tester and circuit breakers in car

You’ve always thought of yourself as an amateur car mechanic, but even with your expertise, your car is having an issue that you can’t quite figure out. 

You’ve checked the engine, your brakes, and even made sure your tires are inflated, but nothing helps. 

The issue could be your car’s circuit breaker. 

In this post, we’ll fill you in on some of the top signs that your car’s circuit breakers need to be either repaired or replaced. 

Read on to make sure you know how to keep your car in tip-top shape and avoid potentially serious problems on the road.

1. Your Circuit Breaker Keeps on Tripping

One of the most obvious signs that you’ve got a major issue with your circuit breaker and likely need to replace it is frequent tripping. 

Although you try to push the breaker’s switch to the correct position, it always seems to click back to the “off” side. You’ll likely hear this click quite loudly, and moments later, the car may turn off.  

In some cases, you may not even be able to get the circuit breaker to stay in the correct position at all. It might slide to the off position, or even get stuck in the middle. 

Tripping prevents the car’s fuse box from going into an electrical overload. This means you’ll need to replace the specific breaker, or perhaps even correct a wiring issue under the hood or within the fuse box. 

You may even need to speak with an electrician or mechanic about adding additional circuit breakers in order to better accommodate your car’s overall electrical output. 

Get more info here on car circuit breakers and learn how to find replacements for your specific make/model. 

2. Something Stinks

Have you noticed a strange odor coming from your breaker box and the surrounding area?

Does it smell a bit like rotten eggs or even a burned piece of toast? 

That distinctive smell is a well-recognized sign of a problem, and it smells different than a gas leak would. 

It usually happens because the circuit breaker keeps tripping and creating tiny sparks every time, signing the electrical components.

It’s absolutely time for a replacement if something stinks, especially if the smell is combined with a hotter temperature. This could end up damaging your pipes and engine if you don’t move quickly. 

Read more in the next section to see what we mean.  

3. Its Parts Are Hot to the Touch

What’s one of the most important signs that you have a problem with not just your circuit breakers, but likely also with your entire electrical panel?

If one circuit breaker or material in the box is significantly hotter than the others. 

You need to replace the overheated circuit breaker as soon as possible, as the heat can spread to and damage the surrounding parts. 

This is one issue you shouldn’t attempt to fix on your own, as many overheated circuit breakers can cause fires. Instead, reach out to a qualified electrician in your area immediately. 

4. Your Car Lights Won’t Stop Flickering

Have you noticed that your car lights are constantly flickering, dimming, or losing brightness? 

If you know that the problem isn’t with the lightbulb itself, then the issue is likely old circuit breakers (good news: it’s not a ghost.)

Most often, these lights are simply a sign of old age in circuit breakers. 

Usually, the average lifespan of a circuit breaker is around 30-40 years for both cars and homes, but some conditions and problems warrant a replacement. 

If you haven’t replaced the breakers since you purchased your car, if you purchased it used, or if your car has an especially large electrical load, you should talk to your mechanic. 

You should also physically examine the area around your breaker box if the lights are flickering. If you notice burn or singe marks, it’s time for an immediate replacement. 

If not, you should simply follow these instructions for how to reset the car’s circuit breaker.

Test Your Car’s Circuit Breakers

Let’s quickly talk about how you can test your car’s circuit breakers if you suspect there’s a problem.

First, make sure that your car is completely turned off. Next, find your car’s fuse box. It’s usually underneath your dashboard or sometimes right by the glove compartment. 

Then, unscrew and remove any parts that are preventing you from accessing the fuse box (usually, this is just car paneling.) 

Then, take out the specific circuit that looks like it has a problem, and turn on your car. 

Touch one of the metal prongs of the voltmeter to the positive/hot connector on the board, and another one to the negative/cold connector. Then, you can simply read the results on the voltmeters or needle dial gauge. 

If there’s no voltage at all? 

You’ve found the breaker that should be replaced. 

Have You Noticed Any of These Warning Signs of a Broken Circuit Breaker?

It’s important that you are always on the lookout for signs of a problem with your car’s circuit breaker.

If you smell something funny, run a test and get a no-voltage result, or if your car’s lights are flickering, you’re due for a replacement. 

When in doubt, just leave things to the professionals. You don’t want to do more damage to your car because of an incorrect reset or installment of a new breaker. 

Need more tips on how to keep your car running for as long as possible? 

Curious about signs of other common car issues, like worn-down tires or broken windshield wipers? 

Keep reading our blog daily to help you level up your auto knowledge.