Cars Simplified: Everything Automotive Explained

Automotive Electrical Systems

IncompleteSorry, this article is currently incomplete. We'll have this finished up soon. In the meantime, check out some other articles on Cars Simplified!

Automotive electrical systems have become quite advanced over the years, but they all operate using the same electrical concepts.


Capacitors store and discharge electrical energy, and can do both of those actions faster than most batteries of roughly the same size, but generally with less energy storage capacity.

What Do Capacitors Do? video by


Conductors are a category of materials that are conductive, meaning they allow electricity to flow through them with ease. Things that are quite electrically conductive also tend to be thermally conductive as well.


Diodes are electronic components that typically only allow electricity to flow in one direction. (Learn more)


Insulators are the opposite of conductors, so they are very unlikely to conduct electricity. With enough voltage, basically everything can become a conductor, so the line between an insulator and a material with super high resistance is a little blurry.


Transitors are the backbone of computer components, and vital to modern computer-controlled vehicles. Transistors are also responsible for dropping voltage down to reliable 5V signals for sensors that require a small, stable voltage to provide precise data.

Why Car Sensors Typically use 5V Instead of 12V

Five volt reference signals provide a stable/reliable voltage level for sensors to work with. Five volts in particular is the go-to level because many electrical components are already produced ready to handle five volts, making many off-the-shelf components available to automotive manufacturers.

This video was hosted by and published by Cars Simplified on January 18, 2020.


Resistors are conductors that aren't quite as conductive as conductors, but they also don't insulate against electricity. Resistors can be used to protect components from otherwise high voltage. Resistors can also be used to control things like the brightness of lights, the speed of motors, and other things that have their traits altered by varying voltage/amperage.

While most resistors are components that most people won't ever see or work with, there are resistor units that can be bought for installing in parallel to LEDs that would hyperflash without them. (Product Example)