HomeTips & GuidesHow To Clean Auto Wire Harness: Five Cleaning Methods

How To Clean Auto Wire Harness: Five Cleaning Methods

How to clean the auto wire harness? Automotive wire harnesses primarily consist of wires, terminals, and connectors. 

Wires have no big issue when they become dirty due to the wire insulation, so cleaning them is purely for aesthetic purposes. 

But connectors must be clean to maintain solid electrical connections. 

So let’s look at how to clean connectors to keep the current and signals flowing smoothly through these electrical contacts. 

But first, here’s why you should clean your vehicle’s wire harnesses.

Why Clean Auto Wire Harnesses

Cars are mobile objects that can accumulate contaminants like dust, oil, and mud. 

Over time, these contaminants accumulate on wire harness connectors, creating poor electrical contacts.

These faulty connection points can cause component malfunction, such as intermittent window lifting when operating the power windows, trouble starting the engine, and flickering lights.

A wire harness electrical connector

A wire harness electrical connector

And if not cleaned on time, the dirt will harden on these points, creating permanent failure. Even if you scrub off this caked dirt, it will be challenging. 

So it is better to handle the situation early on, meaning regular maintenance is crucial.

How To Clean Auto Wire Harnesses

Cleaning these electrical contacts means scrubbing off the corrosion, grease, oxidation, and dirt using either of these methods.

Baking Soda and Water

Most people use water and baking soda to clean salts on battery terminals, so you might be familiar with this method if you’ve been a car owner for a while. 

Use these steps to clean the contacts.

  • Disconnect the power source. Loosen the bolts holding the battery terminal clamps in place, beginning with the negative terminal clamp. You will need a wrench and a pair of pliers.
  • Unplug the corroded connector. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with water, and apply it to the joint. Alternatively, sprinkle the baking soda on the connectors, followed by some water, then let it fizz. You can try mixing baking soda with vinegar instead of water.
A reaction between baking soda and vinegar in a glass jar

A reaction between baking soda and vinegar in a glass jar

  • Scrub these joints using a stiff brush after the fizzing stops.
  • Repeat the process by applying more baking powder and water, then scrub. And ensure you have gloves on to protect your hands.
  • When the dirt or oxidation layer is off, rinse the connector using distilled water, then dry it using a microfiber towel.
  • Inspect the connector to ensure there is no water inside that can short the wires. You can leave it to air dry or blow compressed air inside.
  • When dry, link the connectors.
  • Next, reconnect the battery terminals beginning with the positive side. Tighten these battery harness terminal clamps, then test the component.

If the wire harnesses are dirty, you can wipe them using a baking soda solution. 

The fizzy reaction can clean carbon deposits and oil/grease stains, especially from wires in the engine compartment. 

And you can apply silicone dielectric grease on the connectors to prevent corrosion.

Specialty Contact Cleaners

Several specialty contact cleaners exist in the market, and these are ideal for tackling stubborn corrosion that cuts deep into the connectors. 

So if you try the baking soda-water solution option and it does not work, try these cleaners.

And in addition to having deep penetration formulas, these cleaners reduce or eliminate the chances of short-circuiting because the liquid evaporates quickly.

 Plus, these solutions are non-conductive. So this option is safer both for you and the vehicle components.

A woman holding a spray cleaner

A woman holding a spray cleaner

The cleaners usually come in spray cans for easy application. And you can use a tube to direct the pressurized spray deep into the plugs. 

After spraying, you can use a tiny insertion brush to scrub the plug walls in the connector to remove the unwanted material.

Alcohol or Acetone

Alcohol and acetone operate like specialty cleaners because they penetrate and cut through dirt and debris to loosen them from the connectors and wires.

The  Alcohol is also an effective oil, carbon residue, and grease remover.

We recommend using a spray bottle to apply the alcohol because the pressure will push the liquid to cut deep into the dirt, grease, oil, or corrosion.

A spray bottle

A spray bottle

How To Clean Auto Wire Harness: Compressed Air

Unlike alcohol and specialty cleaners, compressed air is unsuitable for removing stubborn particles. But it can push loose dirt, dust, or debris from the wires and connectors. 

A compressed air spray

A compressed air spray

Ideally, you should use compressed air with the other methods, such as cleaning the working area before cleaning and removing any remaining particles after cleaning.

 Compressed air is also ideal for drying the electrical contacts if you use water and baking soda.

How To Clean Auto Wire Harness: Sandpaper

Sandpaper cleaning can be tiring because it requires manual work to remove corrosion or oxidation from the contact surfaces. 

But like compressed air, it does not use chemicals, making it safer. 

Sandpaper is also ideal for eliminating imperfections from the surface and will leave the electrical contact surface looking clean and shiny.

A roll of sandpaper

A roll of sandpaper

After sanding, you only have to brush the surface using a toothbrush or a similar abrasive material to remove the debris. 

But you can use alcohol, aerosol contact cleaners, vinegar, or acetone to clean the surface, as well. 

Also, try to blow compressed air on the contact to finish the job.

But using sandpaper on tiny wire harness connector plugs can be tricky because the spaces are too small. 

So this method is not ideal for cleaning all wire harnesses. And we don’t recommend it for wires because sandpaper can eat away the material, leaving broken insulation.

Wrap Up

Depending on the extent of the damage, cleaning car wire harnesses might require more than one of the above methods. 

The baking soda option is the cheapest, so we recommend it if you’re on a budget. But you can try specialty aerosol cleaners and compressed air for the best results. 

That’s it for this article. Comment below if you know of any other auto-wire harness cleaning solutions.

Hey, I am Lillian Yang, Sales manager of Cloom Tech.

I am a responsible, intelligent and experienced business professional with an extensive background in the electronics industry.

Reach me at [email protected] to get a quote for your projects.

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