Automotive Electrical Connectors
Back Home Up Next

 

Automotive Electrical Connectors

While doing various wiring tasks on my cars and in particular, while rewiring my 1975 Suburban, I have learned a lot about various wire connectors used in the automotive realm. I started this page as a personal "crib sheet" so I could keep track of what connectors and terminals were used in what places and to cross-reference the names I found to something I already knew. As it grew, I decided to create a page describing the various connectors, the common names for each style connector, how they come apart (for adding and replacing wires), what they look like complete with dimensions (for easy visual ID).

 

Packard 56

  •  0-20A, Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 10 through 22 gauge wire
  •  10 gauge is a really tight fit, 12 gauge may be a more realistic limit
  •  1/4" blade terminal design
  •  Most common style I have ever seen - GM, Chrysler, and even some Fords use these
  •  Many switches and other electrical parts use a 1/4" wide blade for electrical connections
  •  Most common "quick disconnect" terminals use a 1/4" wide blade that will connect with these in a pinch
  •  Connector bodies commonly available in 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and even 8 cavity configurations
  •  Pushes in from back of connector
  •  To remove female terminal, depress small tang with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out
  •  To remove male terminal, compress the open slot in the tang with a small pair of pliers and push out

This is a copy of an old manual page (oddly enough, I think it's for a 1956 Packard) that shows some of these terminals and how they work.

AutomotiveElectricalConnector-ManualPage.jpg (233670 bytes)

 

Packard 59

  •  0-20A (I don't believe this amperage rating - it should be higher), Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 10 through 22 gauge wire
  •  5/16" blade terminal design - a "bigger brother" to the Packard 56 series terminals
  •  Used in sealed beam headlight sockets, and in some larger-diameter wire situations in older GM bulkhead connectors such as the main power feed wires

  •  Visually and functionally similar to Packard 56, but slightly larger - same picture and removal technique applies here

 

Packard Twin Lock

  •  Not sure on the amperage rating, but they do take up to 12 gauge wire, so it should be at 0-20A or so, Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 12 gauge and 18/20 gauge wire, should be able to find 14/16 gauge terminals in theory or use 12 gauge ones with a tighter crimp.
  •  Used on various 60's GM cars and possibly others in the bulkhead/firewall connector and possibly in other places.
  •  Uses the same connector for the male and female sides of the connection; very unusual
  •  Hard to find; only a few places seem to sell them these days. PCS seems to be the only one I can find.
  •  To remove, depress the small tangs on each side of the terminal from the front of the connector and then pull the wire + terminal out the back of the terminal.

Here is a picture of a typical mid-60's GM bulkhead connector from one of my website readers that shows how the Twin Lock terminals look when they are installed in a connector. The grease in the connector is the remnants of the original dielectric grease that GM put there when they built the vehicle.

PackardTwinLockConnector.jpg (212991 bytes)

 

Weather-Pak

  •  0-20A, Sealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 12 through 22 gauge wire
  •  Very popular general purpose sealed connector design for later-model GM vehicles
  •  Uses seals at the end of each wire that are held in place by the terminal straight relief crimp
  •  Plugs are used in all unused wire cavities to preserve weatherproof design
  •  To remove terminals, insert the special round removal tool (GM p/n 12014012) from the front and push out

 

Metri-Pak 150

  •  0-14A, Sealed or Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 16 through 22 gauge wire
  •  Used in various GM applications for low-power and sensor connections
  •  Sealed connectors use seals and plugs similar to the Weather Pack style
  •  Sealed connector bodies are visually similar to Weather Pack style
  •  Unsealed connector bodies vary by application
  •  To removal terminals, depress small tang with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out

 

Metri-Pak 280

  •  0-30A, Sealed or Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 12 through 22 gauge wire
  •  Used in various GM applications for medium power and sensor connections such as the 3 connector TH700R4 case connector
  •  Sealed connectors use seals and plugs similar to the Weather Pack style
  •  Sealed connector bodies are visually similar to Weather Pack style
  •  Unsealed connector bodies vary by application
  •  To removal terminals, depress small tang with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out

 

Metri-Pak 480

  •  0-42A, Sealed or Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 10 through 22 gauge wire
  •  Used for various higher-power applications
  •  Sealed connectors use seals and plugs similar to the Weather Pack style
  •  Sealed connector bodies are visually similar to Weather Pack style
  •  Unsealed connector bodies vary by application
  •  To removal terminals, depress small tang with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out

 

