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Technical Do you need to soder or butt crimp wire slices?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Koolman, Nov 23, 2013.

  1. miker98038
    Joined: Jan 24, 2011
    Posts: 548


    I've had really good luck with the products sold by Waytek. If nothing else, browsing their catalog will show how many specialized products are out there, and what good, listed ones cost. My most used in automotive are the terminals that are insulated with shrink sleeve. Makes it harder for me to forget to put the shrink tube on before I crimp the connector.
  2. JEM
    Joined: Feb 6, 2007
    Posts: 1,040


    The following is personal opinion, of course.

    I will occasionally solder a connection if it's something weird that really seems to need it, but I won't solder anything in a larger conductor (> 16AWG) or subject to vibration, etc.

    For battery cables I use welding cable and lugs wherever possible, and a Harbor Freight hydraulic crimper:

    to crimp them. The AWG sizes on the dies are a joke, you'll have to pick and choose based on wire/terminal size. My procedure to get the barrel crimped evenly around the conductor in the case of something like a welding lug is to crimp until it starts to pinch the wire, loosen and rotate 90 degrees and crimp, loosen and rotate 45 degrees and do it again, loosen and rotate 90 degrees and crimp one last time. Cover with glue-lined heatshrink.

    Also does a nice job swaging cable sleeves on steel cables for fences, gates, etc.

    Agree that stuff like this (showing HF example only 'cause I could find the link easily) are generally useless:

    I use Deutsch connectors where possible, their closed-barrel mil-spec terminals are a joy to work with but require a specialized crimping tool (often available used on eBay) and are limited in the wire sizes they'll accommodate.

    The ratcheting crimpers - HF's got a $10 version, never seen it, but I've got a couple good ones that were $25-ish - are the right tool for crimping open-barrel terminals - the open-barrel Deutsch terminals, Weatherpack/Metripack, AMP, Ford, etc. - conductor and insulation simultaneously - *most* of the time, but there are some terminals and some crimps where my old manual AMP open-barrel crimpers (last time I went looking for another one the part # seemed to have been discontinued) are much easier to use, crimping conductor and insulation separately.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  3. Yep, those are the Cadillac of connectors. The special crimper is pricey (although I found a 'generic' version that works well for less) and they're not real cheap, but they're much better IMO compared to the GM or 'other' ones out there. Easier to crimp, easier to assemble, much easier to disassemble, and a pretty good selection of fitting types.

    So, you're happy with your HF hydraulic crimper? I've been eyeballing one of those (pretty much for the larger size wires, like 8 or bigger) but knowing how uneven their quality can be I've been holding off....
  4. scrubba
    Joined: Jul 20, 2010
    Posts: 938


    To rip off a supplier of mine , Kanter Auto Parts :

    DO IT ONCE and DO IT RIGHT . Yep, listen to Kanter Auto parts's bumper sticker . Been doin it the RIGHT way for years !

  5. jack orchard
    Joined: Aug 20, 2011
    Posts: 238

    jack orchard

    I agree. Use Western Union Splice (twist and solder + shrink tube) on 14 gauge and smaller.
  6. Steve, you haven't been paying attention, have you?

    Have you never heard a light fixture or an electrical panel or whatever hum? The hum is caused by the 60 cycle vibration of the alternating current. That vibration is what leads to joint failure. The low frequency vibrations from a car on a rough roads or whatever is negligible compared to that! And a DC current does not create much vibration itself.

    The wire sizes you brought up have little to do with cars. 12 ga. is about the biggest you will find in a car that will have the type of connections we are talking about here.

    Take your electrical theory and do some calculations with differing voltages and a set amount of resistance (from say a bad connection) and tell me voltage has nothing to do with it. Bigger voltage= bigger problem.

    Just because you may have worked with electricity in a totally different industry doesn't make you understand what happens in the real world of automobiles. It may give you a smattering of knowledge but no depth. Such as the comment to only crimp battery cables. That may work in theory, but in the real world the battery can cause corrosion and the unsealed connection will be corroding away out of sight. The solder seals that connection.

    I will stand by my comments on the original question. Both, a correctly made solder connection or a correctly made crimped connection is fine in cars and will last a lifetime. You can tell us your thoughts about soldering building wire, but it is irrelevant to our discussion. Thanks anyway.

  7. JEM
    Joined: Feb 6, 2007
    Posts: 1,040


    For what I've done with it - battery cables, sleeves and ferrules on steel cable, putting knobs on the ends of parking-brake cables once - it's worked very well.

    It's heavy, a bit heavy to try to use one-handed if you're doing work in position on the car, but for bench work and things where you've got comfortable working room it's fine and for the maybe three years of occasional (3-5x a month) usage it's done fine.
  8. Alden, it's pretty obvious you know near-zero about non-automotive electrical... and probably not much more about automotive.

