Wiring is one of the many misunderstood subjects in our hobby. A hack can make a nightmare for the next owner or himself. Having an electrical failure 2/3 of the way through a corner when you need the bike to run properly is not only a safety factor for yourself, but also for the guy behind you, or they guy your trying to pass. Having the bike fail halfway through a trackday, race day, or on the commute to work, because of electrical issues can ruin the day and become a serious inconvenience. There have been whole books dedicated to wiring and sub subjects of wiring. Remember to work safe!
The Right Wiring Tools
- Wire Strippers – There are several different kinds of wire strippers to choose from.Some strippers work by cutting a ring around the insulation in the wire and then manually pulling the insulation off with the cutter still around the wire. Doing this takes some skill and practice to reduce the chance of cutting the strands of wire and to get it done correctly. Cutting the strands of wire just below the insulation will result in a slightly thinner wire, and thus a restriction in flow of current, and a reduction in the amount of AMPs the wire can handle. Some strippers work by gripping the wire with two clamps, the left one for holding the wire and the right one for stripping it with a sharp edge. Closing your grip on the handles, both clamps lock down on the wire, then when you completely close your grip on the handles, the two locked down clamps then come apart, stripping the wire. at least in theory. The latter has a more consistent finished product of the stripped wire. Some strippers work on a table in a bar.
- Soldering Iron – The preferred soldering Iron when soldering the smaller gauge wire together is a pencil style soldering iron. There are times though that joining 4 or 5 wires together in a bunch will require a much larger soldering iron to bring the solder and wire up to temperature quickly. There are 2 types of large soldering irons. One is electrical and the other is a butane torch attachment. The butane attachment works extremely well and quick, but isn’t recommended for tight spots or odd positions.
- Multimeter – A good multimeter can help you troubleshoot a multitude of automotive electrical problems anything from identifying low charging voltage to a parasitic battery draw. a good accessory to have with your Multimeter are alligator clamps for the test leads.
- Test Light – A test light is good at telling you if you actually have power at a specified location. DO NOT poke through wire insulation with your test light. Poking holes to find juice will only create problems later. The hole will allow moisture to enter the wires protective insulation and allow it to corrode.
- Wire Terminal Crimper – A good quality crimper are a must. and even though we solder most of our terminals, its important to have a good crimp or physical connection first.
- Heat gun – I use the heat gun to shrink the shrink tubing, a butane torch can also be used, but extra caution needs to be taken because the wires insulation and shrink tube can easily become to hot and burn.
- Terminal Tool Kit – Used to remove the terminals from their plastic housing. Sometime trying to get them out with a screwdriver or pick can result in damaged terminals. Using a terminal tool helps reduce this risk.
Splicing Two or More Wires Together
Everyone that has to lengthen a wire or branch a wire off is splicing a wire. There are little blue connectors that do this, but they are bulky and do not give a very professional or clean finish. These little connectors allow the wire to be exposed to water and atmosphere, and will allow the copper wire to turn into a nice green funky copper carbonate. This corrosion process is will speed up when the wire has current running through it.
These splices or repairs need to be sealed from the outside atmosphere and weather, but before we get to that point, we must make strong connections. Just twisting the wires together, throwing some tape on them, and calling it a day will get you by, but for the long term it is not good enough. The wires must have good physical contact with one another, interlock, and be SEALED from the weather and outside atmosphere. If the wires are not sealed the copper carbonate or “green funky corrosion” begins to grow, and before you know it, the nice copper wires turn to a much less conductive copper carbonate.
There are several correct methods to get a good connection between two wires. One method is to interlock the individual strands together and then wrap the strands with an extra strand the wires are then soldered and shrink tube is used to cover the joint. This method gives good contact from one copper wire to another. The process is very time consuming, and takes more practice than other processes. The second process consist of twisting the bare ends of the wires individually first, then twisting them together, after that, they get soldered together and finally the joint get a piece of shrink tube.
The wrap method
NOTE: The sharp ends of the wires can poke a hole through the shrink tubing. Take the extra time to make sure those jagged corners are tucked away.
Quality shrink tubing will have a glue or sealer that will ooze out when it is properly shrunk onto the wire. This seals the copper away from harmful elements and insulates the joint.
The twist method
I do not use preinsulated butt connectors, because when they are crimped, the insulation gets punctured. When the insulation gets punctured the integrity of the insulation to protect the wire is always questionable.