Any good newbie automotive electrical books?

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I've learned a lot about my Cruiser over the last year, done some fairly involved jobs on it, and I'm getting fairly confident (though not necessarily good) at working under the hood. But working on electrical stuff is still way over my head.

So... can anyone recommend a good how-to book / primer on how a car's electrical system works? I saw that book "Managing 12 Volts" but it seemed a bit involved for my purposes. I don't have any desire to run a fridge, put in dual batteries, or upgrade the OEM alt or anything (don't even want a winch for now). I just want to know basic stuff -- for instance -- how it all works, how to install a set of fog lights or maybe a CB. How to not kill myself working on it, too. And everytime I see electric circuits drawn out I tend to get a headache, so perhaps something that will explain what I'm looking at. Or just give me diagrams and step by step instructions that even a dummy like me can I understand.

Any tips? Can anyone recommend the Haynes book or that Jim Horner book or anything else out there? I like the diagrams in the FSM and can understand those alright, any books that are sorta like that?

Thanks
Jason
 

rusty_tlc

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Forrest Mims wrote a series of small books for Radio Shack that were perfect for the beginner. Since Radio Shack is now a Cell Phone and RC toy store run by pimple faced HS students I doubt they still carry them. But I did find a book by Forrest Mims on Amazon so you might try the local Barnes and Noble, look for "Getting Started in Electronics" by Forest Mims III.

HTH
 
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ballardcruiser said:
how it all works,
What's always amaized me is how similar basic electrical ideas are hydraulics or plumbing. Some people have a hard time with electricity because it's not intuitive, but everyone knows how plumbing works. Here's a little about how they match up.

voltage=pressure
current=flow

Imagine the + terminal of your battery as a water tower and the - terminal is the ocean. The alternator pumps water (electricity) into the water tower (battery). As more and more water is pumped in, the pressure goes up (just as the voltage goes up as you charge a battery). Pipes take the water out of the water tower to do useful things, like squirting out of the shower head (just as wires move the electricity around). But as the water flows through the pipes, the pressure drops due to friction (just like the voltage drops due to resistance of wires as it goes to your headlights). The water really slows down when it hits the restrictor orfice in the shower head and it drops alot of pressure there (just as voltage drops through a resistor). After the water goes into the drain, it is still under pressure, although not much, that causes the water to flow through the drain pipes until it reaches the ocean (just as the electricity flows through the ground wires in a car to reach the - terminal of the battery).

I think this is about enough theory to fix most things on a car distribution circuit (charging involves some magnetism, which is where the analogy kind of breaks down).
 

NorCalDoug

problems solved daily...
 
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ballardcruiser said:
I've learned a lot about my Cruiser over the last year, done some fairly involved jobs on it, and I'm getting fairly confident (though not necessarily good) at working under the hood. But working on electrical stuff is still way over my head.

So... can anyone recommend a good how-to book / primer on how a car's electrical system works? I saw that book "Managing 12 Volts" but it seemed a bit involved for my purposes. I don't have any desire to run a fridge, put in dual batteries, or upgrade the OEM alt or anything (don't even want a winch for now). I just want to know basic stuff -- for instance -- how it all works, how to install a set of fog lights or maybe a CB. How to not kill myself working on it, too. And everytime I see electric circuits drawn out I tend to get a headache, so perhaps something that will explain what I'm looking at. Or just give me diagrams and step by step instructions that even a dummy like me can I understand.

Any tips? Can anyone recommend the Haynes book or that Jim Horner book or anything else out there? I like the diagrams in the FSM and can understand those alright, any books that are sorta like that?

Thanks
Jason
I consider myself a tard for the most part when it comes to electrical stuff. That said, I've installed 12V outlets in the rear cargo area of my 80, wired up a CB and installed lights. No biggie.

There are some good tips here. If you have questions, post something up. I'll help if I can -- if it's anything I've done already.
 
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ballardcruiser said:
So... can anyone recommend a good how-to book / primer on how a car's electrical system works? I saw that book "Managing 12 Volts" but it seemed a bit involved for my purposes. I don't have any desire to run a fridge, put in dual batteries, or upgrade the OEM alt or anything (don't even want a winch for now). I just want to know basic stuff -- for instance -- how it all works, how to install a set of fog lights or maybe a CB. How to not kill myself working on it, too. And everytime I see electric circuits drawn out I tend to get a headache, so perhaps something that will explain what I'm looking at. Or just give me diagrams and step by step instructions that even a dummy like me can I understand.

Any tips? Thanks
Jason
Jason,

Don't disregard the "Managing 12 Volts" so quickly -- it's actually one of the "easiest" to digest for understanding the basics. It also has an excellent section on how to troubleshoot the various parts and pieces of your system which makes it more than worth the price of the book. Plus if you ever want to run dual batteries, you'll have a great source of how-to info at your disposal.

Another one that is really helpful is "Automotive Electrical Handbook" by Jim Horner, published by HPBooks. Great explanations and walk-throughs. When used in conjunction with "Managing 12 Volts", it's pretty hard to go awry.

If you get into an EFI V-8 conversion, try "Custom Auto Electronics and Auto Electrical" by Frank Choco Munday, published by Graffiti Hot Rod Handbooks.

HTH,
-dogboy- '87 FJ60
 
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Thanks a ton, guys. I'll reread Managing 12 Volts and try to track down the Jim Horner book and see what happens.

Like a few shadetree mechanics I know, I'm okay at replacing stuff that already exists in my car, but a little out of my element when I'm actually adding something that the factory didn't put in. And electrical has always spooked me anyhow.

I'll see what happens. NorCalDoug has done pretty much exactly what I plan on doing to my 62 ... we'll see how it goes after I do my reading homework.
 

Beowulf

 
 
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ballardcruiser said:
we'll see how it goes after I do my reading homework.
Jason,

The homework is necessary... even required.

You must understand the theory before you can put it to practice. Even if you plan to follow another's schematic you will not be confortable unless you can understand the "whys" and "hows." It will also be impossible for you to debug any problems if you just follow a diagram and you will have to debug your wiring.

Get the "Managing 12 volts" book and study it like you would anything else that you wanted to be proficient at.

-B-
 

NorCalDoug

problems solved daily...
 
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ballardcruiser said:
Thanks a ton, guys. I'll reread Managing 12 Volts and try to track down the Jim Horner book and see what happens.

Like a few shadetree mechanics I know, I'm okay at replacing stuff that already exists in my car, but a little out of my element when I'm actually adding something that the factory didn't put in. And electrical has always spooked me anyhow.

I'll see what happens. NorCalDoug has done pretty much exactly what I plan on doing to my 62 ... we'll see how it goes after I do my reading homework.
If you give me a few days notice before you need to start working, I'll snap a few pics and throw together a quick write up on what I've done.
 
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