Advancements in motor vehicle safety have rocketed, and the fuse has been a consistent feature through the decades. Electrical systems and accessories are protected by the fuse's design to fail in the event of an electrical short or overload. Other times, the fuse just gives out and you may find yourself without working wipers, lights, horn or heat. Armed with a little knowledge, a tool and a spare fuse, you can be back to full power in minutes.
Consult your owner's manual. It will inform you of the location of the fuse box, the type of fuse, its amperage and the electrical components associated to it. On newer models, the fuses will be small, plastic two-pronged tabs plugged into a slot. They will be red, green, blue or yellow depending on the amperage. Amps are marked on the panel and corresponding fuses, and generally range from 5 to 35 amps in increments of 5. Older vehicles have small, glass, tubular fuses 1/2 to 1 inch long with stainless steel caps on each end. The amps are stamped on the caps, and the different amp fuses are different in length.
Locate the fuse panel. On most vehicles, it will be under the dashboard on the driver's side, and you'll need a flashlight. Other locations include the lower half or side of the driver's dash panel, inside the glove box, and under the bonnet near one of the fenders or firewall. The fuse panel cover often has the word "fuses" written on it. The panel size ranges from the size of an iPod to a sandwich (under dash) and slightly larger under the bonnet. Older models don't have panel covers and are commonly to the left of the brake and parking brake pedals.
Pull out or pop off the fuse panel cover. If you don't have your owner's manual handy, there is usually a chart on the inside of the cover with fuse locations and details. There are also amps and associated components stamped on the panel beside each fuse, matched with labels or numbers.
Identify which fuse matches your electrical problem.
Remove the blown fuse. Cars with plastic fuses often have a special tool in the fuse panel or cover. The fuse puller resembles small plastic tweezers and has special teeth at the end that grab the lip on the fuse. The older glass fuse models did not come equipped, and a puller can be purchased at an automotive supply store. Small regular and needle-nose pliers can be used for both fuses, and they can be pulled by hand with some difficulty because of the awkward size and location. Glass fuses will break with little force, or if the fuse is rusted at the ends. Use protective eye wear. A small screwdriver can also be used to pry one end of the fuse out, and you can wiggle it out with your fingers.
Inspect the fuses. The plastic fuses are transparent, and you'll see the U-shaped metal link inside that connects the two prongs. If it is blown, the link will be broken. The glass fuses have a thin filament that breaks when blown.
Replace the blown fuse with the same length and rating (glass) or same colour and rating (plastic). Some newer models are equipped with spares, otherwise you can purchase them at your local automotive and department stores. Grab the plastic fuse with your fingers, holder or pliers and push it into the slot. The glass fuse snaps in one end at a time. Be careful not to push so hard that you break the glass and cut yourself.
Check the electrical component in question. If the fuse blows again, there is a fault in the wiring or component.
Keep a supply of spare fuses handy in your glove box or toolbox. Store a pair of small pliers and a flashlight in your vehicle for quick changes.
Use protective eye wear when working with glass fuses. Ensure engine and electrical components are turned off. Do not let metal pliers come in contact with the two fuse clips at the same time when installing or removing glass fuses.