What Causes a Car to Lose Electrical Power While Driving?
If you’ve ever had your car lose power while driving, you know how frustrating it can be. You may feel stranded, not knowing what to do next. You may feel unsafe, especially if this happens when you’re on the highway. You might experience anger and anxiety stemming from the possibility of having to pay for repairs that weren’t in your budget. But there’s good news: if your car has experienced electrical issues while driving, you’re certainly not alone. There are a few common causes of these issues, and they can all be easily fixed or prevented with proper care and attention to the unique needs of your vehicle.
The good news is that there are some relatively easy ways to prevent and fix these issues! Let’s look at some tips below:
A dead battery
Just like the batteries in your TV remote or portable radio, the battery in your car is a rechargeable one. If it’s weak, it won’t have the power needed to start and run your vehicle’s engine.
If you’ve been driving and your car suddenly loses electrical power while you’re on the road, it might be that you’re experiencing a dead battery situation. A weak battery or one that is beginning to fail can also cause this type of problem. In most cases, you can use jump leads to get enough power to move your vehicle so that it can be driven to an auto service center for servicing/replacement of its onboard battery.
A faulty alternator
- Electrical System Issues
If your vehicle’s electrical system is misbehaving, it could be caused by a faulty alternator. Most modern cars rely heavily on the battery and alternator to power the lights, radio, air conditioning, and other electronics while the engine is running. If you’re driving down the road and all of a sudden your battery warning light comes on and your car dies, chances are it could be caused by a malfunctioning alternator.
- The Battery Won’t Charge
The most common symptom of an alternator problem is that the battery won’t charge while driving. The clock in your car will reset every time you turn off the vehicle because there isn’t enough energy from the battery to retain settings when it’s switched off. If you notice this happening, don’t wait too long to get it checked out—the longer you drive with an under-charging alternator, the more damage will be done to your battery.
- Difficulty Starting Your Car
Another indicator that something may be wrong with your alternator is difficulty starting or turning over your vehicle’s motor. A dead or dying battery can cause this issue as well but if you are able to jump start it after leaving it alone for several minutes then there may also be something wrong with your electrical system.
Loose or corroded battery terminals
In addition to the obvious benefits of a well-maintained vehicle, there are also some things you can do to prevent problems like the one that occurred in this scenario. In this case, corrosion on the battery terminals was found to be the culprit behind the problem. For starters, it’s important to make sure your battery is properly maintained and cared for. This is especially true if it’s a car—as they grow older, their electronic systems age as well.
It’s important to keep your battery terminals as clean as possible by removing excess dirt and dust from around them with a wire brush or other tool on a regular basis. If you notice excessive corrosion on your battery terminals, you can use baking soda instead of a wire brush to remove it. Baking soda has been shown to work effectively in cleaning corroded terminals without damaging them—it’s commonly used in many institutions like hospitals because of its effective cleaning properties that don’t harm materials or cause damage to them over time.
A loose wire can also cause an electrical fault, which is when the insulation on a wire isn’t thick enough to protect the flow of electricity. This can happen if you have installed a new radio or other electrical accessories with too few wires to handle all of the devices in your car.
The most common cause of faulty wiring is poor manufacturing or, less frequently, exposure to the elements. Corrosion and rust can build up on the metal contacts inside your car’s electrical system over time and prevent them from working properly (or at all). A mechanic will be able to test these connections for problems by using an ohmmeter, which measures resistance in an electric circuit.
If your vehicle has experienced faulty wiring before, it may have shorted out part of its own system as well—which means that multiple issues need fixing before you’ll be back up on
A bad connection to the starter motor
Your car’s electrical system can also be connected to the starter motor, which is what actually starts the engine running. If you have a bad connection in that circuit, it can prevent your engine from starting.
There are several parts of the starter motor that could cause a problem:
- The starter relay works by having a coil pull in the contactor when you turn on the ignition. If your starter relay has worn out or suffered an electrical short, it won’t function properly and may prevent your car from starting.
- The starter solenoid is essentially an electromagnetic switch that attaches to your battery and engages with your starter motor when you start your car. The solenoid can wear out over time, causing it not to work properly or at all—which prevents you from starting your engine.
- Another point of failure is the circuit fuse for the starter motor. This part acts as a safety measure for protecting against electrical shorts in wiring near the solenoid and battery cables, but if it blows when there’s no short, then you’ll get no power to these parts and won’t be able to start your engine as a result.
The battery is not getting charged by the alternator.
Your alternator is a component of your car that converts the mechanical energy from your engine into electrical energy in the form of moving electrons. The alternator creates an alternating current, which means that it reverses the direction of its flow as it produces electricity. It does this by using a rotor and a stator: the rotor is basically a wheel attached to another wheel (the rotor shaft), and when its spinning motion is generated by your engine, it agitates electrons within coils in the stator to move them from one end to another, thus creating electricity. The electricity produced by the alternator flows through wires to charge your battery and power other electrical systems.
The alternator belt may be broken, not connected or loose. If it’s broken or not connected, no amount of wheel-spinning will generate enough movement for it to create electricity; if it’s loose, then there also won’t be enough pressure applied in order for this complex movement of parts to take place fully. Now let’s say you’ve determined that at least one of these components has gone awry; how do you fix that alternator belt so that you can get back on track?
Figure out why your car is losing electrical power while driving
When you’re driving and your car is losing electrical power, you can lose not just your lights and radio, but also steering power and even the ability to make turns or use your brakes. Luckily, this isn’t something that happens often, but when it does, there are some easy things to check.
If your car stalls while driving and the battery light comes on on the dashboard panel, then the battery is likely dead or faulty. If you find that everything on your dashboard works except for the headlights and windshield wipers, then it’s possible that the alternator is malfunctioning.
If it looks like corrosion has built up around either of your battery terminals (you’ll know it’s corrosion if it looks like white powder), there might be an issue with one of these terminals connecting to the battery post. Cleaning this buildup can fix this problem quickly.
You might have a wiring issue if all of these other possibilities have been ruled out; sometimes a single wire in a harness can cause major electrical issues across multiple systems in a car. The best way to go about figuring out wiring problems is to consult a professional mechanic who knows how to trace wires back from their endpoints using a wiring diagram.