    JEM, thanks for the report on the HF crimper; I'm buying another tool! LOL!
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  9. Yep, a prime example of the adage 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'.... LOL!
  10. Kail
    Joined: Jul 7, 2007
    Posts: 827

    from Austin, TX

    There is always debate between crimp and solder.
    soldering creates a bond between the two but if done wrong can create more opportunity for breaking and such.
    A friend of mine is a well know off road wiring guy, he does trophy trucks and other race vehicles. He prefers bare crimps with dual wall heat shrink (the kind with the heat activated adhesive)
    I sit 50/50 and can be persuaded either way when it is done properly, I do believe in the dual wall heat shrink on both methods.

    But. The method you explained would not be recommended, a connection like that would ultimately fail especially not having much resistance to separating, but also the connection not being a proper bond would create resistance and heat which would make it a weak point over time.
  11. That or this

    "It's not what you do not know that gets you into trouble-
    It's the things that you know for sure that just ain't so. "

    Think it was mark twain.

    He also said " Its easier to fool people in the first place than it is to get them to believe they have been fooled"
  12. I wish he had stuck around... I was going to ask him to explain this:

    ... and have him show the math... LOL!
  13. The biggest issue I have personally had with soldered connections has nothing to do with them breaking - I've never had that issue - But rather corrosion. I have diagnosed and repaired electrical problems (bad connection, intermittent connection, and high amperage draw) from soldered connections that when the electrical tape or Shrink wrap was cut back, the connection was all green and Nasty, sometimes so bad the joint had failed. This has been on both OEM connections and modified cars.
    46Chief likes this.
  14. trbomax
    Joined: Apr 19, 2012
    Posts: 289


    If you clean the solder joint with lacquer thinner or brake clean on a rag before you heat shrink,that will remove the rosin or flux that pools on the surface and causes the corrosion. I have a lab squirt bottle with lacquer thinner in it and a small rag when I do it.You'd be amazed at how much cleaner the finished joint is if you clean it that way.
  15. Well CS, it was obvious to me I had spoken in error about the resistance/ voltage issue soon after I had posted that. I do admit that error.

    The first two comments that you made on this thread were both way off base though.
    The first something like "solder is bad", the second something like "you'll be hard pressed to find a solder connection in a post war car". The first is a strange generalization without merit, the second completely erroneous. The terminal ends may have all become crimped as that is much more easily repeatable and very much quicker as a manufacturing process. By using a ratcheting crimper the user needs much less skill or training to create a good connection. But the manufactures do use solder on every car.
    The cars of today have many more solder connections than at any other time.(Almost every electronic component has scores of them!) If "solder is bad" there would many cars stranded along the highways everyday from failed connections. But that doesn't happen.

    There is little difference between a poorly done soldered connection or a poorly done crimp. I have seen many more bad crimps than bad solder connections though. Even a high end ratcheting crimper gives a poor crimp if the user doesn't buy the terminals it was designed for.

    I don't expect to change your mind (CS) because you were trained this way.
    But everyone else can view the facts (and view real life examples) and use their own judgement.

  16. True, but many folks Don't do that, and since I've seen problems with factory connections as well, it is apparent the OE's don't do a good job of this either :D
  17. Gman0046
    Joined: Jul 24, 2005
    Posts: 6,260


    I've spent my whole working life in the aviation industry. As an aircraft mechanic in the USAF, mechanic and maintenance supervisor for a major airline and an Air Carrier Aviation Safety Inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration. The use of solder less connectors on aircraft wiring is a standard maintenance practice throughout the aviation industry. If solder less connectors are OK for aircraft flying over 40,000 feet they are good enough for me and my vehicles. As stated in previous posts there are numerous solder joints on aircraft such as circuit boards and thats fine. Thats an approved manufacturing procedure. Soldering a twisted wiring connection however is just not an approved repair in the aviation industry. Solder less connectors and calibrated crimpers is the approved method of connecting two wires.
  18. ttpete
    Joined: Mar 21, 2013
    Posts: 177

    from SE MI

    That's likely because the person who soldered it used acid core solder. It's a very common mistake that ignorant persons make. Rosin flux doesn't cause corrosion. Tape and regular shrink tube shouldn't be used, either, because they don't make a watertight seal. Shrink tube with sealant is OK if properly applied.
  19. fortynut
    Joined: Jul 16, 2008
    Posts: 1,038


    I prefer using a 'Western Union Splice' and then I solder it. Then I wrap this with tar coated friction tape. Direct Current is all pretty much the same, and if you don't use non-conductive clamps to hold it in place it does not matter if you use 'solder less' connectors, shrink wrap (that uses heat, too) or not. Yes. Automobiles vibrate and shake the wiring around. All this 'to do' about 'Airplanes' and 'the Industry' is bullshit. It is about how well the electrons flow through your splice. Some of the methods mentioned are fine. I have issues with crimping because it depends on less area being used to conduct the electricity. I am sure it works well in most cases because most wiring is overkill, anyway; and the joint being at the lowest level still retains enough flow to do the job. As far as soldering battery connections, consider this: you are joining two dissimilar metals, one lead , the other usually copper. If you solder them together, the material you use is lead, or lead based. If the joint is prepared properly, the wire tinned, and there is appropriate flow how could mashing them together be better? Old School is better than No School.
  20. jazz1
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 1,496


    I solder all connections for a solid connection and then use shrinktube or electrical tape. I never use crimping as a sole method of connection,,,i solder crimped connectors also.. too many cold nights repairing some yahooos butt connection on trailers use in our climate and exposed to salt
  21. ttpete
    Joined: Mar 21, 2013
    Posts: 177

    from SE MI

    I haven't used friction tape in the last 50 years. My journeyman electrician grandfather did, though. Standard house wiring practice used to be that splices were twisted tight with pliers, pulled clear of the wall, and soldered with a dip pot on the end of a handle. They were then taped, starting with self vulcanizing rubber tape and then covered with friction tape.

