General (re)wiring question - Chevelle Tech
Electrical & Wiring Troubleshooting electrical problems.

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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old May 17th, 05, 2:38 PM Thread Starter
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General (re)wiring question

70 Chevelle - we're "un Malibu-ing" it...

The car was originally a 350, but the motor was long gone and the folks we bought it from included an uninstalled 454 that we've since rebuilt and bolted in. It has a sweep dash, that we've since pulled (and tossed as it fragmented upon touching it!). The wiring harnesses were all there, including the round-gauge dash harness that came with the round dash, but some of the wiring insultation is cracked, a few ends in the radio are cut off and over-all it just feels old anmd brittle...

Since we're pretty much redoing the entire car, bolt by bolt, (first time ever doing this!) I considered just rewiring the car with fresh harnesses...

That is anyway, until I saw the prices of wiring harnesses! It never occured to me that just a dash harness could run $400+, not to mention an engine harness $125+, the forward harness, the A/C harness, the rear harness, and the wire for the electric chair if my wife finds out I spent nearly a grand on a wad of wires!

Besides the wise cracks, (which I DO appreciate!) is there a way to cut down on the costs involved in wiring? It just never occured to me that wiring could be so expensive, and I'm wondering if perhaps I'm apporaching it wrong, or there could be a different way.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas to save some money?




In the immortal words of Beaux:
"The only 'done' car is a 'sold' car... "

Ours is now "done" - waiting for the day when we can afford a new one...
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old May 17th, 05, 3:32 PM
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Re: General (re)wiring question

I'll be watching this thread since I recently found the "exact" same thing when pulling apart the 66 SS - lots of BRITTLE wires and cuts & frays and rebuilt in a hodge podge way when replacing bulb sockets... I started looking for harnesses, basically 1). the engine harness 2) the under dash harness and 3). the dome light / rear harness. Looks like about $500 (maybe more) for the complete wiring harness set... I have not seen kits that include the 3 pieces, just the individual sets.

A thought... I'll be heading to the PTON Good Guys early next month and sometimes vendors run show deals....
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old May 17th, 05, 5:48 PM
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Re: General (re)wiring question

Just look around, there are people that have nice used, but not brittle wiring harnesses. I bought the dash harness in my 70 for $150, which included the round idiot-light cluster. The wires and insulation are still soft and flexible. It isn't perfect of course, but to save $300 it was well worth it. I also paid $50 for my forward lighting harness, which was in pretty good shape with no cut wires. I bought my engine wiring harness off ebay, i think I paid $45 for a brand new M&H set where the seller got rid of the car. I should also mention that so far, everything has worked, except the dome light ground wire was cut.

It might be worth your while to post a classified ad for some nice used units.


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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old May 17th, 05, 6:14 PM
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Re: General (re)wiring question

I evaluated some of these options last summer on my '68 El Camino. The deal breaker with Painless was the 'take it or leave it' attitude to answering questions. The folks at American Autowire were much more helpful and explained that any non-factory type replacement harness was going to require some design and fabrication work. A lot of the circuits are relatively standard, but you always have some special stuff going on wipers and heater blowers for example. I ended going the rebuild route on the dash harness for my '68. What I found is that there was very little in the way of hard or brittle wires. Now the covering harness tape, that was a different matter.

I finished up the rebuild with a full wire loom covered with non-adhesive vinyl tape wrapping. You can get the vinyl tape from American Autowire as well as many of the terminals and end pieces. They are the other side of Factory Fit, a manufacturer of replacement harnesses. Which means they have many (most?) of the pieces. As an example I was able to buy a new fuse block without wires for $75.

Many of the terminals, at least on the '68, were pretty standardized to just one type with male/female versions. The male can be squeezed and pushed out of the plastic holders. The female version requires a special flat blade tool inserted up a slot in the end to release it.

After crimping on any terminals I soldered the wire to insure against pull out and for good permanent electrical contact.

In a number of spots I needed to undo wire cuts that had been made over the years. To do this I used a double layer of heat shrink over a soldered wire to wire joint. My favored technique was to take a small copper wire strand and bind the two harness wires together by wrapping. Then I would solder the connection.

Don't forget to scrape any insulation crud off the wires before trying to solder them.

Most of the wiring has enough slack to replace end terminals just fine, you are often only talking about shortening a wire by 1/2" or less.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old May 18th, 05, 6:37 AM
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Re: General (re)wiring question

If you are very good at basic wiring and can understand basic schematics for autos, the best deal going is the EZ wire kits. While they don't have all the whistles and bells, you will also have to hunt for new dash sockets which aren't very hard to find, but not a lot of $$. Check out

Some mid-stream wiring kits are Centech Wiring, a very high quality and more complete kit. ...I highly recommend them too.

The Painless and Francis kits are much improved over the last few years even tho I have heard issues with service and help. I really have steered clear of their products over the years because of early model problems.

American Autowire/Factory Fit is the best going for "plug and play" albeit expensive!

Also on my soapbox on 30 year old wiring. CHANGE IT! The reason is that the copper can be corroded not only at the ends but also creeps up the insulation to inside the wire where you cannot see due to moisture "wicking". Moisture contamination often finds its way up the wire and corrodes inside and creates poor conduction performance. You may not even see this.

The other reason is insulation can be very poor even when pliable and looks are deceiving. Obviously if the insulation is broken and brittle there is a problem. But, I have seen what appears to be older insulation in good shape degenerate into oblivion in just a year with just the heat of summer etc. These old wiring insulations are cooked and fried with heat, UV light and moisture contamination. They are also made of inferior materials by today's standards. In my opinion, old wiring is a disaster waiting to happen. The original designed lifetime of the wiring system in the 60/70s was only 25 years according to GM specs.

And...don't think just because it was stored in a little ole ladies garage for twenty years it's any better. Active chemicals in the air such as ozone and other airborn contamination will degrade the wiring insulation sitting in the garage, in the dark!

My recommendation is just bite the bullet and change it. It's one of the best upgrades you can do to your ride.

Last edited by HOTRODSRJ; May 18th, 05 at 6:57 AM.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old May 18th, 05, 9:47 PM
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Re: General (re)wiring question

I had the same problem when I had to rewire my El Camino. A previous owner butt connected all the wires at the firewall. I was lucky enough to buy all three wiring harnesses from someone who parting out an Elco. I was considering using an universal harness if I couldn't find an used one.

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