THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

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As we mentioned a while back about the air conditioning system going hand in hand with the cooling system to perform efficiently… I forgot to mention about the electrical system being an important part of the a/c system. The magnetic clutch, which is used to engage and disengage the compressor from the drive pulley and the blower motor which circulates air through the evaporator, place a big load on the electrical system. The system also includes the ignition system, lighting system (brake lights, park lights, dashboard lights, headlights), gauges, starting system, accessories and the charging system.

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The battery actually supplies the electricity needed to supply the electrical requirements of a vehicle. The alternator is there just to recharge the battery. This happens when the built-in regulator senses that the battery is falling short of its requirements. The alternator pumps out about 12.7 volts to 13.5 volts to charge the battery. If the alternator is not putting out the required voltage, your indicator lamp (idiot light) will start to blink. But that sometimes is not the case. That’s why there are some car owners who have volt meters installed to keep tabs. On some newer cars, the ECU will give out a fault code if the alternator is going below the required output.

Trouble there is if you hook up a volt meter directly to the battery and take a reading, it may show that it just fine. But the ECU may not agree. There may be some systems on board that may be sensitive to power fluctuations in the system. The ECU itself is very sensitive. Even static electricity from our hands when we need to hold it may do damage to it.

If you were to ask what is the life expectancy of a service battery, well that is kind of hard to say. The only time a battery will really need to perform is when you crank the engine. The battery is all alone whenever you crank your engine. As soon the engine starts, the alternator immediately charges the battery. For a gasoline-powered car, the battery has to supply power to the starter and the spark plugs. For a diesel-powered car, the battery has to supply power to the starter but since it is has a higher compression ratio (23/1) as compared to a gasoline powered car (10/1), the battery has to work more. The heater plugs cuts of after a few seconds before you start cranking.  From this reasoning, its better to get a battery with the extra push.

To help maintain your battery, avoid overloading your car’s electrical system. Strong sound systems eat up a lot of power. The more power you need, the more your battery and alternator need to work.  The bigger the battery you say, okay, then upgrade your alternator. But remember a stronger alternator is also a bigger load on your engine.

Avoid applying load when the engine has just started. Once the engine starts, wait awhile for the battery to catch its breath. Also before you shut down your engine, turn off all your electricals and let your engine idle for about a minute and a half. This gives your engine time to cool down and your battery to charge properly. If you’re thinking of stepping on the gas to make it charge faster, well think of it this way – a battery responds better to slow charging and if you force the battery to charge, you also heat it up. Not a good state for the battery. Take a peak at a battery shop recharging a battery; they slow charge it. A sign of the internal temperature exceeding its parameters is when the walls of the battery bulge out.

During one of the cars shows years ago, I had a chance to have a chat with one of the exhibitors. And they said one factor for batteries failing is vibration. We just notice, it but too much vibration can do a lot of internal damage.

One way also is to have your battery checked once in a while. This can also show some trouble brewing up in your electrical system. But one of the most important things you could do to avoid battery trouble is to check the warranty card of your battery. That can save a lot trouble.

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