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How to Keep Your Car's Electrical Systems in Check

The more electronics there are in a car, the harder it is to narrow down a fault and diagnose exactly where the problem lies. An automotive circuit tester is a tool you can use to figure out exactly where the problem lies and how to solve it.

What Should a Basic Tester Do?

The advantage of a Power Probe basic tester is that it can solve a large number of simple electrical problems so that you can get out of the trouble-shooting stage and into the problem solving stage quickly and easily. While it may not be able to do everything, there are a number of functions you should look for.

  • Continuity: The first step is always looking for continuity. Hook one end to ground and use the probe on the other end to make sure your circuits are good. You want to be able to detect shorts as well as broken circuits without difficulty.
  • Apply Constant Power: Sometimes it takes more than just a quick flash to see what's going on with a component. A good testing solution should be able to apply a steady current so you have time to see what's happening.
  • Reach Everywhere: Cable length matters. Get one that can reach from the front bumper to the rear bumper so you can test everything from the battery to the brake lights without difficulty.

What About More Advanced Models?

More advanced circuit testers like the Power Probe 4 can do a lot more than simply use a hot lead to determine an open circuit. It should be able to diagnose problems as well as simply check for continuity. Some of the features to look for include:

  • LCD screen: More advanced diagnostic modes require more information than just a light to say there's a good circuit.
  • Voltmeter: Voltage measurements are important for many forms of electrical testing, and having a meter built right into your circuit tester is a huge advantage.
  • Components: With a more advanced unit, you should be able to hook-up to components like fuel injectors and run a full diagnostic quickly. You want to know how good the ground is, how many volts you're getting and a host of other information.

Keeping Your Eyes Open and Circuits Closed

A circuit tester is a simple tool for making sure everything works the way it's supposed to, from the ignition switch to the turn indicators. Just connect one lead to ground and the other lead to the component and start testing. Many units include a flashlight as well as the test light so you can see exactly what you're doing under the hood. Once you know which components are getting power, electrical problems become that much easier to solve.