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Wire system repairs that last

TAMPA, Fla. – Butt splices, displacement clamp connectors and tape are a few of the items Greg Jordan, Canadian national sales director with Truck-Lite, would like technicians to remove from their toolboxes when making electrical repairs...


TAMPA, Fla. – Butt splices, displacement clamp connectors and tape are a few of the items Greg Jordan, Canadian national sales director with Truck-Lite, would like technicians to remove from their toolboxes when making electrical repairs on vehicles.

In order to make lasting repairs, Jordan said technicians should be embracing newer methods and using tools such as solder guns, solder shrink terminals and dual wall shrink tubes.

Jordan and Truck-Lite colleague Lee Lydic gave a hands-on demonstration of the proper and improper ways of conducting wiring repairs during a session at the recent Technology & Maintenance Council meetings.

The duo used a faulty stop/tail/turn light harness as an example and began by demonstrating improper repair methods. The first repair was done using a displacement clamp connector, which appeared to work fine, but Jordan warned: “These are not designed to be used outdoors, they were originally designed for in-cab, under-dash connectors.”

While the displacement clamp connector allows for a speedy repair, Jordan pointed out “It doesn’t protect against corrosion and it drives a spade down through the connector to make the connection. It pierces the connector and can cut the copper conductors. Is it a repair? Yes. Is it a good repair? I don’t think so.”

Next up, Jordan demonstrated the shortcomings of the age-old ‘strip the wire and tape it’ method.

“We’ve all done it before on our own vehicles,” he admitted. However, Jordan said the repair won’t last and in the end will cost a fleet more since the unit will have to be repaired again in short order.

“Where the real costs come in is how many times you touch it,” he explained.

The last of the ‘don’t’ methods involved a butt splice. Jordan said the technique offers no corrosion protection and very little in the way of mechanical strain relief.

“All of these methods demonstrate ways to repair a wire,” he said. “I think we all agree they’re commonly used.”

Jordan said he once saw a single string of lights with nine butt splice connectors.

“I want to meet the ninth guy who repaired it,” he joked, “and I want to show him the door.”

Jordan said proper repair methods take a little more time or require more expensive connectors, but will last longer and ultimately cost a fleet less by avoiding rework.

“The proper way is to embrace today’s technology,” he said. “It’s more expensive than twisting wires together and taping them but the cost of a (good) connector is minimal compared to your fleet having to touch that vehicle again.”

Jordan and Lydic then gave three examples of proper wire repair methods. The first preferred method of repair involved using a solder crimp shrink; a terminal that has a crimp connection on the inside and forms a bond when heated with a solder gun or heat gun. Lydic demonstrated by simply crimping the connector onto the conductor and then applying heat to the connection using a heat gun.

Next up was a solder shrink connector, which solders and shrinks in one simple step. Jordan pointed out a small microtorch would work as well as a solder or heat gun in the shop. The solder shrink connector requires no physical crimp.

“Take your time with the heat gun, concentrate on both ends and then move to the middle of the connector and apply the heat,” he explained.

The final method demonstrated was to solder the wires together and then apply a dual wall shrink tube over the top of the connection.

“I prefer this method in the sense that you remove a lot of variables but you have to do the soldering,” said Jordan.

When all six methods were demonstrated, a simple pull test revealed the three preferred techniques provided a more secure connection (two of the three connections made using old-school techniques came apart during the pull test). Jordan said the newest connectors are “awesome” and should be utilized by technicians.

“All three of these are good viable connections that should ensure the repair lasts for a long time,” he said.

In closing, Jordan said fleet owners and shop supervisors should instill in their mechanics a sense of pride in their work. His message to technicians: “Act like (the equipment’s) yours and you are sending your wife and kids on a road trip.”


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