A vehicle’s starting and charging systems, along with the battery, help ensure dependable vehicle operation in all sorts of driving conditions. The Car Care Council advises you to make sure to check these systems regularly.

The starting, charging and battery system consists of spark plug wires, spark plugs, belts, alternator, starter, battery, ignition coil(s) and the ignition module. The battery stores electrical energy and the starter converts that energy into mechanical force to turn the engine for starting.

The alternator produces an electric current to replace what the starter used from the battery during start-up and to support electrical loads when the engine is running. An ignition module turns the low-voltage supply to the ignition coil on and off, and the coil produces the high voltage for the ignition system. This creates a spark at the spark plugs and ignites the air/fuel mixture in the engine. A belt transmits power from the front of the engine to the alternator’s pulley, along with other accessories.

“You should test your battery every fall,” said Rich White, Car Care Council executive director. “If your car’s battery is 3 years old or more, consider replacing it since the chances of failure increase. Regular care will improve your car’s dependability and lessen the chance of an inconvenient breakdown.”

Symptoms of starting, charging and battery wear:

» Headlight and interior lights dim

» “Check Engine” and/or battery light may come on

» Accessories fail to operate

Driving habits such as frequent engine on/off cycles will cause more wear on the starter than a simple trip back and forth to work. Other factors include driving and weather conditions, mileage, vehicle age and excessive electrical draws like in-vehicle entertainment systems.

— Nikki Ayers owns Ayers Automotive Repairs, with locations at 1301 Chapala St. and 220 Anacapa St. For more information, call 805.962.7316 or 805.845.4242.