If your car's various electrical components such as headlights, dashboard components, and battery are starting to malfunction all at the same time, it's time to take a look at the voltage regulator. Now a lot of things could cause electric components to fail. That's why it's very important that you rule out other possible culprits. An effective and easy way to figure out if the regulator is busted is to test it using a multimeter or an Ohm meter. Here's how:
Tools you'll need:
- Vehicle manual
Step 1: Locate the voltage regulator.
This electrical component is usually located in the engine's power control module (PCM). However, the exact location depends on the type of car you have. Check your vehicle manual's electrical components/system section to figure out the location of the regulator.
Step 2: Connect the probe wires into the multimeter.
Plug the red wire into the positive jack and plug the black wire into the negative jack. Make sure to plug the right wires into the right jacks to properly test the regulator.
Step 3: Prep your ride.
Once the probing wires are connected to the Ohm meter, engage the parking brake. Then, start the engine and let it warm up for a minute or two until it settles into a steady idle.
Step 4: Check the voltage.
Switch on the meter. Let the black wire touch the voltage regulator's negative terminal and let the red wire touch the positive terminal. You'll know the terminal is negative or positive by looking at the labels (+ and -). If you've plugged the wrong wires into the wrong terminals, you'll see a negative sign (-) on the multimeter's display screen. Reverse the wires to correct this. Once you've attached the wires into their respective terminals, take a look at the multimeter's display. Volts shown should be constant, with little fluctuation. If the voltage is between 13 and 14, the voltage regulator is still in good condition. But if the result is less than or more than the range above, it means the regulator is busted and has to be replaced.
- Aside from malfunctioning dashboard and electrical components, unexplained poor engine performance can also be a sign of a busted regulator.
- When shopping for an aftermarket regulator, make sure it matches your car's specs or have a mechanic check if the replacement part will suit your vehicle. There are cases wherein some aftermarket regulators malfunction because they're not compatible with a car's factory-built system. If this is the case, don't be surprised if you experience engine stuttering and stalling after installing a new voltage regulator.
- A check engine or check battery light is also a sign that you should check the regulator for voltage level and signs of wear and tear.
- If you notice a smell that's similar to a burning match head, be more careful. This sulfur-like smell is an indication of an overheating battery because it's overcharged by the regulator. Before things get worse, check the regulator's voltage level. If it doesn't meet the voltage requirements, replace it as soon as possible. Keep in mind that a faulty voltage regulator puts a lot of auto components at risk.