A vehicle’s electrical system is three primary components; a battery, starter, and an alternator. All three of these elements need to work together to start and run your car, and if one fails you may be able to get your engine to turn over, but it may not operate for long.
Your battery provides all electrical power for your car before you start the vehicle, like the interior lights, dashboard indicators, and your radio. It also powers the ignition, fuel systems and any of your vehicle’s onboard computer systems. If the power to the ignition and fuel systems is insufficient, there will be a failure in creating an environment where combustion can occur, which means your engine will not start.
Starter motors receive power from your battery, and in turn start your engine. When power is delivered to the starter motor, the starter engages to initiate the rotation of the flywheel; this action makes the physical components of your engine begin to move. The crankshaft rotates, causing the pistons to move up and down in the cylinder bores so they can start their four-stroke cycle. If the starter fails, the other parts do not move and neither do you.
When the engine is running the alternator provides a constant and regulated voltage to keep your battery charged and ensures the electrical system keeps functioning. If your alternator is malfunctioning, your car may still run, but you may experience battery drain, erratic electrical system operations or you can even lose power altogether.
Routine inspections of the battery, checking the voltage and amperage output or checking for damaged or corroded cables is only part of verifying the charging circuit is in top shape. Diagnostic tests also confirm that your starter is drawing the correct amount of voltage, whether your starter is wearing out. A complete electrical system inspection confirms whether your alternator is generating the right amount of voltage and all components are working in harmony with each other.
Regular maintenance and preventative measures can help make sure that a small problem does not turn into an extensive and costly repair.