Electric cars have rapidly become the popular vehicle of today’s society, being environmentally friendly as well as cost-effective and aesthetically impressive. Another benefit of electric cars is their less frequent need for repairs; however, when these vehicles do need the occasional service, mechanics should be aware of the similarities and differences between them and gas-powered vehicles before diagnosing and fixing any issue.
You Need New Tools
While many electric vehicles remain similar to the average gas-powered car, there are a few differences in the equipment necessary to repair each one. Electric vehicles require specific battery gauges, chargers, and dollies for the wheels (so that the car’s inverters do not charge from the wheels’ rotation). Mechanics should also have nonmetal workbenches (like plastic, or at least rubber-covered metal) to prevent the voltage of the car from traveling through the bench itself. Prepare your workplace with these extra tools so that you are capable of helping gas and electric cars!
They Require Fewer Fluids
Where gasoline vehicles require a variety of fluids to lubricate and run the engine, electric battery-powered vehicles require only three: brake fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid. Without an engine to worry about, the only other pieces of machinery that need fluids are the brakes and the windshield, with coolant to regulate the temperature of all the mechanisms that make the car function. Don’t attempt to use fluids that the car doesn’t need. The fact that so few fluids are necessary is meant to be a benefit of the car itself! A misunderstanding of what fluids are needed can cause the car to overheat and severely damage what is under the hood.
Tire Maintenance is the Same
One thing that you won’t have to concern yourself with understanding differences in is the tires. The batteries on electric vehicles usually weigh more than regular engines because they aren’t burning liquid in order to generate power, they are simply burning power consistently after charges. Therefore, the tires used usually need sidewalls with greater durability and with the capability to bear heavier loads. This also helps improve the battery range. Regardless, the maintenance for those tires is the same—proper air pressure, deep enough tread, good alignment. The tires themselves may be different, but you don’t need to treat them as such.
Add-Ons Drivers Like
There are various add-ons that drivers may choose to use in their car in order to increase comfort or battery range. For example, tinted windows help preserve the battery by keeping heat out. Plus, the less a driver uses their air conditioning or heating systems, the cooler the battery remains and the longer it will last. Other examples of add-ons are things like portable chargers, all-weather floor mats, or tool kits that come with EV-specific equipment to help you in a pinch.
Regenerative Brake Systems
One of the most innovative things about electric cars is their ability to use the kinetic energy from braking— force from the friction on the brake pads—to be recycled back into the battery and stored as power for the car. The wear on brake pads is no worse off from this kind of system than it is with an average car, but brake pads should be checked as frequently as is normal. Mechanics should make note of the hardware and seals used on and around the brakes; if these are damaged, further and more severe issues can develop and the undercarriage of your car may suffer. Any replacements of hydraulic components will require that you have a scan tool to run the ABS pump during “bleeding”. Do not attempt to do this manually! Regenerative brake systems use solenoids and valves that impede the manual operation of the ABS pump.
Battery is to Electric as Engine is to Gas
If there is a problem, it likely resides in the battery. When a gas car malfunctions, the first place you look is at the engine. When an electric car malfunctions, you look at the battery. The entire functionality of the car centers on this core power element—this is why electric cars are expected to last an impressively long time. Unlike regular cars, whose engines can cause problems for other elements of the machinery or can themselves be the problem, a battery-operated vehicle has only its less complicated power source to worry about. Learn the ins and outs of EV batteries so that you can easily evaluate and diagnose the issue as well as you would an engine.
You know the dangers that come with everyday mechanic work. An electric car is a car: it requires the same kind of safety measures for being held up with a jack, for handling equipment and being aware of your surroundings. However, these cars weigh a significant amount more than the normal car, and are constantly charged by a high voltage battery. If the EV has been in an accident or is malfunctioning because of its battery, the mechanic is exposed to a dangerous level of electricity unless the proper safety measures are followed. Use and wear proper PPE that keeps your skin safe from electrical currents, likely using rubber. Disconnect the battery as soon as possible before working on the rest of the car. Until you do, any metal part of the car (which is a lot!) can be a conductor.
Know What to Recommend
Finally, electric cars are still being updated, upgraded and improved. Stay up to date on the best options for specific electric vehicle models just like you would for a gas vehicle. The parts are, for the most part, similar. Do the research to verify that they will function effectively in a heavier car without an engine. And, be aware of the parts made specifically for electric vehicles! What has been proven most effective?
Electric vehicles need be no more complex than a gas-powered vehicle. Simply make sure that you are aware of the differences, be prepared with the information, methods, and measures to prevent accidents, and you can feel confident in your abilities to fix them as well as any other vehicle.
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