Tools of the Trade for Wiring

I thought that since my background is electronics that wiring the car would be a snap and a weekend job. I found out pretty quickly that it takes a lot more planning, preparation and time than I thought. As I started wiring up the headlights and front turn signals, the first thing I ran into is the lack of parts. Here's the things that you need to have before you start wiring to make it a smooth process:

Solding gun, solder, hot air gun, wire crimpers, and wire strippers.

I don't like to crimp wires together, I prefer to solder them. Once they are soldered, I use heatshrink tubing and to shrink it, I picked up a hot air gun at the local hardware store for $20 - it works great! A proper pair of ratcheting wire crimpers is necessary for crimping the spade lugs and ring lugs. Lastly, a good set of wire strippers makes sure that you quickly and properly strip the wires.

Various sizes of split plastic wiring looms, .Tie wraps with mounting holes, side cutters, cable clamps, electrical tape, period style knobs, various switches.

You need many sizes of tie wraps with some having mounting hole tabs. To make a neat installation, use the split plastic wiring looms. They are very inexpensive and come in many different sizes.

I have a couple of different sizes of side cutters. Some for cutting thick wires and smallerer ones for trimming pieces. A couple of rolls of electrical tape are a must - always a handy thing to have. Cable clamps are used to hold the wiring looms in place as an option to the tie wraps.

I'm looking for a period correct pushbutton for the windshield washer pump. Also I need a pushbutton for the door solenoids in case the remote doesn't work. I have a rotary switch that will be used for the headlight-park switch. It will control two relays. Lastly, you need some knobs for your controls.

A battery charger is great for testing your wiring as you go.

My little 6 amp battery charger is great for testing your wiring as you go. The alternative is to use an ohmmeter or the car's battery. An ohmmeter is pretty awkward over long distances like from the dash to the headlight. And I'm hesistant to use the car's battery as it has enough current to melt the wiring if something is wrong. The battery charger doesn't.put out enough juice to do any damage. Plus you immediately see if a light is lighting up like it should.

Relays, hi/lo beam switch, flashers, circuit breakers, pigtails

You need a few different styles of pigtails: ones for the relays, flasher units, park lights and headlights. I replaced my hi/lo beam floor switch with one from the local parts store and it looks to be the exact same model! Mine still worked except the mounting screws were frozen and the screws to hold the original cloth covered electrical wires were frozen.

Lots of different color and gauge of wire, ring lugs, spade lugs, different sizes of tie wraps, switches and different sizes of heatshrink

I followed the wiring color code for an early 70s Camaro's electrical system. It's pretty straight forward compared to later years. It really helps troubleshooting if you spend the extra bucks by purchasing several different colored rolls of wire.

You need basically two sizes of wire: 14 gauge and 18 gauge. The smaller the gauge the thicker the wire. The main wiring runs and the longer runs use 14 gauge. Shorter runs that don't carry too much current use 18 gauge.

You will need an assortment of terminals in different sizes: ring and spade lug. Here's my webpage that discusses everything you need to know about crimps and crimpers There are many different crimp style wiring connectors but my preference is to join the two wires together in a modified Western Union splice, solder and then heatshrink the connection. I have several different sizes of heat shrink. I found that the 1/8" size is the smallest size and you only need one or two sizes bigger. Most heatshrink that I found at the parts stores was way too big to use even though it looked pretty small on the shelf..

A few good sizes of grommets

Grommets are used whenever a wire or wiring loom passes through a hole in metal. There are 3 dimensions associated with buying a grommet: the outer diameter (OD), the inner diameter (ID) and the thickness. The outer diameter is the size of the hole in the metal, the inner diameter is the size of the hole in the grommet. The thickness is usually 1/8" or 1/4" and it refers to the thickness of the metal that the grommet will fit into.

The driver's side horn, headlight and parklight wiring

Here's an example of the wiring in progress for the driver's side horn, headlight and park lights. It's located between the radiator and the headlight. The passenger side wiring is being run through the radiator support bar in front of the rad at the left top corner of the picture. The headlight wiring is the top wiring loom on the right side of the picture. The park light wiring has its own separate wiring loom just beneath and behind it.

Notice that small wiring looms are used to protect the wires and grommets are used to protect the wiring looms. This area will be used to join the front wiring to the wiring that will run through the radiator support (you can see the large grommet in place) through the engine compartment to the firewall. The horn has been temporarily removed as it is tucked right in the corner

The passenger's side horn, headlight and parklight wiring

This is the passenger side with the wiring almost completed. All the wires are tucked into the split loom. The horn is in place and it looks pretty clean. Notice the loom just to the left of the horn, the two small looms from the headlight and park light join into it. The picture was taken before I had a chance to tie wrap the looms together.

I had to run out and buy some black tie wraps to tighten the loom over the wires. Once I had the black tie wrap in place it looked perfect! The horn wire joins the loom through the split in the loom casing in the back. Can't even notice it.

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Copyright July 2011 Eugene Blanchard