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We've all run across it before, odd electrical gremlins, trailer lighting working one second only to find yourself getting pulled over another. Automotive connectors run a higher risk of corrosion due to the environment they are expected to function in. Moisture, thermal shock, vibration, exposure to multiple chemicals a and road grime all play a factor in degrading electrical components. These failures can range from a minor frustration to catastrophic nightmare. Here is an extremely simply fix with items you probably have laying around the house. Other than physical damage I personally have never had this fail me.

I have spent a lot of time over the years helping others find and repair electrical issues in their vehicles. Sometimes these issues require clipping and replacing individuals wires or even entire connectors. There are times when the expense, age, or location of the connector makes total replacement a non-option. While I normally take the time to blueprint, document, and de-pin the individual pins from the connector for cleaning there are instances when it is not possible due to design.

First step is to attempt to clean any dirt or oil from the pin or connector. I use an electrical contact cleaner called Deoxit.
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Other brand from CRC or Permatex will work as well. I like to a nylon bristled brush on connectors and brass brush for individual pins. However desperate times call for desperate measures and I remember the day of scrubbing the hell out of a connector in the kitchens sink with an old tooth brush and dish soap. Old school!
*Do not use a steel brush or a harsh chemical like break cleaner to clean electrical wiring or connectors!

Second step is find two glass containers large enough to fit the item you are trying to clean. You can use plastic but I prefer glass for durability reasons.
*Do not use metal containers for the cleaning process.

Third step is where you raid the kitchen for the necessary items for this project.
You will need the following:
  1. Regular table salt (not the low sodium)
  2. White vinegar
  3. Baking soda
  4. Warm (not hot) Water
That's it. That is all you need to save the day.

In the one container pour in enough white vinegar to submerge the part completely. Mix in as much table salt as you can dissolve into the liquid until it will take no more. don't worry if you extra salt at the bottom of the container. This will be the cleaning solution.

Next take the second container and full it with the warm water. As above dissolve as much of the baking soda into the water as it will take. The will be the neutralizing solution.

Submerge the part into the cleaning mixture ( Salt and Vinegar) and allow it to sit for at least 15 mins, maybe longer if it is very corroded. You may also have to pull it out after the time has elapsed, wipe it off and let it soak again to get the desired effect.

After you are satisfied with the results of the cleaning solution transfer the part into the neutralizing solution (Water / Baking Soda) and proceed to swish it around for 20 to 30 seconds. This is an important step in order to prevent the cleaner from eating away from the base metal. After I normally will then blast out the connector or pin with the electrical contact cleaner and shop or canned air.

As an example unfortunately I don't have any corroded or oxidized connector or pins handy so I decided to provide an substitute to show just how powerful this can be.

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This was the result of a 15 minute soak. No scrubbing or wiping at all. Zero effort. The penny from 1968 was much darker in real life than in the photo and has experienced a long road. Now it looks better that the penny from 2010! This will do the exact same thing to the electrical pins in you system.

Afterward I like to use Ford XG-12 electrical grease to prevent the return of new corrosion.
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*This is NOT dielectric grease! I do not use dielectric grease except for very specific things. People have been using it incorrectly for years. Dielectric grease blocks electrical signals, It's an insulator not a conductor.


Anyway hope this helps and thanks for taking the time to read it this quick tip for cleaning electrical connections.

Stay safe!

J
 

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To add a little to this, I've successfully used Stabiliant-22 to repair repeated minor resistance failures at the terminal level. I've also used it preventatively as well. Its expensive but worth it. I guess it was developed for use in all electrical terminals of aircraft.

 

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Afterward I like to use Ford XG-12 electrical grease to prevent the return of new corrosion.

*This is NOT dielectric grease! I do not use dielectric grease except for very specific things. People have been using it incorrectly for years. Dielectric grease blocks electrical signals, It's an insulator not a conductor.
thanks for the write up!

If I use dielectric on the outside of connectors to stop water from getting in, is that wrong? Are you using this grease inside the connector between the two? Would you suggest dielectric or Ford XG-12 on the battery terminals?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Funny you should ask that about the battery terminals as i was just discussing that very topic earlier today. Dielectric grease is used to insulate and prevent water intrusion into two mating connections, not two terminals. You should never allow the dielectric to touch the metal connection points. The number of people I have seen just squirt the grease into the plug / coil boot and mash it onto the plug or fill the base of a stubby antenna on a patrol cars mobile radio. Let's just say its a lot.

When using dielectric remember a little goes a long way. I use a cotton swab or acid brush ti apply it to the surrounding gasket or seal of the connector. This keeps water out and makes putting the connector back together easier by preventing damage. You really can't make a non-waterproof connector into a waterproof one short of stuffing it into an enclosure kinda defeating the purpose. The factory connectors inside the engine bay for the most part are designed to keep debris and moisture out. Adding an insulator between two electrical connection points (even a thin one) adds resistance. Resistance adds heat baking the thin film causing higher resistance to the circuit. This can make voltage sensitive electronics act as if they are failing.

This can happen to your battery posts as well. Battery posts and terminals should be clean and dry. Once they are mated together then you can cover them with a grease or spray. I use the CRC battery terminal protector spray on my battery posts and on my chassis grounds after cleaning them.
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I never put anything between the posts and the terminals anymore. I spent some time with my father in law years ago and got to see first hand why. He works for Johnson controls as an engineer designing batteries. Never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) did I ever imaging the level of issues this causes with batteries. (On a fun note I learned that some years back the fancy Optima battery no longer uses rounded cells anymore. They are standard square plates in a case that appears to be rounded cells.)

The XG-12 or the Stabiliant-22 like @TurboGT mentioned is to increase electrical connectivity.
Dielectric grease insulates electrical connectivity.

If making a connection in a harsh environment look into a weatherpak or a properly rated waterproof connector for the application.
 

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Oh my @SSgtjrobertson. I've gone through a few of your posts now already and you and I are pretty much the same person when it comes to troubleshooting and proper use of the RIGHT product. Keep up the good work Sir!

Kyle
 
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