Basic Electronics and Tools

ATD-5513bElectrical Tools

When it comes to working on vehicles something with the electrical system is bound to fail.  Having the proper electrical tools is vital to fixing the problem.

There are several different areas to discuss when it comes to electrical tools that would be used on vehicles.  We will discuss some of the basic tools needed to properly work on your vehicles electronics.  We will also try to discuss how to perform some basic electrical tests.

Basic Tools

We will discuss some of the basic tools that you will need to properly work on your vehicles electrical system.  We will discuss the basic operation of each and give a little detail on how each item works.


A multimeter such as Digital Multimeters  are key to checking electrical systems.  The multimeter allows you to check different things such as resistance, amperage, current, and continuity.  These help play a vital role in diagnosing a vehicle.  They allow the user to check to make sure certain components are within specifications.  How a multimeter works, is by allowing the user to take two probes and turn a switch to the proper setting they are going to test and touch the probes to those wires or terminals being tested and get a reading.

Test Light

 A test light such as this one ATD Continuity Tester are also a handy tool to have.  The multimeter from above will allow you to test a circuit for continuity, but the test light is easier.  Some of the advantages to the test light is the ease of use and the speed.

To test a basic circuit with the test light is easy.  If you are testing a component and want to see if the component has power to it all you need to do is take your test light hook the clip onto a good ground and poke into the wire.  If the test light turns on then the component has power going to it.  Then you can move onto testing the ground on the component.  To do this clip your test light clip to a good power source and poke the ground wire.  If the light comes on then the ground is good.  Right there is some basic electrical testing.


A soldering gun comes in handy when you need to replace a connector.  This ATD Dual Heat Soldering Gun Kit  is great for someone who does not have a soldering gun.  How a soldering gun works is it heats up the wire hot enough to melt the solder.  The solder then binds the wires together; it is almost like a welder for wire.

The Procedure

  1. Take the two wires and cut a half an inch off the ends, you will want to use a wire cutter such as this Automatic Wire Stripper Crimper .  The Automatic Wire Stripper Crimper works much better than the old kinds, all you do is put the wire in the top and squeeze the handles and it automatically strips the wire.  Now twist the exposed wires so they are tight.
  2. Now overlap the wires in the middle and twist one of the wires end on the end closest to the insulation on the other wire, and do the same for the other wire.  Make sure they are smooth and tight.
  3. Now take your soldering gun from your ATD Dual Heat Soldering Gun Kit and plug it in.  You will want to take a file and clean the tip just by scarping some of the old solder off.
  4. Now take your soldering gun and pull the trigger heating it up.  Let it heat up and take some solder to the tip just to get a little coating.
  5. Now keep holding the trigger and take the soldering gun to your wires.  Hold it underneath the exposed wires and move it back and forth.
  6. Take your solder and push onto the wires keep moving it until it starts to melt.  Once it starts to melt you will want to move the length of the exposed wires and keep applying solder.
  7. You want to get a nice even coating of solder.  You do not need lots.  Just a enough to cover the wire.  Now to protect your wires you will want to cover them with electrical tape making sure to wrap them tight and even.
  8. Now you are done.  To practice soldering simply take old wire and solder it together in different ways and see how it looks and holds up.

Crimp on Connectors

There are many people who will choose to buy a kit such as this ATD 360 pc. Terminal Assortment Kit .  These work great if you use them correctly.  A crimp on connector is one that you simply strip the end of the wire you need to connect, put the proper size connector over, and take your crimping pliers and squeeze them together.  This sounds easy enough, but for them to work correctly you need to use the proper size connector with the proper gauge wire.  Once you have matched the connectors and wires you will need to use a Automatic Wire Stripper Crimper  to crimp the connector.  How you do this is by taking the connector with the wire inside of it and match it to the color and gauge on the dot on your crimper and place in that slot.  Now take both hands and squeeze the handles as tight as you can.

NOTE: Crimp on connectors can come undone so it is a good idea to take and place some solder on the inside of the connector to make sure.

Basic Techniques

Now that we have discussed the basic tools, we can discuss some of the basic techniques of working with electronics.  It is a good idea to go out and purchase if you do not have these items, and here is the list: Automatic Wire Stripper Crimper , ATD Dual Heat Soldering Gun Kit,  ATD Continuity Tester,  Digital Multimeter , Electrical Tape 3/4″, and ATD 360 pc. Terminal Assortment Kit .

Now we will discuss the basic way a system works.  For an electrical component to work, it first needs to have a good power source.  This is usually from either the battery or another source.  When it comes to checking a component for power you will want to check using your multimeter that the component is getting power.  You can also check this using your test light.  I described above how to test for power using a test light.  Now that you have checked for power you will either have power or not have power.

No Power

No power can be caused by a couple of different things.  One of the first things to check is a fuse.  A fuse is easily checked by simply inspecting it or pulling it.  You can check some by looking at them or you may have to take your multimeter and see if it has continuity.  The next easiest thing to check is to see if the power source that your component isconnected to is giving power to your component.  You can do this by checking the battery or the fuse terminals with either your test light or your multimeter.  A possible other cause of not having power is that your wire you tested may not be connected to a power source.  Another cause of no power to your component could be caused by a short in your wire.  This could mean that your wire is broke and grounding out somewhere.  This is more difficult to find, because you have to trace your wire.

Power but your component doesn’t work

If you had power coming to your component the next thing that I would check would be the ground.  You will want to take your test light and connect to your power wire that just proved has juice and connect the clamp to that wire.  Then take your test light and test the ground that is in question.  If your light comes on the ground is good, if not then the ground is bad.

Bad Ground

If you have a bad ground it could be due to a bad connection in the wires, or it could be due to the fact that too many wires are connected to the ground, or it could be simply that the spot is a bad ground.  To fix a bad ground I would recommend installing a new connector unless the old one looks fine and locating a good piece of metal where there is no paint and put the ground on that using a nut or bolt.

Good ground but the component does not work

If you have a good ground but the component does not work we can simply assume that the component is bad.  We can do this because the component has power and a ground, but does not work.  This mind set and the above simple procedure can be used to test any component and help verify the problem.

Written by: Cody Mammenga an NDSCS Student

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