Troubleshooting the electrical on any vehicle can, in some cases, be simple but can sometimes become complex.
Having the right tools to help you find the problem can be critical to getting the job done.
Keep in mind every mechanic will have their own style and method when it comes to finding a problem.
Some will use the simplest of tools, while others will use more expensive diagnostic equipment.
The main goal always is to get the job done, so using whichever tool you feel best is the best way to go.
Types of Automotive Electrical Testing Tools
- Multi Meter
- 12 Volt Light Tester
- Amp Clamp
- OBDII Scan Tool
This means it can test for volts and ohms to see if there is an open or short.
An expensive meter is not needed, and almost any cheap low-cost unit will work.
Of course, if you already have a nice meter, all the better but for working on cars and trucks, most any meter will be fine.
Since a vehicle electrical system uses 12 volts finding if a wire has voltage is easy with a 12-volt light. One side is grounded to a negative source, and the tip can probe wires to see if the voltage is present.
This makes them a handy low-cost, quick tool to find if there is a voltage on a wire when there should be.
Many techs can tell by how bright it glows if the voltage is high or low.
There is no need to cut into or disconnect a wire; the clamp goes around the wire and will display the amps passing through it.
This is a quick way to see if something is over or under-amping.
Not all amp clamps will work with DC voltage, so be sure any unit bought has DC voltage in its specifications.
An OBDII scan tool should be part of any mechanics toolbox.
A scan tool will check the computer for any error codes and display them and the problem if there are any.
This can help you narrow down a problem very quickly, as the engine code will point to the problem.
In the past, automatic diagnostic scan tools were expensive dedicated tools, and while an expensive OBDII scan tool can still be bought, low cost smartphone scan tools are now available.
Smartphone OBDII scan tools are low-cost and can greatly help diagnose a vehicle on the cheap.
The above are some of the basic types of tools mechanics use when finding a problem with a car or truck’s electrical system.
There are no doubt more ways to get things done, so what works for one person often doesn’t work as well for the next.
There are many mechanics who only use a 12-volt light tester and others who only use a multi meter.
The bottom line is what works best for you to get the problem fixed and the vehicle back on the road.
Do you have a favorite automotive electronics tool? Let us know in the comments below.