The final generation did more for terminal crimping machine than any that preceded it. While even the most serious do-it-yourselfer once clutched at the prospect of installing something as simple as power windows a mere decade ago, just about all people can wire an entire car nowadays due to well-designed kits, comprehensive instructions, and precious technical assistance.
While the way you install our wires has improved by leaps and bounds, exactly the same can’t be said of how we end them. Much too often an enthusiast will tediously route and bundle a huge harness and merely kludge the terminals with poor-quality tools or perhaps the wrong tools altogether. Making matters worse, a poorly installed terminal, much like many a poorly welded joint, doesn’t necessarily look shabby.
That’s a potentially fatal pitfall since most electrical problems start at wire tips well hidden from the terminal itself. Beyond connecting the terminal to the wire and conducting electricity, the terminal installation must effectively seal the final of your wire. If it doesn’t, oxidizing elements much like the air around us will wick over the wire strands in the terminal and corrode the wire well under the insulation. From the best-case scenario, a poorly installed terminal will eventually work intermittently or stop working altogether. On the other hand, since corrosion increases electrical resistance, resistance increases heat, and heat induces more resistance, a damaged wire can slip right into a destructive cycle and fail with catastrophic (and blazing) results.
Automotive manufacturers in the last 50-odd years have consistently created effective and airtight terminal installations by crimping or deforming terminals’ barrels to capture the wire strands. If there’s a detractor to this particular process, it’s that OEM-grade tools can be extremely expensive and require frequent calibration. Furthermore, OEMs use a form of terminal variety which is often pretty difficult to find. While non-OEM-grade tools and consumer-grade terminals have already been open to enthusiasts for quite a while, a lot of them-specially the cheap ones-don’t do an effective job. Crimping has earned quite a bad reputation on account of failures because of inadequate tooling, chintzy terminals, or poor education. Making matters worse, just about all poor-quality tools and terminals will still be offered at even reputable auto-parts stores, perennially leading would-be electricians to failure.
Luckily for people like us, a growing number of specialty tool manufacturers and vendors like Molex, Klein Tools, Wire 1, and Snap-Offered high-quality electrical tools that bridge the space between expensive OEM-grade and dime store-quality tools. While these tools should not be considered OEM-grade simply because they don’t feature the approved calibration mechanisms for mass production, Molex’s Bob Grenke assured us that such exacting controls are of little consequence since we enthusiasts and professionals may take the excess time to verify wire cutters. He adds that many of these tools are fully competent at creating 1000s of effective crimps over their lifespan if maintained properly.
To find the best way to start using these tools, we asked a couple of wiring specialists to share with us their particular definitive method to fasten a common closed-barrel terminal for the end of a wire. Since there exists a variety of professional opinions, this is the point where things potentially get sketchy. Naturally there are multiple schools of thought, and each one has its merit; however, some philosophies seem to contradict others.
To maintain things simple, we specified the two most popular kinds of automotive solderless connectors inside the automotive aftermarket: non-insulated and insulated closed-barrel terminals. While some technicians apply solder towards the non-insulated variety as a kind of insurance policies, that’s a topic beyond the scope on this article (see the soldering sidebar), and one we may address within a future installment.
Instead of endorsing any one particular style, we present to you several that you should choose between. When you do, keep in mind the next: People who create entire wiring harnesses on OEM-level machines for our industry use a minumum of one of the methods and tools to successfully install wiring harnesses. Should you follow their lead and invest enough time and attention essential to do any job correctly, you’re likely to achieve similar success.
If there’s one particular most contended subject in the crimping world, it’s the solder debate. We’ll let Wire 1’s Ken Whitney land the 1st blow: “When employing a quality tool so when performed correcly, a crimp is every bit as effective as any soldered joint. The conductivity and strength are both great, as well as the crimped terminal is really as strong as dexopky08 stronger than the wire itself.”
On the other hand, both American Autowire’s Michael Manning and Haywire’s Ken Logue endorse soldering the tip of your crimped terminal so that the integrity in the seal. While Painless Performance’s Dennis Overholser agrees with the in principle, he noted that, in practice, the occasional electrician is prone to overheat and damage the wire than develop a good joint.
Affordable Street Rods’ Rich Fox outright condemns the practice and provides samples of failed solder joints made by pneumatic cutter. Actually, governing bodies like the Federal Aviation Administration permit only crimped joints, for reasons for example Whitney noted: “They figure that you’re prone to create a powerful crimped joint than a soldered joint.”
Luckily, they all meet at middle ground, as summed up by Manning: “A mechanical bond, generally such as a crimp, will be the basis of the effective terminal installation.” Because of this we now have concentrated specifically on the way to affect a dependable crimp and left soldering for one more day.