A wire harness is a specially-designed bundling system used to keep numerous wires or cables organized. Rather than manually routing and connecting every individual strand, wires are cut to length, bundled and clamped to terminal or connector housings to form a single piece. This compact, organized arrangement allows for drop-in installation to reduce labor time and human error, and enable technicians to fit complex wiring assemblies into small or hard-to-reach spaces.
Wire harnesses involve dozens of individually-overmolded wires that branch off into different directions and junction points. Due to their often-complex design, low-quality wire harnesses can have several serious issues, especially at termination joints. No connector, no electricity. This is why high-quality wire harness connectors are the hallmark of a reliable, well-manufactured product.
Common Wire Harness Connector Issues
When selecting high-quality connectors for your wire harness, function should dictate design features. Herein lies the problem. Without a working knowledge of how every connector component contributes to performance, developers often end up with a poorly-designed product.
Contacts are one of the most common points of failure in wire harness connectors. Contacts are tiny metal pins and parts that touch to form an electrical connection. If the connector is not properly protected, contacts can become grimy or corroded, which will affect the flow of electricity. Additionally, the contacts within wire harness connectors have a finite life span. If contacts are not designed for the number of mating cycles required, they can lose their springiness over time, causing the connector to fail prematurely.
Most wire harnesses use a crimping technique to adjoin wires to connectors or terminals. Crimping involves the use of a specialized tool to create a gas-tight fusion between the two parts. However, if the incorrect technique is applied, loose crimps can allow moisture to penetrate the joint and cause corrosion. As a result, wire harnesses can experience short circuits, open circuits or total electrical failure.
Strain relief is another issue common in low-quality wire harness connectors. Strain relief is a design feature that allows for the transfer of force in any direction to enhance the mechanical strength of the connection. If a connector doesn’t possess enough strain relief for the application, the wiring can pull apart from adjoining terminals.
The overmolding material used to protect the connector will also significantly influence the life span of a wire harness system. Material selections are based on environmental conditions and the mechanical demands of the application. This chart breaks down the pros and cons of the most common overmolding materials as they relate to specific environmental and mechanical demands.
Given the complexity and importance of wire harnesses connectors, this is one electrical component in which you do not want to be frugal. You may find off-the-shelf options that work well for your application. However, we recommend choosing a connector engineer that can also customize products based on the demands of the application. iCONN Systems offers numerous tools and services to ensure you receive a high-quality connector that fulfills every application requirement.
Learn more about our standard and customized connectors.