Tuesday, 12 February 2013 13:46

Hack and Splice: Fixing the Worst Wiring Jobs

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I don't know many car guys who like to work on wiring. Especially wiring that's been hacked on over the years.

But your muscle car is now pushing 50, and past owners added and removed all kinds of accessories back when these cars were daily drivers. Things like that CB radio, or that bitchin' 8-track player, or even trailer pigtails to tow a boat. Maybe they upgraded to a one-wire alternator, or put in a late-model distributor. Think they took the time to really do the job right? 

And now you get to deal with the mess of what's left, when your dome light stops working, or when you have one taillight that stays on all the time. Maybe it's straight-forward as a bulb, or maybe it isn't, like a bad connection "somewhere." One thing's for sure - fixing this kind of thing never as simple as you'd like it to be.

You can't really blame the guys who hacked up your wiring, either, because we're all probably guilty of it to some degree - I know I am. One time I wired a couple accessories in my Caprice in blue wire. ALL blue wire. Positive, negative, whatever. But hey, I was young, had a spool of blue wire, and a new stereo to install. It was going to be the coolest thing ever, just as soon as I was done wiring it. The task was secondary to the glory of the finished product. Today I just look back and groan. But at least I can remember what I did. It's a little different to dissect someone else's rush job.   

My ’72 Chevy truck project is a great example. Someone else wired it all up, and in the few years I've been working on it, I've found all kinds of questionable things under the dash and under the hood. The most recent is the wire pictured here. Up until this weekend, this was the main power wire that came off the positive terminal of the battery and fed the power junction block, which in turn feeds most of the truck. The battery side is totally mangled, while the junction side (pictured) is only attached by two tiny strands of wire. I'm still amazed it didn't get hot enough to melt. This one was just silly - whoever made the wire was probably in a hurry and never came back to do the job right. 

Think of all the colors and varied gauges of wire, the sketchy splices, the bare strands, the duct tape, and the re-purposed materials like home-grade wire nuts you've found over the years. What's the worst car wiring you've ever come across? I'd like to hear about it. Do you even bother fixing this stuff, or just go with a modern aftermarket harness to replace the spaghetti in your classic? Let us know in the comments below.

Jim Pickering

Jim Pickering is the Editor of American Car Collector magazine and has been the Managing Editor of Sports Car Market magazine since 2006. As proficient with Snap-On tools as he is with a keyboard, Jim began his career as a professional mechanic while still in college at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing. He can often be found at Portland International Raceway at the Late-Night Drags, behind the wheel of his 12-second big-block powered 1966 Chevrolet Caprice. He is also currently restoring a 1972 Chevrolet K10 Cheyenne Super longbed in his spare time.