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How to Fix an Electrical Short Circuit

Updated: Dec. 11, 2018

Your car or truck's electrical system isn't as complicated as you think

FH13JUN_FIXCRT_01-2 electrical shortFamily Handyman
Automotive electrical problems might seem insurmountable, but they're not. All you have to do is locate where the current stops flowing. It's easy with today's tools. Here's how to fix automotive electrical short circuits.

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Find and fix an automotive electrical short circuit

Photo 1. Connect the tester

Yank the fuse for the shorted circuit and install a fuse adapter. Then connect the circuit breaker leads to the adapter.

Photo 2. Trace the circuit

Slide the meter along the wiring harness and watch the needle swing back and forth. When it stops swinging, you’re at the electrical short.

Car electrical repair costs can range from $200 and up at a shop. But if you spend $15 on a pro-grade shop manual and $40 on specialty tools (see our sources below), you can track it down yourself in an afternoon and reduce your car electrical repair costs.

Install the adapter and breaker in the fuse box (Photo 1). Then find the short with the meter (Photo 2). Open the wiring harness and locate the chafed or shorted wires and repair them with electrical tape. Reinstall the fuse and test the circuit.

The tools you’ll need

Finding the exact spot where electrical current stops flowing used to involve at least a little guesswork, but modern automotive electrical tools make pinpoint identification possible. Here’s where to find the tools we used:

KD Tools 2524 Short Circuit Detector, available at
GTC CT6100 Fuse Socket Connector Kit, available at
Digital shop manual for the year, make and model of your car or truck, available at

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Lineman's pliers
  • Soldering iron
  • Utility knife
You’ll also need a short circuit detector, fuse socket connector kit, shop manual
and wire crimper.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Butt connectors
  • Electrical moisture sealant
  • Electrical tape
  • Flux
  • Solder