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Electrical Connectors - Randy’s Electrical Corner

Posted in How To: Electrical on November 27, 2014
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I spend a lot of time here talking about how to solder or soldering. But let’s face it, like Catalina’s bounce dance, some things just work. I’m sure that a lot of you don’t solder every connection in your Jeeps. If I’m going to be honest, I don’t solder every connection I make in every Jeep the Jp guys have me working on, but don’t tell them that. It’s important with what you guys do to pick the right kind of connector and crimper when you’re at the store and looking to cut corners.

There are lots of connectors out there, but for you guys, you should always get the heat-shrink or “waterproof” style of connectors. I’m not going to talk about spade connectors, bullet connectors, or anything else here. This is just about joining two wires together and how to pick the right tool for the job. That is, if you aren’t going solder it. Or, of course, if you can’t solder it.

I carry most of these with me whenever they make me go on a Jeep run, because when something goes bad, they always say, “Get Randy; he can fix it.” But they hardly ever have the stuff to do it with, or they have the wrong stuff, and I’m forced to play MacGyver in the middle of nowhere just so I can get back home. It’s just easier to take along some of the stuff that I usually end up needing. I hate stripping wires with my teeth, but that’s a whole ’nother story.

The important thing for you guys to remember is that you want something that keeps dirt out, at the very least. Something that keeps water out would be great, too. I’ll show you a few of them here. My whole solder thing is because it’s less likely to have problems with vibration than many of these connections, but I know that we can’t all carry a soldering iron in our back pocket. They are called butt connectors (please no big butt jokes), and here’s a few different ones, as well as what to look for in a crimping tool.

This is the worst one for you guys. Sure, it connects the two wires, but it does nothing to keep out mud or dirt. And if the wire is somewhere that vibrates (you know, like in a Jeep), it will eventually break inside the connector somewhere. The best thing you can do if you end up using this kind of a connector is to wrap it tightly with electrical tape from about an inch of either side of the connector. This is the worst one for you guys. Sure, it connects the two wires, but it does nothing to keep out mud or dirt. And if the wire is somewhere that vibrates (you know, like in a Jeep), it will eventually break inside the connector somewhere. The best thing you can do if you end up using this kind of a connector is to wrap it tightly with electrical tape from about an inch of either side of the connector.
Here’s one step up. I got these from Harbor Freight (harborfreight.com), and they do a great job of keeping dirt out of the connection. Instead of that hard plastic shell of the connector in the previous photo, this one is wrapped with a heat-shrink kind of material. They are still color-coded, but the colored-plastic covering shrinks. I use a butane lighter to shrink them, but a heat gun is better. If you do any of the connecting steps wrong, they likely won’t be waterproof anymore. Here’s one step up. I got these from Harbor Freight (harborfreight.com), and they do a great job of keeping dirt out of the connection. Instead of that hard plastic shell of the connector in the previous photo, this one is wrapped with a heat-shrink kind of material. They are still color-coded, but the colored-plastic covering shrinks. I use a butane lighter to shrink them, but a heat gun is better. If you do any of the connecting steps wrong, they likely won’t be waterproof anymore.
The key to a good crimper is mostly in its thickness. This one is 1⁄4-inch-thick. The reason that is important is because the more wire that is squished down inside that little butt connector, the better the actual electrical connection. Also, I’ve found that by using a crimper like this, the wires break less than if I use a cheaper, narrower crimper. The key to a good crimper is mostly in its thickness. This one is 1⁄4-inch-thick. The reason that is important is because the more wire that is squished down inside that little butt connector, the better the actual electrical connection. Also, I’ve found that by using a crimper like this, the wires break less than if I use a cheaper, narrower crimper.
I got these connectors from Off Road Only (offroadonly.com). The company delivers them with their LightDOTs. They are really cool and not actually a crimp connector at all. There is solder in the middle of them, and the clear plastic acts like a waterproof heat-shrink. So, when I heat the thing up, it both solders and seals the joint without any need for an actual soldering iron or a crimping tool. While ORO won’t sell them separately, you can find them online at Digikey (digikey.com). I got these connectors from Off Road Only (offroadonly.com). The company delivers them with their LightDOTs. They are really cool and not actually a crimp connector at all. There is solder in the middle of them, and the clear plastic acts like a waterproof heat-shrink. So, when I heat the thing up, it both solders and seals the joint without any need for an actual soldering iron or a crimping tool. While ORO won’t sell them separately, you can find them online at Digikey (digikey.com).

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