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1. Car Power Basics > 1. Understand Car Electrical Systems

Understand Car Electrical Systems

Different electronic systems, such as those for houses, cars, and computers, use very different connectors, voltages, and power levels.

If you are familiar with only home or computer electronics, you will need a little bit of background before you start playing with the wires in your car. This hack will introduce you to automobile power. Because you will probably want to “bench test” your in-car computers in the house before installing them in your car, it will also show you how you can hack a computer power supply to power your in-car accessories indoors.

The first term you need to learn about is voltage, which is simply the amount of potential (work, force, energy, change) in an electrical flow. Different devices are designed around a certain level of electrical potential, which can be thought of as the amount of pressure propelling the electricity. The analogy most often used to explain voltage is water flow, where the pressure of the water coming out of a hose is like the voltage, which can be turned up and down by a valve or spigot. The same hose can release high-pressure water to clean a driveway, or a low-pressure flow to fill a water balloon.


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