Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just Don't Feed Them After Midnight

Yes, I'm talking about Gremlins, but not the type from Steven Spielburg. The type I'm referring to are electrical gremlins. In some ways these are worse then the fictional ones. Given a choice, most folks would rather deal with the little furry creatures then an electrical problem on their car. My brown Cutlass, Number 2, suffered from it's share of electrical gremlins when I bought it. As regular readers of this blog know, Number 2 was a victim of it's previous owner, Jerry Rig. Ol' Jerry had his cousin, Mickey Mouse, help him on quite a few "repairs" on poor Number 2, and it was painfully obvious.

The electrical gremlin that Number 2 suffered from was no rear taillights. Nothing major, right? At least the brake lights worked on one side! This senario actually got me pointed in the right direction. I knew I had some power back there, so the first item on the agenda was a visual inspection of the wiring harness. I was looking for breaks in the wires, loose connections, cut wires, etc. This is what I found when I opened the trunk...

Loose wires are always a bad sign, and this scene was no exception.

Upon closer inspection of the wires in the trunk, I discovered this connection. A pretty heavy duty connector, but why was it wrapped in electrical tape??

I decided to do some testing to see if the taped connector was preventing power from getting to the tail lights. Although the test light lit up on quite a few terminals, on some it would go on and off just by me moving the connector.

Further down the line I was not able to detect any power, so I knew I had narrowed it down to the taped connector. Time to open Pandora's box.

This is what I found when I unwrapped the tape. The connector was not plugged all the way together. Hmmm, I wonder if that would cause any problems?

It turns out that it did cause some problems, a no taillights problem to be exact. What I couldn't understand was why it was apart in the first place, as the clip was still good on it. Oh wait, I forgot who use to own the car...

Of course I just couldn't plug it back together. It needed to be cleaned. Notice the dark color to the terminals, as well as some corrosion on them. This acts like an insulator and impedes the electrical connection.

After a good cleaning with a small round file, I was ready to plug it back together, only this time correctly!

With the connector securely snapped together, it was time to check all the lights again. Volia! We now have tail lights, and brake lights, and turn signals, and most important - safety! Of course I also replaced all the bulbs and cleaned the lenses, so I won't bore you with details of that, but I will tell you about another gremlin of a smaller variety.

While I was inspecting the connector, I noticed a pair of wires going into it seemed loose. It needed to come out to be checked. While this may seem like an impossible task to some, the right tools made this job rather easy. After removing the terminal, I did discover a loose crimp, so I soldered the wires to the terminal instead of trying to re-crimp it.

This is the wonder tool that was worth every penny I paid for it.

The connector pops right out. Hey, it looks like I actually know what I'm doing! Notice how the factory put two wires in the one terminal. These terminals can barely handle one wire, let alone two.

In case your wondering, I did get rid of the snap tight trailer plug connectors. I just thought they added that extra special touch of Mickey Mouse to the pictures. I can't wait to see what other "special" suprises I can find on Number 2. Until then, at least I have chased off the gremlins for now.