12v: Check Your Connections
Sometimes we lose sight of the small stuff. We discuss sophisticated ADAS systems and telematics services, even the car as a hub on the owner’s home automation network. Sometimes, problems happen. When they crop up, it can boil down to something as elementary as a poor connection. Sometimes, it’s on the micro level, such as a bad solder joint. Sometimes, it is on the major level - for example, a ground wire that got splashed with salt water and is now green with crusty corrosion. And sometimes, poor connections and undersized wire can be choking the performance of an aftermarket audio system. For most installation techs, the first thing communicated to their salespeople is the need for them to sell proper wiring kits accessories to appropriately deliver the amperage needed for the install. As a side benefit, it makes all of our jobs easier, and the retailer profits from the sale of the necessary hardware – with the best margins – to do the job right.
If your shop has been doing the right thing, poor wiring problems rarely crop up. The vehicle’s owner was qualified correctly from the get-go, and the appropriate wiring accessories were sold with the installation. But sometimes we get vehicles from other shops or shade-tree installers. Usually the customer is fed up because things aren’t working properly. We get problems such as intermittent signals, amplifiers shutting down just as the customer is getting into the music, even engine noise itself amplified through the speakers. We find things such as undersized wire, solid-core wire, or the dreaded Scotchlok. This is the time to step in and upgrade all the wiring to eliminate all the potential problems caused by the previous “installer”…if we even want to call them that.
High-quality connections, heavy-gauge wire, and good grounding techniques were the hallmark of show car installations 20 years ago. We seem to have lost sight of this when working on more delicate and diminutive Class-D amplifiers, processors and electronics. The temptation there is to just get power from a brake light or fuel pump circuit instead of obtaining clean positive current. But what worked for our forefathers still works today. Even if the customer wants to hide all the wiring for a stealth installation, we can still run wire and place accessories under the hood that will do the job for years to come without having it visible.