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Thread: "Picking" electrical connectors

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    Durango, Colorado, United States

    Default "Picking" electrical connectors

    I recently took apart one of the fuel injector connectors that had failed on my Z car, and thought I'd share a little bit about "picking" connectors.

    "Picking" connectors is rather like lock-picking. You need patience, and strong, sharp little tools.

    by "picking" i mean reaching in and releasing the spring latch that holds the terminal into the connector shell, so you can withdraw the wire and terminal for repair or replacement.

    MOST automotive connectors can be "picked". But don't expect it to be easy, especially when the connector shell is full of corrosion and grime.

    Some connectors you "pick" from the front, others from the rear. The best situation is when you have a spare connector you can cut (or grind) in profile, so you can SEE how the locking tab is arranged. That's what I did in one of the pictures. I usually hold it up to grinder, and then clean off the melted plastic flashing that results with an Xacto knife.

    So on this particular connector (fuel injector) the FACE of the connector has two separate "channels," one for the terminal itself, and the other, where you can insert a pick and release the tab, allowing you to remove the terminal and wire from the rear. Actually, it's a T-shaped channel, but when the terminal is inserted, it LOOKS like two separate channels

    A factory "pick" for this terminal would probably be square, and tiny, but....none of those available here! So I use whatever I've got. Having worked on an assembly line, where connectors occasionally get smashed, broken, pins bent, etc. I can tell you the OEM connector "factory" picks are the single most prized possession on the factory floor!

    Even having sawn one side in half to see how it was arranged, it took me over 5 minutes of "picking" to get the other terminal out. I finally ground a flat tip on my "pick", a t-pin, so it couldn't slip into places I didn't want it to go. I considered trying to "square" it with a few blows of the hammer, but discarded that idea...

    If you look at the terminal itself, carefully, you'll see the little spring sticking up that latches it into the connector shell. As you push it in, this is what goes "snap" when it's all the way home.

    So to get it out, you have to hold down that little tab, and pull on the wire from the rear. On this one there was about a mm of slop, so I'd gently work it pack and forth attempting to hold the little spring tab down. Having three hands would have made it considerably easier.

    Again, if the cavity BENEATH the spring tab is filled with schmutz, it's gonna be double hard to get it to lay down for removal. Spraying contact cleaner in from the REAR of the shell may help remove schmutz and corrosion BEFORE you pick it.

    If the terminals themselves are alright, you can often slide them into a new, unbroken connector shell and avoid having to cut / solder the wiring harness. Mine were pretty "green" so I opted for cut N Paste.

    One could PERHAPS soak them all, still connected to their wires, in CLR, a great corrosion remover, and then see if they're re-usable in the morning.

    On numerous occasions I've simply cut the old wire off a terminal, for which I didn't have a replacement, and soldered a new wire over the top of the remains. You may get the insulation crimp open, but trying to undo the tiny wire crimp is usually impossible, but there's usually room for the old wire AND the new wire soldered over the top of it in the rear of the shell.

    (Unlike AFTERMARKET connectors, which you crimp onto the bare wire itself, on FACTORY connectors, there's usually a wire crimp AND an insulation crimp. The insulation crimp provides added physical strength, the wire crimp, the connectivity and SOME of the resistance to pulling out.)

    Sil-glide, or dielectric (non-conductive) grease packed into the connector shell before you snap it on the injector itself will make removal a LOT easier years down the road, and help keep air, water, and corrosion out.

    The only tricks to "picking" terminals out of connectors are practice, and patience. good Luck!
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