How To Test A Relay


You’ve done it! Way to go!

Get Help With Testing a relay From Mechanic On JustAnswer

The Drive recognizes that while our How-To guides are detailed and easily followed, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or oil leaking everywhere can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswer, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs. 

So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you. 

Pro Tips to Test a Relay

Here at The Drive, we’ve tested our fair share of relays over the years and have found that the simplest method is best. That said, here are a few helpful tips from us pros.

  • Look, we all want to be a hero that can work our way through any automotive task with ease, but sometimes it’s best to fall back on the manual. Pick up a service manual for your vehicle at nearly any auto parts store and check it regularly.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re unsure of a relay’s functionality or condition, just replace it. While certain types of relays can be expensive, they’re generally affordable and it’s better to be safe than sorry. 
  • Gather all of your tools ahead of time. Cooks and chefs call this process “mise en place,” or everything in its place, and it helps keep you focused on the task at hand without the need to search for tools.
  • If you don’t have an ohmmeter or a test light, you won’t be able to test relays. You can just replace them, but it’ll be a guessing game as to whether or not relay is defective without testing first.

FAQs About Testing a Relay

You’ve got questions, The Drive’s info team has answers!

What Happens If I Just Ignore the Potential Problem?

Ignoring a misbehaving relay or slapping in any old relay that fits can lead to big problems under your hood. If a relay is malfunctioning or if an incorrect relay is installed, you can end up frying wires and potentially starting a fire under your hood. Not a good look at 80 mph on the highway.

Can I Test Relays Without an Ohmmeter or a Test Light?

No. If you’re convinced that there’s a problem with a relay and don’t have the tools to test, you have two choices. You can be cautious and just replace the relay, which is the easiest path forward, or you can pay a mechanic to do the testing and changing of relays for you. 

What If My Vehicle’s Relays Are Hidden or Very Hard to Find?

Most relays should be located in locations that can be accessed quite easily, but if there’s one that you’re unsure about, it’s best to have a professional check it out. Digging around blindly under your hood can damage good relays and do a number on your knuckles in the process.

Why Do You Keep Telling Me to Read The Repair Manuals? Isn’t The Drive Supposed to Be An Authority on These Types of Things?

Pump the brakes. We’re recommending that you fall back on a vehicle-specific repair manual for help locating the correct relay, replacing it with the correct relay, and to make sure that you understand what you’re looking at. Every make and model is different, and even the same model can differ greatly from year to year, so it’s best to have a guide for your specific vehicle to fill in the gaps that the super-brains at The Drive may have missed.

Do All Vehicles Have Relays?

Given the number of electronic devices and systems in modern vehicles, it’s safe to say that nearly all new vehicles have relays.

How Much Does It Cost To Test A Relay?

The most expensive part of testing and replacing relays in your vehicle is the relay itself. Depending on what it’s controlling a relay can cost anywhere from $5 to several hundred dollars.

Ohmmeters can be purchased for less than $20 and come in a variety of designs. High-impedance test lights are slightly more expensive, usually costing between $20 and $40, but spending more doesn’t necessarily net a better product.

Finally, jumper wires are cheap, ranging in price from $2 to over $50, depending on the length of the wire.

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