What you need to do to get battery power depends on what initially caused the loss of power in the battery.

If the battery is drained because a light was left on, the issue is only temporary. You can jump the battery with another vehicle, and your vehicle should run like normal afterward. To jump a vehicle, get jumper cables out, turn both cars off, and follow these steps:

  1. Attach one end of the red (positive) cable to your battery’s positive terminal, and then attach the other end of the red cable to the positive terminal of the other vehicle’s battery.
  2. Attach one end of the black (negative) cable to the negative terminal of the other vehicle’s battery, and then attach the other end of the black cable to metal on your car (not your battery’s terminal).
  3. Start the other vehicle, and let it run for several minutes.
  4. Start your vehicle, and let it run for at least 15 minutes.

If jumping your car’s battery doesn’t work or an obvious reason doesn’t exist for why the battery’s power was drained in the first place, the battery has probably failed. It should be replaced with a new one, which is something any automotive mechanic can do.

2. Loss of Power

Should you completely lose power while driving, the issue isn’t your vehicle’s batter but its alternator. Your vehicle continues to draw power from the battery as your drive, and the alternator re-energizes the battery. When the alternator fails, it doesn’t re-energize the battery and the battery eventually runs out of power.

If you ever lose power completely, your car will soon stop running. Try to use the momentum you have to coast toward the safest place possible, and call a tow truck. Have the truck bring your car to a mechanic who can replace the alternator for you.

3. Blown Fuse

When a certain electrical component fails but everything else works, the most probable cause is a blown fuse. A blown fuse is something that you can replace yourself even if you aren’t mechanically inclined (although a mechanic certainly can also address a blown fuse if you want them to).

To check for a blown fuse, get out your owner’s manual. It’ll show the location of your vehicle’s fuse box and have a schematic of the fuses. Locate the box, and then identify which of the fuses is the relevant one by using the schematic. For example, if your radio doesn’t work, you’ll want to look at the radio’s fuse – and this will be labeled in the manual.

With the car off, pull out the fuse. If the visible wire in it is broken, the fuse is blown and needs to be replaced. You can find an identical fuse at an auto parts store and push it into the appropriate spot.

If you need a mechanic to replace a battery or alternator, contact DeMers Automotive.