How Do I Find a Short in My Car?

How Do I Find a Short in My Car?

January 24, 2022

A vehicle’s electrical system plays a crucial role in every car. Without all of the complex wires running throughout your car, your engine might not start up, you might not have headlights and your radio might not turn on.

A car’s wiring is designed to last for the long haul, but issues can occur leading to a malfunction. One of the more common wiring malfunctions is a short circuit.

Keep reading to learn about symptoms of an electrical short in your and what you can do to locate the short.

Signs of a short

A short circuit (or short) occurs when an electric current flows down the wrong path with little to no resistance. As a result, the wires can essentially get fried and no longer work as intended. Here are a few symptoms of an electrical short in a car:

  • Engine won’t crank: Your engine needs a spark of electricity to fire up. If it doesn’t receive that spark for some reason, it could be the result of a dead battery, poor alternator or a short circuit in one of the fuses.
  • Malfunctioning lights: Again, dim or flickering headlights or cabin lights could mean something’s seriously wrong with your battery or alternator—the best-case scenario is that you have a short circuit somewhere under the hood.
  • Burning smell: Electrical wires often emit a burning smell when they malfunction. If you smell something burning under the hood, there’s clearly something wrong, and it might be a short circuit.

How to find a short in a car with a multimeter

Finding a short circuit by yourself can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it in the long haul if you have a tool called a multimeter and are looking to save some money on repairs.

Your first step is to pop the hood and locate the battery. Next loosen the screw attaching the negative cable, and separate the cable from the battery. Set your multimeter to display 10 amps, and position the positive part on the negative side of the battery cable and the negative part on the battery’s positive side.

Check your multimeter, and record the number. If it reads 0, place the amperage at 9, and recheck the multimeter. Continue reducing the amperage by 1, rereading the multimeter at each step. If you reduce the amperage all the way to 0 and still aren’t getting a reading, then you don’t have a short circuit.

Next you’ll need to move on to the fuses. Remove the fuses one by one, and check them each using the same method as above. When you finally get a reading on the multimeter, you’ve found the location of your short, and you simply need to replace that fuse.

Just bring your vehicle to us

Instead of wasting your time going through this entire process, bring your car to our pros at Auto Truck Service Inc. We’re experts in how to find a short in a car with a multimeter, and you can trust that we’ll fix your vehicle in no time. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

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