Metri-Pak 630

  •  0-46A, Sealed or Unsealed
  •  Wire terminals available for 10 through 22 gauge wire
  •  Used for various higher-power connections
  •  Sealed connectors use seals and plugs similar to the Weather Pack style
  •  Sealed connector bodies are visually similar to Weather Pack style
  •  Unsealed connector bodies vary by application
  •  To removal terminals, depress small tang with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out

 

Micro-Pak

  •  Nothing known other than the name and a picture I came across in a terminal supply catalog

Pack-Con I

  •  Used in various GM low-power applications such as sensors and switches starting in the late '70s
  •  To removal terminals, depress small tang with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out

 

Pack-Con HD I

  •  Similar in design to the Pack-Con I, but thicker
  •  Available in wire sizes up to 10 gauge
  •  Used in GM ATO/ATC style fuse blocks as the "receiving" contacts for the fuse.
  •  Visually and functionally similar to Pack-Con I, but slightly larger - same picture and removal technique applies here

 

 

Pack-Con II

  •  Similar to Pack-Con I, but wider and slightly different contact style with two retaining tangs instead of just one
  •  Used in GM ATO/ATC style fuse blocks as the "receiving" contacts for the fuse
  •  To removal terminals, depress both small tangs with a small flat tool inserted from the front of the connector and push out

 

Pack-Con III

  •  Similar to Pack-Con II
  •  Also used in some fuse blocks
  •  Same removal technique as Pack-Con II

 

GM Electronic Control Module

  •  Nothing known other than the name and a picture I came across in a terminal supply catalog.

 

GM Printed Circuit Board

  •  I believe these are used in the connector at the back of the instrument cluster on older GM vehicles to make contact with the flexible "printed circuit board" used on the back of the instrument cluster

 

 

Ford

  •  Ford used a great variety of connector and terminal styles through the years, so I'm lumping these here for visual reference. GM seems to have put much more engineering into their electrical systems, and as such has much more standard terminals over the years. (In the interests of full disclosure, I do prefer GM vehicles and I have worked on more of them so I have more experience with them.) I've done enough wiring work on my 1979 Ford F100 to get a bit of experience and add more details here, but it's by no means complete. It's directly related to my personal experience with wiring.
  • The most common Ford terminals I've seen are the Wedge Lock style - they have a .110" diameter pin and are generally not weather tight. Most of the connectors on my 1979 Ford F100 were this style.
  • There are mini and micro Wedge Lock style terminals as well, with .060" and .062" diameter pins. These were used in various weatherproof connectors for lower amperage applications in the 80's and 90's Ford vehicles, possibly later as well.
  • Most of the terminals are not being reproduced much if at all, and you are often limited to whatever stock you can find laying around. Auveco carries some, but a lot have been discontinued from their older catalogs - ClipsAndFasteners.com is a dealer and has a decent website to order from, and Auveco has a decent line of other non-wiring products that you might want to look at. Waytek Wire can get some Ford terminals as well.
  • Most of the Ford connectors use a central locking device to hold the pins in place - it's usually red plastic and goes into the center of the connector from the front side (opposite of where the wires come out of the connector). To free the individual terminals, you have to pry this locking piece out carefully (on the non-weatherproof connectors you can get to it from the outside of the connector along the side) and then the individual terminals will have a small plastic tab that you bend (gently) into the space where the locking device used to be. Once that locking tab is out of the way, you pull the terminal + wire out of the back of the connector. Insertion of a terminal is a simple "push in until it clicks" operation, and then you re-insert the locking device and push it down until it seats. A small jewelers screwdriver set and a small pair of needlenose pliers work well on these connectors.

Here's two common Ford connectors with the terminals already removed and the locking device removed and set below the connector body. The one on the left is a weatherproof mini wedge lock style with 8 terminals (but only 5 were used in the rear gasket shown above the connector body), the one on the right is a non-weatherproof wedge lock style with 12 terminals.

FordConnectorParts1.jpg (2711396 bytes) FordConnectorParts2.jpg (2714168 bytes)

 

Chrysler

  •  Nothing known, included here for name and visual ID only.

 

Mate Lock

  •  This seems to be a "third party" connector style that is used in some applications.
  •  Seems to be for low-power applications only
  •  Included here for name and visual ID only.

 

Bulkhead Connectors and Grommets

Whenever you run wires through a bulkhead (firewall, floor, etc.) you need to protect them from chafing on the sharp metal edges, and you often need to provide a way to disconnect the entire harness for service.

