Unlike some repair procedures that require many specialized and/or expensive tools, most e
It's rare to find a car enthusiast who can "do it all." More often than not, when you strike up a conversation with a friend or car owner, you'll find out that he or she lacks the skills to complete certain tasks during the build of their classic ride. A simple question like, "Did you do all of the work yourself?" will usually weed out the weakness of said car owner with an answer similar to, "Well, I did all of the suspension and interior work, but I had my friend build the engine and I sent the body to Acme Painting for all the body and paint work. I just don't know a thing about engines, and paint and body outright frustrates me, so I'm willing to pay someone else to do it." Sound familiar? It does to us, and we hear it constantly when speaking with car owners at events or during a photo shoot.
While we may side with Example A above on the paint and body thing, as it does take some dedicated equipment and room to do it, most any other mechanical upgrade or repair can be tackled with some knowledge, research, and patience. Often you can score some experienced help from a club member or neighbor who will "watch over you" while doing the work. This is how we built one of our first small-block Fords, with a more experienced friend lending a hand and keeping a watchful eye.
Although many classic Ford and Mustang owners are willing to try an intake swap, or recover their own seats, it seems that whenever anything electrical is brought up or considered, said owners turn into rambling zombies about how hard wiring is, and that they don't understand how an electrical circuit works and they might burn their car to the ground. Rubbish, we say! Electrical upgrades or repairs are no different than swapping that intake or recovering those seats; it just takes some knowledge, some common sense, and a few rather inexpensive tools to do the job right and to do it safely.
Whether you're an avid DIY'er, or you're just plain cheap and don't like to pay others for stuff you can do yourself, you owe it to your ride to know the basics of electrical systems and how to repair them or add electrical components. Today's Restomod-type Mustangs can feature everything from completely upgraded whole-car wiring harnesses to power windows and locks, electronic ignition upgrades, and even fuel injection.
A simple electrical connection made incorrectly or a small wiring issue, such as a left rear turn signal that doesn't blink, can wreak havoc on your time and patience, so we've put together some basic electrical help in this story. We'll show you the tools you'll need, and what to look for in an electrical failure, such as a wiring short or an open circuit. We'll discuss basic electrical upgrades, circuit protection, wire sizing, and more. We simply don't have the room to cover every wiring scenario or upgrade, nor the space to delve into electrical theory, but we hope to give you the confidence to head to the garage and tackle that wiring issue you've been avoiding. So take a deep breath and read on.
Book 'em Dano!
Automotive Wiring and Electrical Systems
No matter how much automotive education one might possess, we all have our weaknesses. The one area that we see the majority of people struggle with is automotive electrical systems. From simple things like wiring a relay into a fan circuit to adding aftermarket car audio and gauges, many of us work with electrical systems on our projects with trepidation. With Automotive Wiring and Electrical Systems by Tony Candela, you can now upgrade or repair your vehicle's electrical system like a pro.
Tony takes you by the hand right from Chapter 1, and introduces you to the proper tools for automotive electrical repairs and upgrades, how to test circuits, build wiring harnesses, and more. There are even pre-designed wiring diagrams for popular upgrades like adding power door locks and much more. You’ll find this book at booksellers nationwide or you can order online at www.cartechbooks.com or phone order at (800) 551-4754.
Part #: SA160
1 For tight working locations, especially under the dash, an automatic wire stripper, lik
2 Another great solution for tight quarters are these mini tools from Sears Craftsman. Th
3 Yet another crimping solution is a set of ratcheting crimpers. If you have a habit of o
If you’re going to walk the walk you need to be able to talk the talk, and that means knowing the difference between a diode and a resistor, and where and when you need to use them. So bone up on these electrical terms and be ready for that pop quiz!
AWG (American Wire Gauge): An industry standard specification for wire size, the larger the number the smaller the diameter of the wire.
Battery: A multi-cell electrical storage device used as a source of power.
Circuit Breaker: A resettable switch that disengages in the event of excessive electrical amperage (they can be manually or automatically reset).
Current: The flow of electricity through a conductor (circuit, wire, and so on).
Diode: A semiconductor that allows current flow only in one direction.
DMM/DVOM (Digital Multimeter/Digital Volt/Ohm Meter): An electronic tool that measures several electrical ranges in one tool, including AC and DC voltage, current, and resistance.
Fuse: A device that interrupts the flow of current through a circuit if the amperage exceeds the rating of the fuse.
Fusible Link: Similar to a fuse, the fusible link is a section of wire four AWG sizes smaller than the wire circuit it protects, melting “open” in the case of excessive current.
Open Circuit: A wiring circuit that is incomplete, usually a broken or disconnected wire.
Parallel Circuit: A circuit where all connections are parallel to each other. Dash illumination is an example of a parallel circuit.
Relay: A device that uses one circuit to turn off or on another circuit, usually of a higher amperage.
Resistance: The opposition of electrical current flow through a circuit or wire, measured in ohms.
Resistor: An electrical component that limits/regulates the current flow through a circuit.
Series Circuit: A circuit where the electrical connections are wired end-to-end. Early Christmas tree lights are an example of series wiring.
Short Circuit: A condition where a wiring circuit has no resistance, typically a short is a wire carrying voltage touching ground, causing an alternative voltage path.
SPDT (Single Pole/Double Throw): A type of switch that connects a common pole to either of two contacts.
SPST (Single Pole/Single Throw): A type of switch that connects a common pole to one contact that can be turned off or on.
Voltage: The measurement of potential electrical energy to move electrons from one point to another.
4 Using a test light is a simple way to verify if a circuit has power or ground, simply b
5 Circuit protection comes in many flavors. From the old-school glass fuses to modern ATO
6 Probably the number one issue we’ve seen with electrical systems is a ground problem. O
7 Most of our readers are probably familiar with the solderless terminals shown here. The
8 While the solderless terminals in the previous photo caption get the job done, we prefe
9 One thing you should never consider for any sort of permanent repair, modification, or
10 Something new on the market in the way of tap connectors are these special threaded ta
11 As we mentioned in caption 10, the non-insulated terminals with a small section of bla
12 Adding a wiring circuit to your classic Ford is a common occurrence, but what happens
13 When installing a whole-car wiring solution, you’ll often find extra circuits in the h
14 Whenever you have wiring passing through a firewall, bulkhead, or other steel panel, y
15 A crispy mess like this can only be repaired properly with the right wiring diagrams.
16 The basic test light can also detect current flow besides the aforementioned voltage a
17 The digital volt/ohm meter (DVOM) is a more accurate way to measure current, resistanc
18 Building a custom wiring harness for your aftermarket gauges or perhaps for those powe
19 Far too often we find wiring issues caused by the wrong connector or terminal being us
20 Protection of any add-on wiring is just as important as the connection of the wiring.
21 If a repair is going to take more than one wire run, do yourself a favor and use diffe
22 There’s an old wife’s tale that soldering wires is a big no-no in automotive wiring. T
23 You might find yourself needing to install a switch to control a circuit in your car.
24 While we’re limited in room for this article we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least brie