When you say that the electrical system of a car is “flatly insane,” it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that said car is some misbegotten British box whose electrons are flowed sporadically at the whim of Lucas, Prince of Darkness. “With a monopoly in place,” says the anonymous Wikipedant, “Lucas proceeded to supply electrical equipment that was commonly cited as the best reason not to buy a British car.”
Yet somehow, without buying from Lucas, the Americans managed to duplicate the experience, as Ric Locke explains:
The electrical system is quite flatly insane. Things work or not according to some scheme I have not yet identified, probably having to do with the phases of the moons on some planet in the Andromeda galaxy. For instance, the turn signals — which are driven by the computer, not anything simple like a flasher module — are supposed to have an audible signal, a soft beep each time they flash. That started working one afternoon last September, worked perfectly for a day and a half, and hasn’t worked since.
Most annoyingly, from time to time it just stops. While traveling down the road the engine quits as if the ignition had been turned off — no coughs and spits like fuel starvation, no “run down”, no nothing; just one moment running, the next moment not. So far it has not yet failed to start again once the transmission lever is set in Neutral and the ignition is switched off and on to reboot the computers, but it’s annoying as can be. (No, I don’t think it’s a Windows operating system. That’s barely possible for the time period, but the logo doesn’t show up anywhere.)
Early-90s Mazdas showed signs of this latter, which was eventually traced to thermal overload in the ignitor. This part was theoretically available separately, but part places in general and dealers in particular would rather have sold you the entire distributor.
On a car of a Certain Age, however, I tend to suspect that the wiring harness has assumed the general shape and inscrutability of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pasta be upon him), and only divine intervention can save it.