For basic grommets, Packard 56 style connectors inside of a grommet, or a nice Weather Pack style 22-wire bulkhead disconnect, check out American Autowire. Their catalog of individual pieces instead of whole wiring harnesses can be tough to find; you have to get to the download a catalog page, then you can select a section to get. Select the "Connectors, Terminals, and Grommets" section for the firewall grommets, and the "Bulkheads, Disconnects, Grounding, and Accessories" section for the connectors in a grommet and the firewall disconnect. Getting the entire catalog is fun, but can take a while on slower connections, or even on faster connections.

For hot-rod style grommets with a nice aluminum retaining ring, check out Pegasus Auto Racing at http://www.pegasusautoracing.com/productselection4.asp?Product=4336-005 and http://www.pegasusautoracing.com/productselection4.asp?Product=4336-005. Thanks to one of my readers, Bryan Symons, for letting me know about these folks.
 

 

Random Details

Non-sealed connectors used in "exposed" areas (engine compartment, bulkhead connectors, etc.) need to have dielectric grease applied to the back side of the connector to make them reasonably weather-tight. Note that this is different then the thermal paste you use under an HEI or ignition module or the "improves connectivity" goo you use on battery and other terminals. Both types are designed to repeal water and prevent corrosion from getting into the connector/joint/etc. but electrically speaking, they are exact opposites. Dielectric grease is basically a gooey, semi-liquid insulator that prevents voltage from flowing from one place to another - it's like wrapping something in electrical tape. The thermal paste and "improves connectivity" goo are conductors - they help bridge small gaps in the terminals and provide better connectivity - it's like connecting things with a good wire. If you slather dielectric grease into the terminal side of a connector, you may find they don't connect very well anymore unless the terminals are tight enough to push the grease out of the way when they get pushed together. On the other hand, making a trail of the "improves connectivity" goo between your battery terminals might cause unwanted special effects. Many places sell the wrong stuff - so be aware. This is super-important for the thermal paste under ignition modules, but also important for retrofitting older non-weatherproof connectors with new wiring. Waytek Wire sells dielectric grease. Radio Shack and most PC parts stores (like newegg.com) sell thermal grease. Most auto parts stores will sell the "improves connectivity" goo for use on battery terminals, taillight sockets, and the like. I have a tube of each around from various projects, and when you need it, you need it.

In recent years, many of the large car manufacturers have started "mixing and matching" electrical bits from different places, and different places keep getting bought and run by different parent companies. (For example, Saab was owned by GM for a while, so they use GM stuff on any newly designed components after the takeover). In some cases, you can even find GM electrical connectors in a Ford - in particular, I've been told that the MetriPak 280 terminals are seen on 1995 and up Fords for the headlight connectors.

Many newer cars have excellent electrical connector/terminal information in their service manuals and wiring diagrams; if you can find a part number for something, you can often dig into various places (and sometimes get the service dept to dig into microfiche for stuff) to find lots of good details about what terminals and connectors are needed for any given application. I'm told Saab does a very good job in this regard, and since they use a lot of GM stuff, that could be useful.

Kudos to Brian Leeper for emailing me with some important information here, particularly about the degree of cross-pollination in more recent years, and in how to find details in some of the newer manuals. Thanks, Brian!

 

Sources

Not all vendors carry everything, and many of these are hard to come by in small quantities. I do enough various work, that I simply buy them in packages of 50+ terminals if I need a few - they're relatively cheap once you find a good source, and once you have them around, they always seem to get used.

