Electronics Basics

Based on many conversations I’ve had with people over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that, of all the elements that go into a car, electricity is, by a wide margin, the most misunderstood. And not just by the layman, either. Electricity is a hang up for technicians and engineers, as well.

I’ve also concluded that a great deal of this misunderstanding stems from the fact that electricity is invisible and formless, so its nature can be perceived only indirectly. Another reason for the misunderstanding is that electricity is not often taught well in many schools, possibly because the instructors don’t fully understand it, either.

In the following section, I portray electricity as a phenomenon — which it certainly is — that can be reckoned with and worked with.

So, what is electricity? What is this force that sparks the sparkplugs and lights the lights? Is it some kind of magic that only an engineer or scientist can understand?… READ THE REST

An overview of the electrical system

Someone once said a car needs only two things to run — fuel and electricity. Well, OK, three things, if you count air. But the point is this: A car depends on only these three things for basic operation.

“How can that be?” you ask. “Today’s cars are so complicated.” Well, compare an old car with a modern one. If you look beyond the obvious, what do you find? The basics are the same. Nowadays, it’s only the application that’s more complicated. Take electricity.

The essential electrical components in old cars and new ones are practically the same — ignition, starter, generator, battery and lights. But today’s cars also come equipped with electric wipers, electric gauges, electric windows — even electric mirrors. Most of today’s extras are just that — extras. But all these components have one thing in common. They all need electricity to operate.

So, before getting into the specifics of electrical theory and how to wire your car, let’s take a brief overview of the car’s electrical system.… READ THE REST

The Role of Electricity in the automobile

In the past, electrical systems were basically stand-alone. For example, the ignition system was only responsible for supplying the voltage needed to fire the spark plugs. Ignition timing was controlled by vacuum and mechanical advance systems. Today there are very few electrical systems that are still independent.

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Electricity in the automobile

Today, most manufactures network their electrical systems together through computers. This means that information gathered by one system can be used by another. The result may be that a faulty component may cause several symptoms. Consider the following example. The wiper system can interact with the headlight system to turn on the headlights whenever the wipers are turned on. Hie wipers can interact with the vehicle speed sensor to provide for speed-sensitive wiper operation. The speed sensor may provide information to the antilock brake module. The antilock brake module can then share this information with the transmission control module, and the instrument cluster can receive vehicle speed information to operate the speedometer.… READ THE REST

Why Become an Electrical System Technician?

In the past it was possible for technicians to work their entire careers and be able to almost completely avoid the vehicle’s electrical systems. They would specialize in engines, steering/suspension, or brakes. Today there is not a system on the vehicle that is immune to the role of electrical circuits. Engine controls, electronic suspension systems, and antilock brakes are common on today’s vehicles. Even electrical systems that were once thought of as being simple have evolved to computer controls. Headlights are now pulse-width modulated using highside drivers and will automatically brighten and dim based on the light intensity of oncoming traffic. Today’s vehicles are equipped with twenty or more computers, laser-guided cruise control, sonar park assist, infrared climate control, fiber optics, and radio frequency transponders and decoders. Simple systems have become more computer reliant. For example, the horn circuit on the 2008 Chrysler 300C involves three separate control modules to function.… READ THE REST