Diagnosing parasitic loads

Diagnosing parasitic loads

Mitchell 1 fig 11With increasing electronic controls in modern trucks, parasitic loads are becoming a larger concern for today’s fleets, especially in fleets where vehicles may be parked for long periods of time. With so many electrical circuits in these vehicles, any one of them may be a culprit, making diagnosing a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. A strong understanding of electrical theory is a key to successfully diagnosing a parasitic load.

There are multiple factors that can increase parasitic load on a vehicle. Parasitic draw occurs when components, or their circuits, are causing a power drain on the battery after the vehicle has been turned off. Faulty components, like a bad alternator diode, can cause excessive draw. Aftermarket components can also cause excessive draw, as they can put a strain on the battery that was not taken into consideration when the vehicle was first built.

You can test for excessive parasitic battery draw with a digital multimeter. With the ignition off, set the multimeter to DC Amps, and connect the test leads in series between the battery negative posts and clamp. If available, refer to manufacturer specifications for maximum parasitic draw. If specifications are not available, a good guide for figuring maximum parasitic load is to divide the reserve capacity of the vehicle’s battery/ies by four. If you find that you have excessive draw, you can use the process of elimination to identify possible circuit problems. Remove fuses one at a time and check for a drop in parasitic draw. When a removed fuse reduces the parasitic draw, you have narrowed the draw to that fuse’s circuits.

With modern electronic engine controls, there are many more systems that can cause a parasitic load to occur in trucks now than in years past. Technicians must have the knowledge and tools to successfully diagnose issues that may arise. Tools like the wiring diagrams in Mitchell 1’s TruckSeries repair information software can be a great help with diagnosing parasitic loads and related issues. Being able to highlight or isolate circuits in question can help make it easier to find the correct diagnosis (see image right). Then it’s just a matter of confirming your diagnosis and correcting the problem, something the TruckSeries repair information can also help with if you need step-by-step procedures (see image above).

Written by Samuel Wallace, technical editor for Mitchell 1’s Commercial Vehicle Group. Click here to visit the Mitchell 1 Truck Series blog.

You May Also Like

Peterbilt introduces Digital Vision System-Mirrors

Available on Models 579 and 567, Peterbilt says the DVS-M uses HDR cameras integrated into the mirrors to display video on interior monitors.


Peterbilt launched its new Digital Vision System-Mirrors (DVS-M) in the Models 579 and 567. The company says the DVS-M uses one High Dynamic Range (HDR) camera integrated into the driver side mirror head and two HDR cameras integrated into the passenger side mirror head. All three cameras feature hydrophobic lenses to repel water, ice and dust, which ensures visibility during harsh conditions.

Hendrickson acquires Reyco Granning suspension business

Hendrickson expands its suspension solutions portfolio for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles while maintaining brand independence.

SAMPA celebrates 30 years

The heavy-duty spare parts company marked the milestone at Automechanika Istanbul. with a specially themed 30th anniversary booth.

HDA’s Colorado Brake & Supply announces acquisition

The HDA Truck Pride member has acquired Pueblo Brake & Clutch, Inc., another local heavy-duty truck parts provider, with 59 years of service.

BettsHD, Featherwing offer roll-off refuse fenders

According to BettsHD, the new Featherwing refuse / roll-off fenders are custom-designed for all tandem and tri-axle applications.


Other Posts

Doleco adds custom production services at new manufacturing facility

The Charlotte, NC location will house manufacturing, product testing and warehousing, while offering new custom production services.

If it waddles, it may not be a duck

If a truck waddles away, don’t let it wait ’til the very next day. Here’s how to address the issue of a rig that starts driving like a duck.

Eaton to offer fuses for electric trucks

Eaton says it can increase current capability by either design modifications or paralleling multiple fuses.

Daimler announces battery repairing, remanufacturing, repurposing and recycling program

DTNA says the circular economy approach strives to extend the usability of rare-earth materials and products.