If you've ever dealt with strange electrical problems in your car, you know how frustrating it can be trying to track down the issue. Mysterious warning lights, features randomly not working, and other electrical gremlins can leave you scratching your head. Often, it seems like no matter how many times you get it fixed, the problems keep coming back. Fortunately, there's a little-known trick that can help you finally solve these annoying electrical issues for good.
How Electrical Problems Happen in Cars
Modern vehicles have complex electrical systems with mile after mile of wiring and hundreds of connections. Problems can occur for a number of reasons:
Corrosion - The metal in connectors and wires can corrode over time from moisture, salt, and other contaminants. This leads to poor connections and signal loss.
Vibration - Wires and connectors are subjected to constant vibration as you drive. This can cause them to slowly loosen or break.
Accidents/Damage - Even minor front end collisions can jam wires or break connectors. Any damage to the wiring harness can cause issues.
Wear & Tear - Wiring and connectors degrade over time. Rubbing, heat cycling, etc. slowly break down the insulation and connection points.
The Importance of Crimped Connections
One critical factor for reliable electrical systems is having solid crimped connections. This refers to special connectors that are crimped to the wire in a vice-like grip.
Crimps make a gas-tight connection that won't loosen over time. In comparison, many factory connections are simply soldered or twisted together. These weak points are prone to failing as vibration and corrosion take their toll.
Replacing suspect connections with properly crimped connectors can cure a whole host of electrical demons.
How to Crimp Your Own Connectors
With some basic tools, you can crimp your own replacement connectors. Here's what you'll need:
- Wire strippers - To strip back the wire insulation
- Crimping tool - Presses the terminal onto the wire
- Heat gun - Softens insulation so terminals slide on easily
- Electrical terminals - Choose heat-shrink or non-insulated terminals
- Dielectric grease - Prevents corrosion on crimped terminals
The basic process is:
- Strip about 1/2" of insulation off the wire
- Slide heat-shrink tubing over the wire (if using)
- Apply a small amount of dielectric grease to the metal wire
- Slide the metal terminal over the wire all the way
- Insert terminal and wire into crimping tool and fully crimp
- Heat the heat-shrink tubing to seal (if using)
This creates a perfect crimp every time for maximum reliability.
Strategically Re-Crimp Connections
Don't go overboard re-crimping every single wire and connector under the hood. Target the likely trouble spots:
- On both sides of common failure points like door jambs
- Where wiring harnesses may have been damaged
- Any accident damaged areas
- Visibly corroded or damaged connectors
Focus on re-crimping:
- Ground connections
- Major component power feeds
- Sensors and actuator wiring
A few hours re-crimping strategic connections can often permanently cure electrical gremlins.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you don't have the tools or knowledge to crimp your own connectors, enlist a professional auto electrician. They can perform thorough diagnostic tests to isolate problems, and have the equipment to remake entire connector assemblies.
See a professional if:
- You lack the skills, tools, or confidence to DIY
- Electrical issues persist after re-crimping
- Problems seem to have no obvious source
- Major wiring damage is present
The cost of professional electrical diagnosis and repair is well worth it to permanently solve ongoing issues.
Re-crimping key electrical connections with high quality terminals is often the magic cure for annoying electrical gremlins. Target common failure points and visible damage areas first. Or have a professional perform comprehensive wiring and connector repairs to finally banish those demons for good. With clean, solid electrical connections, you can get back to enjoying the ride.