5 Common Warning Signs Your Vehicle Has Electrical Problems

5 Signs of Electrical Problems

Beyond the battery, we tend to think of our cars as very mechanical things. Gas in, engine fires up, and we’re off to work, run errands, or travel to visit family.

But have you ever really considered just how reliant upon a working electrical system your vehicle is?

Our vehicles have intricate electrical systems, and this is especially true for modern cars and trucks. Just a handful of the features powered by the electrical system in a vehicle most likely include:

• Headlights
• Brake lights
• Cabin lights
• The stereo
• Power windows
• Sensors (e.g., for tire pressure)
• The car starter
• Malfunction of any electronic component

When the electrical system in your vehicle malfunctions, the problems are usually so prominent that you notice right away. The lights won’t turn on or seem dim, the stereo doesn’t work, or power windows fail to operate. In some cases, the car itself may have difficulty starting or won’t start at all. Some electrical problems are more subtle than others, but keep an eye out for the following warning signs so you can get ahead of them:
#1 – Burning Smells

One of the most common warning signs of an electrical problem in your vehicle is a burning smell. Specifically, a “plastic-y” or rubbery burning or melting smell. A burning smell is usually caused when a wire or electrical component in your vehicle has shorted out. This causes the wire to draw more current than it should, which heats it up and begins to melt the plastic insulation around it.

If you smell anything along these lines or even worse, if you see smoke, you almost certainly need to have your vehicle serviced immediately. The problem could be minor—and in many cases it is—but anything burning in your vehicle could quickly become a potentially dangerous issue.

#2 – Dim Lights

Dim lights anywhere on or in your vehicle can indicate battery or electrical system problems. If it’s a single light that’s giving you trouble, it’s probably just a bulb—but if replacing the bulb with a new one doesn’t resolve the issue, wiring or components could be malfunctioning.

#3 – Stereo System or Other Electronics Not Working

The stereo or the variety of other electronics found in newer vehicles like GPS systems or even small televisions are great conveniences, but they draw more power and thus put more demand on your vehicle’s electrical system. If one or more of these components are malfunctioning or not working at all, there’s a good chance that wiring or other components may have failed, although in many cases the problem can be as simple as a blown fuse.

#4 – Corrosion on the Battery Cables or Terminals

Corrosion on the battery terminals or cables looks like a white or blueish buildup. If the corrosion is minor, you might try to remove it yourself with a chemical cleaning solution. However for the best results, we recommend BG’s battery services. The battery, terminals, and cables will not only be cleaned, but sealed to extend the life of your battery.

#5 –The Engine Won’t “Turn Over”

This is, of course, the most problematic of all electrical issues. Generally when the engine won’t crank or turn over, or if it takes longer than usual to do so, the problem can be narrowed down to the battery or starter. Many drivers worry that difficulty starting up could have to do with the engine itself and are relieved to learn that a completely unrelated electrical component could be causing the issue.

Final Thoughts

Keep an eye out for these common warning signs of car electrical problems and you’ll avoid having your daily commute interrupted. In many cases electrical problems are simple and comparatively affordable to fix.

Think you have an electrical problem? Visit your local repair shop offering BG Products.

23 Comments on “5 Common Warning Signs Your Vehicle Has Electrical Problems”

  1. Enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the good work! I have always believed that our sense of smell, sight, hearing and touch is a technicians best diagnostic tool.

  2. My car idles up and down stalls after about 1 minutes it idles erratic but normal speed I’ve changed all my sensors fuel pump starter distributor wires cap rotor injectors battery what could be my cause

  3. Hi i have a 1997 toyota camry le 2.2L the other day i replaced my battery with a new one from my job. The new battery was backward charged without me knowing. Meaning the positive was actually negative and the positive was negative. I did not realize this until i checked the battery with my voltmeter. The “backward charged battery” when i connected terminals the car started cranking with no key in ignition. Tried a cpl more time did the same thing. Thats when i checked with the voltmeter. Got a different battery hooked up with no problems and car would crank but not start. Replace a couple fuses got car started and home with no electric stuff working ie. speed tack radio lights brake lights ac or heat nothing was working. I searched online and found out about the 100 amp engine fuse. Replace that one. Now the car will start but then shut right back off. All fuses are good. Also the radio has a bad static highpitch noise coming from the speakers. And if i leave the battery hooked up it just drains it within a day. Is it possible that the ecm is fried or some thing else. I hope somebody can help me.
    Thank you for reading.

  4. It’s good to know that rubbery burning smells probably mean there’s an issue with some electrical component of the car, which could be dangerous to leave alone. My car has been having issues since it’s started getting cold, but I’ve noticed one of the things is that it smells odd in the cabin lately. I’ll probably want to bring it to a professional to figure out what’s going on.

  5. I have a car which I pulled all fuses inside and under the hood, I also disconnected the fusible links, left the battery positive and negative hooked up and my fans run why?

  6. I have a 2003 Dodge ram 1500 pickup. I’ve replaced battery and new feul pump. I turn over but dies after a while. Dies while driving. Now it won’t turn over.

  7. I connected a amp diy and it smoked my stereo lioe smoke came out of it and now the spedometer cluster dont work wat fuse do i check

  8. This blog helps you to know about 5 common warning signs vehicle electrical problems. These are must read for all . This article is a good one to look at. You will get best review over here and would suggest others too. Great blog indeed, will visit again future to read more!!

  9. Vauxhall vivaro 14 plate 2.0l diesel running fine no smoke starts first time every time accelerates fine but keeps throwing engine management light on and stop light and saying injection fault dont go into limp mode

  10. Hi I have a 2003 trailblazer all of my instrument panel lights are on and sometimes the car fails to start it can set a day or two then starts right up
    Also I can pull my ignition key right out while the car is still running

  11. I have a 2005 toyota rav4. I started the car and while driving for about 30 seconds the locks kept turning on and off. about two minutes later the check engine light came on. I know this is probably some type of electrical problem but I don’t know the specifics?? I’m a college student and I go to school out of state. how much will this cost me ???

  12. I have a 2007 Cadillac cts with 60,000 miles. The starter engages while the car is running. What could cause this? Here’s a list of what has been done so far….new timing chain but not because of starter, new starter, starter relay, starter fuse, the 2 ignition switches, new fuse box under the hood, ran a new wire to the starter from the fuse box (couple bad spots), 4 cam shaft position sensors, and last replaced a bad tail light bulb that the plastic was melted on but the coils inside the glass were still intact. Could the melted bulb caused a dead ground and caused the starter to randomly try to start? The cam shaft sensors and bulb we just did today and haven’t driven it enough to know if this fixed it yet. The starter may engage after only a few minutes or you can drive 200 miles before it engages. Any ideas how to fix this would be great. A certified Cadillac dealer couldn’t figure it out.

  13. If the car starts and runs but dies ithout acceleration Then it’s more than likely the throttle position sensor . But my problem is with starting all together but yet I have a new alternator a new interstate battery and the starter wouldn’t allow it to jump correct?However I have all power to the lights stereo everything I am clueless.
    Terri

  14. I didn’t notice the burning smell until maybe a week after my radio system has begun to malfunction. The radio comes on but it doesn’t work and the smell is like a burning tire. What can I do to fix this.

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