Cleaning Electrical Connectors


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colemadad
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Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby colemadad » Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:47 am



On the advice of the various forums I'm going to go over my wiring harness and anywhere there is a connector take it apart and give it a cleaning. Any thoughts on what cleaner/tools to use? Thanks.



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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:29 am

When I've got dirty connectors causing problems, I take them apart and clean them with electrical cleaner (solvent in a spray can, NOT WD-40 - do not use WD-40 on electrical connections!). I then take a tiny piece of very fine sandpaper and use it to remove corrosion on the contacts - just scraping the black corrosion until I see shiny copper. Then bend the connectors out to make sure they are making solid, secure contact, and put them back together. I don't use dielectric grease or any other kind of preservative. Bare copper against bare copper only.

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby MikeB » Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:26 pm

Radio Shack contact cleaner is readily available and easy to use. There are other contact cleaners in your local auto parts stores as well and they will work just as well as the Radio Shack contact cleaner.

As WingAdmin says, "Bare copper against bare copper ..." but I have to disagree slightly. Dielectric grease should be used. Basically, it is silicone grease and it will coat the contacts and will keep out water thus eliminating any oxidation in the future. Using dielectric grease is usually a wise idea, since it protects the connectors from corrosion by displacing water and reducing exposure to oxygen. If the contact between the two pieces is such that enough grease is between them to cause a problem—you've got other problems with the connection. The connection should be tight enough that it forces the grease out of the way.

Of course it is your call what and how you handle your connectors.
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colemadad
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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby colemadad » Fri Jun 25, 2010 11:03 am

Thanks. There are at least two lines of thought, one yea and one nay, regarding its use. There does seems to be some agreement between the two groups though - if you don't know specifically how/when to use it, then don't. I'm going to research the dielectric grease issue and see if I can get more details on the when/how.

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby WingAdmin » Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:59 pm

Dielectric grease is a non-conductor. Applying it to contacts before fastening the contacts will reduce the conductivity of the contacts. Perhaps not by much, but by enough that it may become an issue someday.

I use dielectric grease for connectors that are close to the ground or otherwise exposed to moisture. In those cases, I will assemble the connector dry, then use a small needle to inject the grease in and around the connectors. This seals the air and moisture out to prevent contact oxidation (which is what the grease is for), but does not coat the contacts where they are being pressed together, which is what happens when you apply before assembling.

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Solina Dave » Sat Nov 07, 2015 5:56 pm

WingAdmin wrote:When I've got dirty connectors causing problems, I take them apart and clean them with electrical cleaner (solvent in a spray can, NOT WD-40 - do not use WD-40 on electrical connections!). I then take a tiny piece of very fine sandpaper and use it to remove corrosion on the contacts - just scraping the black corrosion until I see shiny copper. Then bend the connectors out to make sure they are making solid, secure contact, and put them back together. I don't use dielectric grease or any other kind of preservative. Bare copper against bare copper only.


The male end contacts are relatively easy to service. Not so much the female side. How do you properly clean those contacts? Maybe a very thin file or burnishing tool? I tried some emery cloth, with minimal success. Anyone got any suggestions on how to clean and lubricate the plug connector so that it will pull apart well, when necessary, and also give maximum contact?

Contact!...................................Dave
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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Aussie81Interstate » Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:14 pm

When I need to clean a corroded connection housed in a plastic plug, I first use some INOX or marine grade lanolin based cleaner. Give the plugs a good clean up with hot soapy water, the contacts with emery paper - until I see shiny copper contacts to the best of my cleaning ability - have used a "pick" to scrape contacts clean as well, a further wash down with the cleaner of choice - then plug/unplug several times. Also on occasion remove the pins from the back of the plugs and scrub them clean, make sure you put them back in the same place. Have also sprayed the lanolin based cleaner into the back of the plugs to give a bit further protection.

OR if desperately required re terminate both connectors with a new plug as last resort.

