When it comes to wiring, DIY takes on an entirely new level of complexity and importance. Some people won’t even touch minor wiring jobs out of sheer intimidation of electrons moving around. While there is no arguing that troubleshooting wiring can be more difficult than other systems, primarily because you usually can’t see a “leak” in an electrical system, doing it right is no more difficult than anything else.
The key to an excellent DIY electrical project is two-fold. Using high-quality supplies, high-quality equipment, and proper technique are significant components in a well-executed wiring job. What tools you use depends on your preferred method of wire connection. For us, we trust the same method used on 99 percent of OEM automotive wiring — crimping.
Around since the 1940s, crimping is the process of mechanically attaching a stranded wire to a terminal by deforming and compressing the terminal around the wire. However, crimping is more than just smashing a wire and terminal together, which is why using the proper crimp tool is a critical part of obtaining a quality crimp.
A properly executed crimp offers a number of advantages over the next most popular method of attaching two wires; soldering. A crimped connection is a far more flexible joint than a solder connection, as well as considerably less vibration-sensitive than a soldered joint — a key consideration in an automotive application.
Something else to consider when it comes to automotive wiring — crimping is much faster, easier, and less dangerous in tight spaces than soldering. A properly crimped union will be stronger than the wire around it. If you have a problem with weak crimps, it’s likely your tools and/or your technique. Enter the Pertronix Ratcheting Crimp Tool Kit.
The Pertronix kit comes complete with six pieces: five carbon-steel sets of dies, and the ratcheting crimper itself. The dies are securely held in place by a spring-loaded detent, which also ensures perfect alignment of the two jaws every time.
Secure Attachments Made Easy and Repeatable
The key to the Pertronix ratcheting crimper’s awesomeness is its consistency and repeatability, making the perfect crimp over and over as fast as you can strip wire. Thanks to its mechanism’s geometry, it takes relatively little hand strength to generate an exceptional amount of compressive force at the crimper’s jaws.
Secondly, the ratcheting mechanism not only allows you to pause in the middle of a crimp, but also ensures that every crimp made gets the exact same pressure applied, regardless of how tired your hand gets by the end of the day. The last crimp will be exactly the same as the first crimp you made, even though you started your day with a RedBull and three scoops of pre-workout.
The tool itself is adjustable for tension, so you can compensate if you have a wire with a thicker or thinner jacket, or any number of other variables that might arise during a wiring job. Being able to set the tension on the tool and then crank out perfect crimp after perfect crimp will not only increase the quality of the final product, but reduce the amount of time and effort required on your part.
There are several different types of terminals commonly found in automotive wiring. From left to right are the insulated terminal, the non-insulated terminal, and the open-barrel terminal. Each requires a different style of crimp, and dies for all three types are included in the kit.
So Many Types of Terminals
One of the biggest benefits of the Pertronix Ratcheting Crimper Kit is that it comes with five different sets of jaws. Designed to tackle most of the crimping the average enthusiast will tackle in an automotive application, the jaws are a quick-change design, which uses a spring-loaded detent in the crimping tool itself. The detent not only locks the jaws in place, but also ensures perfect alignment of the top and bottom jaws.
The first set of carbon-steel jaws included in the kit probably won’t get much use by people who care enough about quality to buy a tool of this caliber but are nevertheless included. The (A) jaws are designed to properly crimp insulated terminals. You know, those terminals with the preinstalled, color-coded hard pieces of plastic that correspond to wire size? Yeah, those. The single set of jaws has provisions for the red 18-22 AWG terminals, the blue 14-16 AWG terminals, and yellow 10-12 AWG terminals.
The next set of jaws are a favorite of most DIYers we know who aren’t afraid of doing their own wiring. The (B) dies are designed for non-insulated terminals. Non-insulated terminals are usually what’s hiding underneath the cheesy colored plastic collars of insulated terminals, and do require some form of insulation (typically heat-shrink tubing) post-crimp.
Without the preinstalled insulation, the non-insulated terminals receive a much more aggressive crimp geometry, making an even more secure attachment. A quick note here is to line up the seam of this type of terminal 180-degrees from the anvil in the crimp jaws for the most secure crimp.
Each set of die jaws comes with multiple terminal size options. While the (A) dies are pretty simple to figure out — thanks to the color-coding system in place for insulated terminals — the other dies are marked with the corresponding terminal size measurements.
Next is the set of (C) dies. These crimper jaws are designed for open-barrel terminals. These terminals are most often found on automated assembly lines, due to the design being easier to incorporate into automation. However, they also have the benefit of not only relying on the crimp between the terminal and the stranded conductor for mechanical strength but also places a crimp around the insulation as well, for two mechanical attachment points.
The next set of dies are the (H) jaws, designed for open-barrel D-sub terminals. There are both open-barrel and closed-barrel D-sub terminals, and these jaws only crimp the former. These terminals are generally male and female pins for things like Mil-Spec harness connectors and OEM ECU connectors. (Note: These dies are not the same as WeatherPack connector dies, which Pertronix offers in a separate kit.)
Here, you can see the tension adjustment mechanism on the ratcheting tool (upper right). This adjustment addresses the final crimping force exerted by the jaws so you can tailor it precisely to your terminal and wire combination for a given project.
Building Spark Plug Wires
Finally, in this kit are the H1 dies, which are a set of multi-functional spark plug wire jaws. The spark plug connector jaws have the most positions out of any of the available jaw sets, with five distinct crimps. Openings 2 and 3 are for the insulation crimp of a spark plug wire. Regardless of single- or double-crimp terminals, 2 and 3 will be used to connect the terminal to the insulation securely.
In the case of a double crimp terminal, openings 1, 4, and 5 are designed to make that second crimp on only the conductor wire, based on the exact type of terminal. These jaws make a factory-style crimp for the most strength and best conductivity possible — both critical factors when making a custom set of plug wires.
Without a doubt, the Pertronix Ratcheting Crimper Kit is an invaluable tool to have at your disposal during any kind of electrical project, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. Consistent, proper crimps can be the difference between a reliable, well-functioning electrical system and spending hours (or worse, paying for hours) of troubleshooting.
Building spark plug wires can be a more challenging wiring task. With the H1 jaws, making super-secure factory-style spark plug terminal crimps is easy as pie, thanks to both the built-in leverage of the tool, and the ratcheting action.