Putting together ignition wires can be troublesome without the right tools.
It wasn’t a big deal when solid core 7-mm wires were the norm, but with today’s selection of large-diameter spiral core wires, things have changed.
You need special tools and procedures to get the job done correctly.
Here’s a brief description of what’s required to assemble spiral core wire sets:
1. The first step is to measure the wire length. If you start with cylinder number one in the firing order, copy that wire and replace it, then continue around the firing order, you won’t get mixed up. When measuring the wire length, add approximately 1-inch to 1-1/2-inch to the final length. This makes up for the wire stripping action. By the way, cutting spirally wound wire is simple: Either use a set of sharp snips or a dedicated stripping/crimping tool—one clean snip and it’s over. Next, slide approximately 1/2- to 3/4-inch of the wire end through the stripping tool (included with many wire sets). Rotate the stripping tool clockwise, with the blade facing you. This cuts the wire to the exact depth. Next, pull the stripper back toward you. The insulation should come off easily, without damage to the spiral winding.
2. Fold the stripped conductor back onto the wire jacket. Then place the wire terminal directly over the conductor. Take your time doing this. There is a chance you can deform the wire spiral or the fiber core. Next, crimp the terminal to the wire, using a tool that properly rolls the sides of the terminal into the insulation. The stripped-away wire should be positioned inside the U-shaped portion of the terminal. This provides a stronger grip and ensures maximum electrical contact.
3. Push the boot back over the wire after it has been stripped. WD40 can be used as a lubricant, but dielectric grease works even better. You can also use a small amount of dish soap and water to prevent the boot from freezing on the silicone wire jacket. This allows the boot to easily glide back and forth on the wire—and that’s something you’ll appreciate when assembling the wires.
Everything is straightforward, but the catch in the above is the crimp part of the equation. The downside to today’s latest spiral wound suppression wires is the aggravation of properly terminating the wire and crimping the ends. There are any numbers of tools available to accomplish this task, but we’ve developed a definite fondness for modern ratchet style crimpers. They’re typically a beefy steel piece that isn’t plagued with handle flex. In the case of the first generation MSD tool shown in the photos, the main frame is built from hardened steel, and incorporates comfortable molded handgrips. Just as important, it’s engineered to painlessly crimp today’s spiral wound ignition wire.
There are several different types of interchangeable jaws optionally available for stripping and crimping with the MSD tool, for example assembling troublesome Weatherpack connectors (you simply swap the jaws for the type of work you’re doing). The best part, however, is that it does the job of crimping wire by way of a ratchet action that provides secure, factory-style crimps. In simple terms, once you’ve lined up the respective pieces and squeeze down on the handles, you’re guaranteed a perfect crimp. The bottom line is, there’s no guesswork.
One note of caution: With any of the ratcheting crimpers, be certain to keep your fingers or any other body parts clear of the jaws when crimping. The way they work, you continue to squeeze the ratcheting handles until the crimp is complete. Then they release. If you accidently encounter a ‘pinch,’ there is a little release mechanism contained within the handle of the tool. If you’re in the middle of a crimp and you need to release the jaws, push the little release level forward.
This isn’t the only crimping tool available. We actually have several in our toolbox—two others that are less costly and don’t use a ratcheting jaw format. Additionally, MSD and others have actually improved upon the ratchet style crimpers.
More on crimpers in the accompanying photos: