Can electrical problems be traced?


#1

Is it true that if your car has an electrical problem, it is almost impossible to find due to the sheer number of possibilities?


#2

Yes, some electrical problems can be very close to impossible to trace in modern cars due to the mountain of wiring, modules, relays, electrical options, etc, etc.
A DIYer may spend an eternity looking for a gremlin.
An experienced electrical technician may spend an eternity doing the same.

The problem with the latter is it can get very expensive for the person who owns the car.

Does your car have any particular problem that has caused you to ask this question?


#3

I agree. I once had a fairly new vehicle that kept running the battery down. I searched for many days for the “parasitic drain” without much luck. The battery discharging stopped after a couple of weeks so I immediately checked my fuse panel. The cigarette lighter fuse was blown. Since my wife and I have never smoked we never thought to check the cigarette lighter at all.

When I checked the lighter…I found a small aluminum toy dime from one of my kid’s game resting at the bottom. Since it was a composite metal and not very conductive…it didn’t blow the fuse until it melted during a long road trip. As @ok4450 asked…do you have a particular electrical problem?


#4

I had a late model car declared totaled over wiring damage that required replacing the main harness at a total cost of nearly $3,000 with no guaranty that additional repairs wouldn’t be necessary. The dealership had refused to even make an estimate.


#5

Oh I have a 2003 Bonneville that started cutting off while driving. 2 shops pretty much told me an electrical problem would be impossible to find. I was just verifying they were being reasonable. Thanks for the replies.


#6

I went through that problem with my Rivera and never did solve it. Replaced all the usual suspects and in the shop twice for a pro look. Crank sensor, fuel pump etc, ignition switch, grounds, and on and on. Junked it finally. The only thing I didn’t so was the EGR for $500.

Intermittants are the worst to find. The best you can hope for is a dead car that can be diagnosed.


#7

@Jenetix What makes you suspect an electrical problem?

When the engine cuts out, do the dash lights come on or is there a loss of power?

Does it restart right away?

Is the problem temperature related or is it random?

How frequently does it happen?

What have you tried so far?

The shops may or may not be reasonable.

We need some more information, but yes as mentioned above, intermittent problems can be very difficult to find.


#8

Sometimes, running down an electrical gremlin in a car is as difficult as finding the defective bulb in a 50 light (or more) string of series Christmas lights. A shop that specializes in electrical problems may be able to help you out. You may have to leave the car with them for several days and let them drive it around so that they experience the problem.


#9

@jenetix, this appears to be a second post related to a randomly stalling 2003 Bonneville. At this point you should not expect or worry about a nightmarish electrical failure that’s going to break the bank.

In the other thread, I think Tester referenced a crank sensor problem. That’s not a major repair even if done on a wild guess. The shop should have considered this possibility rather than throw out the 200 sensors comment.


#10

Intermittent electrical problems can be pretty difficult to find a lot of times but I wouldn’t say they are impossible. The fix for those kind of problems mainly depends on the skill of the tech working on the problem. There are methods the savvy tech can use, like tapping on suspected trouble spots, that can help in finding the trouble. Knowing about common issues with certain models of vehicles helps also.

The best thing a owner can do to help is give the tech all the related information about what happens when the trouble occurs. Like “the engine dies and the warning lights turn on when it happens” or something like, “the headlights turn off also when the engine quits”. Having clues like this help eliminate things by pinning the trouble to a common source (usually power) that relates to the trouble spot.

In your case, with the engine cutting out, there are a couple of common trouble areas for that kind of problem. I would suspect a power problem either within the ignition area or a fuel pump relay problem for the first guesses.


#11

Yes, electrical problem - particularly intermittent ones - can be very frustrating to trace down.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Some don’t take very long to figure out.