Project Overview
Student Learning Objectives
Content Material
Links to Course Competencies
Supplementary Resources


Automotive Electrical Diagnosis: Establishing a Process

Project Overview

The automobile's many electrical systems present quite a challenge to the individuals who make a living repairing automobiles.   The tremendous variety of electrical systems from the vehicle manufacturers has created the need for an established process to solve problems that arise.  The days of knowing each electrical system like the back of your hand are gone.  For instance, it is not uncommon to encounter five different methods of activating the daytime running lights on General Motors vehicles alone.  The mechanic of today can expect to see different electrical systems utilizing different electrical controls with an entirely different set of symptoms almost daily. 

The students in the automotive electrical diagnosis class will begin to think about developing a process for electrical troubleshooting that works best for them.  With facilitation from the instructor, students are guided to work through a step by step process which can be utilized when encountering any electrical problem.  This project is useful for high school automotive students, but is designed primarily for community/technical college automotive students where a specific course of this nature is likely to be found. 

The basis of this real world learning object is a website,, which serves as a communications point that involves automotive technician members from around the world.  This International Automotive Technicians' Network, as of March, 2006, has a membership of 49,126.  The rules for membership are that you must be a working automotive professional with at least four years of full time experience or ASE certification, and you must also abide by the iATN Member Agreement.

Students in most automotive electrical diagnosis classes will NOT have four years of full time experience, and most students will NOT have ASE certification.  For this reason, all students cannot be expected to become members, so the instructor must enroll as a member.  Once the instructor is enrolled as a member the instructor has access to forums (discussion boards) that are concerned with technical issues, new tool reviews, shop management issues, automotive educator concerns, and the like. 

Another aspect of membership is joining the website's listserv.  The listserv allows the members to email each other concerning problems they are having on cars, and seek out replies on suggestions for an appropriate repair.  After a member provides vehicle information about make, model, mileage, area of repair concern, and a description of the problem to an area on the website, an email is sent out to all members interested in receiving problems of this type.  You have an option to reply to this email and give assistance to the technician with the problem.  You do not have to respond.  You will also receive an email response from the individual with the initial problem once the problem has been corrected, so you know the fix for the vehicle.  The problems reported are from real world automobiles in real auto repair facilities, with real world mechanics providing the information. 

The instructor will select electrical problems, which are continuously coming into their email system, as the foundations for determining how students will go about troubleshooting the concerns.  The instructor uses the exercise early in the course during a class with guided small group discussion or as a homework assignment. 

Students will take a real world automotive electrical concern, provide a plan for diagnosing the vehicle, and when the time is appropriate, learn from their instructor the real fix for the vehicle.  With facilitation from the instructor, developing a diagnostic strategy with a real world problem is initiated by the automotive electrical diagnosis student.