    A "Western Union" splice is designed to be used with solid wire only, and is twisted using two pairs of pliers. It's very secure and was originally used to join telegraph wire. It isn't secure when stranded wire is used.

    Crimp terminals are very good when properly done using the correct size and type terminal for the wire gauge and crimped with the correct crimp tools. If this is done, the wire will break before it can be pulled out of the terminal. I have a whole drawer full of crimp tools and interchangeable dies for them.
  22. Again, I'll take this a piece at a time....

    Good of you to man up and admit it. I'd still like to see credible information to back up this statement by you....

    When I see complete nonsense used to bolster an argument, that leads me to discredit any further statements from that source.

    You're trying to muddy the waters here, or just don't understand the difference between electrical and electronics. We're talking about harnesses, not circuit boards, electrical, not electronics. For harnesses, solder is bad and to be avoided if at all possible. Yes, you will find solder splices in OEM harnesses, but they will be rare, a very small percentage of the total connections. That's not by accident; engineering studies in multiple electrical applications have proved that solder connections are less reliable than mechanical connections, which is why solder is little used today. Sure, if you add in electronic components as 'electrical', the number of soldered connections on many vehicles will be in the hundreds if not thousands, but that's comparing apples and oranges.

    I'll agree with this statement, but just because you've seen more 'bad' crimps than solder connections this doesn't make solder the better method. It simply highlights the problem of inexperienced or incompetent people performing this work while lacking knowledge of the possible problems they're introducing into the system.

    I'll comment here about crimp terminal types. You'll find two general types used in automotive; 'open' and 'closed'. Open terminals will be pretty much any OEM-style terminal where you have 'ears' that need to be folded over the wire to enclose/hold it. I don't care for these because as you pointed out, it's very easy to get a bad crimp even with the right crimper if you don't know what you're doing, and nearly impossible with the wrong one. The OEMs like these because they're cheap to make and can be stamped out. But you're forced to use these in many cases because of component connections won't allow another type to be used.

    Closed connectors are superior if installed right, and pretty much idiot-proof if used with the correct crimper. These will be the better-quality 'stakon' types with seamless barrels or higher-end connectors like Deutsch with the machined pins/sockets. But even the 'seamed' barrels will work if you make the crimp opposite the seam. If using insulated crimps with one of those parts-house crimpers, any troubles you have you deserve...

    It is possible to do a 'good' solder connection, but few people know how. For a tutorial, look here: .... starting on page 32. Apparently GM doesn't trust their dealer techs to do a proper crimp (a sad commentary by itself) and lays out the procedure. A finicky process at best, if you 'miss' you'll still end up with a termination prone to failure.

    Now you're implying that my 'training' is shallow or one-dimensional. You obviously aren't aware of just how wide-ranging the electrical industry is. It's not just about houses and buildings, but covers any electrical installation over 50 volts, AC or DC, where the 'public' can possibly come in contact with any of the parts, for protection of property, and life safety. And I'll note that I worked (and had training) as an automotive mechanic for six years before changing trades (and have almost always repaired my own cars) so I'm not totally lacking in that aspect either.

    And I can only be amused when I hear about 'real world', 'real life', or 'I've done it this way for blah-blah years and never had any trouble' examples. It's funny, I've seen so many bad installs that have worked for periods of time, sometimes years, before failing or sometimes haven't failed but found them in the course of other work; does that make these 'real world' installs acceptable? Is the only criteria is that it works? Unless you can explain why something is 'right', it's just talk....
  23. steves29
    Joined: Jan 19, 2010
    Posts: 194


    Crimp only, crimp and soldered, heat shrink splice connectors, splice clips, etc, etc. I have used and seen them all. They all have and can fail and have kept me employed as an auto mechanic for 30 years. Perfection was crucified a couple thousand years ago.
  24. Can I get a Amen up in here for the Revival of dead threads !! Yes sir Amen!!

    Above all else is to use a Fuseable Link at the source of power, please! :D

  25. Why would you do that :)
    Crimp vs solder is One of the greatest debated passion filled arguments around.
  26. What, a fuseable link? To keep from burning up the car of course! :D
  27. Not that, bumping a dead thread
  28. HellsHotRods
    Joined: Jul 24, 2009
    Posts: 1,349


    YOU can't control the flow....but I can, and so can others. Crimping can come apart under load. A good twist lock and hen solder will not come apart at the repair under load, rather the wire will break at another point. Cover with shrink tube.
    - Approved method at military aircraft repair base Gulf War I -

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