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Automotive Relays and How They Work

Automotive relays of all shapes and sizes can be found in just about every car, truck, and even boats. Relays in general are used to enable a low amperage circuit to switch on or off a higher amperage circuit, like turning on your headlights. If you were to try and directly hook up your headlights to the headlight switch you would exceed the amperage rating of the switch, melt wires, and risk an electrical fire. Relays are also used to switch multiple things at the same time using one output. A single output connected to multiple relays will allow you to open continuity and/or close continuity simultaneously, for example turning on your radio while the antenna extends. This article will cover some of the parts and characteristics of the automotive relay and some of the considerations taken with there design and use.

Automotive Relay Circuit Design Most Automotive Relays that you will see are either Single-Pole, Single-Throw (SPST) or Single-Pole, Double-Throw (SPDT) and draw very little current (less than 200 milliamps). They have either normally closed or normally open contacts that will handle up to 30 or 40 amps and operate using a control circuit that has the coil and a load circuit which has the switch. When power is applied to the coil, a magnetic field is created which either opens or closes the switch.
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