  • Waytek Wire - great source, easy online ordering. Their minimum dollar amount/quantity on each line item can make it frustrating to get small quantities of unusual pieces - but so far they are better than almost anyone else I have found. Their website is full-featured, but has a few weird quirks you have to learn to work around.
  • Terminal Supply Co - I have only found them recently, so I can't speak to ordering. They claim to have online ordering, but it looks more like a "email us the list of part # and qty you want and we'll send you a price" style of ordering. They do claim to have lots of other stuff available, which seems promising.
  • Electrical Terminal Service - I found these guys on the web while searching for various connectors. I have no yet ordered from them, but they seem to be a good source for the Metri-Pak, Weather Pack, and Packard 56 terminals. They do not have online ordering than I can find.
  • Performance Connection Systems - This one was sent to me by a reader of my website, Ed Gorman. They have a ton of great stuff on their site, including some of the harder to find Packard 59 and "buss bar" terminals used in fuse blocks. There's a lot to sort through, but it's well done and easy to find what you need if you know what it's called.
  • Your Local GM Dealer's Parts Department - Seriously! They usually have a bunch of "terminal repair kits" in the service department with an assortment of terminals in each one. If you ask nicely and know what you want or have a sample of the terminal you need, they will often sell you a few for a reasonable price. Beware that their computer will have nothing to look up, so you have to trek down to the dealer, ask nicely, and hope for the best. I got a handful of terminals for the TH700R4 case connector that's inside the transmission for about $5 and an bit of waiting.
  • Bowman - These guys seem to be an industrial supply place, and they sell about everything you can imagine from mops to safety gear on down to wiring and terminals. They do not deal direct with the public, so you have to go through other channels. They seem to supply a lot of the "terminal repair assortments" that are floating about. I did manage to convince my local auto parts store to order me a few specific terminals in quantities of 50 each, and the prices turned out to be unreal - like $100 for a few bagfuls of terminals. (Moral: ask for a price before saying "yes, I'll buy them"...) Their wbesite isn;t much help in finding a vendor, but they do see to have a catalog online.
  • Auveco - These guys seem to have an impressive catalog of stuff, and they now have a catalog online. It says B2B only at first glance, but you can browse it following the instructions at the bottom of the page. Note that previous versions of this page complained that these folks did not have an online catalog. They have since rectified that situation and even sent me some mail noting the number of hits originating from this page. Awesome! I originally stumbled across them via a lucky Google hit on part of it at another website. If it hadn't been for that lucky Google find, I would have never known these guys existed. (Note to anyone running a supply company: your lifeblood is your catalog. Follow Auveco's excellent example and get a PDF up on your website, will ya? I can understand not shipping printed catalogs for free due to cost, but not posting an online catalog for folks to look at is just saying "we'd rather not have your business" to potential customers looking for stuff to buy...)
  • ClipsAndFasteners.com is an Auveco dealer and has a decent website to order from. I've ordered Ford terminals from them and been quite happy.
  • Hollingsworth - I found them online while looking for terminals. One item that caught my eye was their flag terminals.
  • Lectric Limited - I found this place online while searching for terminals. They seem to offer mostly complete harnesses and various custom replacements as well as repair/restoration services. They do not sell individual terminals, so no luck there, but they do offer various repair kits. They do claim to be custom manufacturing many specialty items for older GM vehicles, so working with them on certain repair situations might be possible.
  • NAPA - They have a surprising amount of stuff available if you dig around in their catalogs and have a counter guy who is willing to help out - or even better, let you browse the catalogs yourself. Talk it up and make friends with the counter guy when you do your regular parts ordering, and ask nicely when you need special stuff - it pays off in the end when you need a favor or two.
  • Cole-Hersee - I can order their stuff though my local parts store and they have some interesting odds and ends, but not much. Your local parts store may have a catalog you can look through if you ask real nice.
  • DigiKey - They offer lots of great stuff if you can find it buried in their catalog. It turns out that some appliances use the same basic .250" wide blade terminals and connectors as the Packard 56 series stuff, and they offer a series of stuff called "Fastin-Faston" that has them in it. The have them in their online catalog  with more here, here, and here. One thing I saw of particular interest in the catalog page was their "flag" style terminals - lots of good stuff. It would be worth getting a catalog from them to see exactly what they have.
  • Mouser Electronics - has a good variety of stuff, including a lot for automatic electrical terminals and connectors. One of the readers of my site pointed these folks out to me.
  • American Autowire - they mainly offer entire harnesses, but they do have a few parts, and some great GM style bulkhead connectors (grommet + connector all in one) as well as large wire grommets with smaller central wiring holes. These are like the factory uses so you can pull the wire harness + connectors through the larger opening in the firewall, etc. when you need to remove the wiring harness for service, etc. Their catalog of individual pieces instead of whole wiring harnesses can be tough to find; you have to get to the download a catalog page, then you can select a section to get.
  • MJM National, Inc. - An eBay seller with Weather Pack and Metri Pack stuff for sale. Thanks to one of my readers, Orson Yancey, for letting me know about this source.
  • White Products - An online source for Weather Pack and Metri Pack stuff. Another tip from Orson Yancey - thanks! These guys also have other URLs to get to their site, www.weatherpack.com and www.metripack.com.
  • Pegasus Auto Racing - Sells some really nifty hot rod style firewall grommets with aluminum mounting rings, plus some other assorted items. Thanks to one of my readers, Bryan Symons, for letting me know about these folks.
  • The Electrical Depot - A variety of electrical wiring and related products.

Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? See Contacting Us.

Pretty much everything on this website is copyrighted, if you want to use something, ask first.

Page last updated 01/15/2012 03:42:32 PM