Electrical Problems With Vehicles

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

When a Vehicles wipers stop working, the lights on the console go out or the car won't start altogether, owners may become frustrated and attempt to take the car immediately to the shop. However, many Vehicles electrical problems can be diagnosed and solved by the owner, and oftentimes the ones that can't are not difficult or expensive repairs.

Under The Hood:

 Electrical Problems With Ford Explorers

Common Electrical Problems

Because a vehicle has so many electronic components, it is not uncommon for one or more of them to fail---especially if they are connected in a series. Many of these are connected to the generic electronic module, which is a computer used on Ford explorers to control electronic functions. Interior lighting, battery save mode, four-wheel drive and headlights are all electrical components that may stop working on Ford explorers. Some common electrical problems arise due to tampering by car owners. For instance, it is relatively common for the factory radio to be swapped out in favor of a better sound system, but if one is not careful, he or she may accidentally cut additional wires to the GEM in the Explorer. This may result in gas gauges, speedometer and tachometer failure on the dashboard. If the windshield wipers stop working or the "check engine" light blinks on and off at random, the issue is likely electrical.

Diagnosing an Electrical Problem

The first thing a driver should do is to simply turn off the car and attempt to restart---certain lights, like the ABS and "Check Engine" indicators, may go off after the car is turned back on. Next, one should look for the fuse panel under the dashboard on the driver's side of the explorer. Any blown fuses can be replaced inexpensively and will save a trip to a mechanic. Power windows and locks can be related either to a short or breakage in the motor mechanism inside the door or to the GEM. Dysfunctional remote entry, anti-theft devices and rear window heating are related to the GEM, which may have a bad connection. Dim headlights and interior lights may be caused by a low battery or faulty alternator.

Fixing an Electrical Issue

Fuses are cheap and easy to replace, and prevent more serious electrical problems from occurring in a car's electrical wiring or circuits. If mechanisms on windows and locks are broken due to a bad motor, it is usually best to contact a mechanic unless one has experience in replacing such a switch or motor. Loose connections, circuits or relays to the GEM are easy enough to diagnose and repair since they are usually apparent to the naked eye on the explorer---for dim headlights, one should check the connections to the alternator, for console lights or power windows, the connections to the GEM. Persistent problems, or ones that cannot be remedied with relative ease, should be taken to a mechanic to prevent further damage.

 What Electrical Problems are There with a Toyota Highlander?

GPS System Problems

Owners of the 2004 Highlander report several electrical problems arising from the GPS system being linked with other components. Problems such as heaters blowing cold air, signal lights malfunctioning or failing and non-functioning clocks and radios were all tied to problems with the GPS system. Often, the GPS system is no longer under warranty for the 2004.

Accelerator Problems

Toyota has recalled a number of vehicles because of accelerators becoming stuck, and any Highlander owner must check with Toyota to see if his accelerator needs to be repaired. The Highlander also has a problem with transmission hesitation when the accelerator is pressed. This is sometimes resolved by having the vehicle's software diagnosed and reset.

Sensor Defects

Sensor problems in the Highlander's computer have caused the vehicle's stability control system to malfunction. Sensors have also been reported to turn on all the warning lights for no reason or turn on and off intermittently. The sensor requires recalibration by a trained mechanic.

Battery Failure

Several owners report their Highlanders' engines shutting off when the vehicle reached speeds above 55 mph. The engine stalls, leaving the driver coasting. Mechanics found this to be caused by an electrical problem draining the battery. The Hybrid Highlander experiences a similar problem in which all warning lights come on before the hybrid system completely shuts down because of an electrical problem.

 Electrical Problems in the 2000 Ford Winstar 3.8L

Electric Windows

More than 180,000 Ford Windstar vans have been recalled for electrical problems with the windows and dashboard cluster, including the 3.8L Windstar for the 2000 model year. The Fords built with an instrument panel that does not have a message center came wired to allow the windows, partition and sun roof to open when the ignition is off. According to Motor Carrier Vehicle Safety Standard No. 118, all electrical windows must open only when the ignition is in the start, accessory or on position. The Windstar owner must take the van back into the dealership to have the wiring harness reconfigured to resolve this dangerous situation.

Speed Control Issues

The 2000 Ford Windstar 3.8L is part of a major recall of more than 4 million Fords manufactured with speed controls made by Texas Instruments. According to Carcomplaints.com, the speed control deactivation switch leaks fluid and then begins to overheat, causing the switch to smoke or burn. A fire can be created by this switch even when the Windsar is not running. The Ford Windstar owner must take the van into the dealership to have this electrical problem repaired, and at this time the dealership will also inspect the anti-lock braking system (ABS) module to ensure it has not been damaged by the electrical problem.

Rear Air Conditioner Problems

The rear air conditioner on the 2000 Ford Windstar 3.8L van exhibits electrical problems that cause the motor to eventually stop in the medium or low setting. The resistors inside the air-conditioning motor overheat and then begin to smoke, causing a potential fire hazard. More than 400,000 Ford mini vans were recalled for this electrical problem, including the 2000 Ford Windstar 3.8L. A wire needs to be installed on the speed settings to ensure that the temperature on the resistor remains at an acceptable level.