Terminals 101

Your car’s electrical system is a jungle of wires, junctions and connectors. As in any jungle, each animal in your electrical wilderness is unique. They all have their own role in the food chain, and possess unique characteristics to make them successful.

Below is a spotter’s guide for the most viewable “animals” found in our harnesses.

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If our electrical jungle was home to Labrador Retrievers or Tabby cats, the 56 series terminal would a perfect representation of either. The 56 series is pretty much everywhere. Switches, male/female disconnects and dash harnesses.

Household pets might not be the best example of jungle wildlife. These examples are probably why we have yet to release a field guide for the Amazon basin.

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If the 56 series terminal is a domestic dog or cat, the 59 would be a timber wolf or mountain lion. They are still somewhat common, but definitely aren’t everywhere you look. They are larger and most often reside in areas of high demand. Think headlight connections and high-draw motors.

Also, neither of the animals listed above actually reside in the jungle. Perhaps it’s best for us to skip the animal analogies from this point forward.

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These are sealed, water tight, and found in areas that are going to get wet or dirty. Weather-Pak terminals are non-standard enough that they aren’t included with a Classic Update, because they are overkill for many vehicles. They are, however, packaged with our Severe Duty kit.

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Check your ’69+ GM steering column, or the gauge and rear body disconnects included with our Classic Update harnesses. Pack-Con terminals are compact, so they allow you to squeeze multiple connections into minimal connector surface area. Keen-eyed observers may notice the “M” shaped receptacles in the female terminal look remarkably like the “push in” opening in the face of an ATO fuse panel.

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Most readily seen at power or ground connection points, and very likely on the battery stud on the back of your alternator or starter. Ring terminals come in a wide variety of sizes, and it’s always a good idea to make sure connections are clean and tight during installation.

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Rivet terminals are frequently found in small lamp sockets; most often the type that live in your instrument cluster. Rivets form the base contact for a bulb, and can make or break your cluster lighting. Don’t forget to slide the lamp socket, spring and bulb base over the wire before installing!

This list could realistically continue for quite a while, but the parts above provide a good sampling of what to expect when you dive into a new wiring kit, or perform an up-close inspection of Factory Fit wiring.