Here is the product I use

http://www.crcindustries.com.au/product ... inhibitor1

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Solina Dave » Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:52 pm

Aussie81Interstate wrote:When I need to clean a corroded connection housed in a plastic plug, I first use some INOX or marine grade lanolin based cleaner. Give the plugs a good clean up with hot soapy water, the contacts with emery paper - until I see shiny copper contacts to the best of my cleaning ability - have used a "pick" to scrape contacts clean as well, a further wash down with the cleaner of choice - then plug/unplug several times. Also on occasion remove the pins from the back of the plugs and scrub them clean, make sure you put them back in the same place. Have also sprayed the lanolin based cleaner into the back of the plugs to give a bit further protection.

OR if desperately required re terminate both connectors with a new plug as last resort.

Here is the product I use

http://www.crcindustries.com.au/product ... inhibitor1


Thanks Oz. It would seem that you simply have to wing it when cleaning the female plug-ends. I find them very small and quite tight, not allowing for an effective visual inspection of the contact cleaning results. I don't think that I'll be removing contacts from the plastic case anytime soon. I think that the risk of damage is high. A good cleaning with hot soapy water, and cleaner isn't too convenient with the plugs in place on the bike, and also the use of the product that you linked me to, applies a non-evaporative coating. There's no mention in the write-up about it's use on electrical connections, and no doubt this will reignite the "coating the contact" issue, and how it would impede current flow. But then again, if it's working for you, then who's to say?

Thanks again for your interest...........................Dave
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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby MikeB » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:09 pm

I guess it depends on how dirty a contact is, whether it is just dirt or corrosion and how accessible it is.

Spray contact cleaner and pipe cleaners work well for non-corroded female connectors.
For corroded connectors, wet or dry silicone carbide sand paper and Swiss instrument files work well.


But that all depends on how clean you want to make them. You can also use a metal polishing compound with pipe cleaners and card stock cut to fit followed by spray contract cleaner and compressed air.

I don't know of any way to just put something on the connector and then blowing it out and it is clean. Everything I know of involves more work that it is worth. Replacing the individual connections in the connector body is the only way I know of the have a pristine connection. If you have a connector that is corroded enough to prevent continuity, the easiest and quickest way to take care of it is to replace it.
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Aussie81Interstate
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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Aussie81Interstate » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:45 pm

From the information here is the manufacturers uses

"Suitable for use on cables, outboard motors, electronics, metal protection, timber protection, hinges, locks, machinery maintenance, chains and gears"

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Solina Dave » Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:01 am

Thanks for your suggestions Mike. I agree that it's highly unlikely that one is going to find a spray and blow solvent that's going to spontaneously clean a contact to any significant degree. If you want it clean you have to get into it. I was looking at a cheap fingernail file, with the 2 sided emery. It looks to be just about the same thickness as the male spade connector and might offer an exact fit for cleaning. I'll have to try it out.

Thanks again.........................Dave

Aussie81Interstate wrote:From the information here is the manufacturers uses

"Suitable for use on cables, outboard motors, electronics, metal protection, timber protection, hinges, locks, machinery maintenance, chains and gears"


Oz, my apologies, you are correct that it does say electronics in the PDF file. It took me a while to find it. There certainly are a lot of products available from CRC, a lot of reading. It's Sunday up here, and Monday where you are. I think that I'd need a whole month of Sundays to wade through all of that information.
I certainly wouldn't be afraid to spray the Lanoshield, as you suggested, all over my electrical hardware. It would no doubt offer good protection from invading corrosive elements, but I'm not completely convinced that it's a good idea to coat the actual electrical contact surface, since it's non-evaporative, and leaves a 2 micron (whatever that is) coating on those surfaces. Especially, if one was seriously concerned with the prospect of compromising the contacts current flow capability. Personally, I probably wouldn't be overly concerned using it in that manner, but some might disagree.
Anyway, it's been nice being in "contact" with you, and again, my apologies for not reading the fine print.

....................................Dave
"Assume Nothing"

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Aussie81Interstate
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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Aussie81Interstate » Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:13 pm

no need to apologise - I don't read a lot of fine print either,

I found this product about 4-5 years ago and have been using it on everything - and have not had to go back and have further attempts after cleaning up with this product.

cheers

:)

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby redial » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:44 pm

Perhaps it is an Oz thing, but I prefer this particular spray INOX. I havent used it on electrical things, though, but it states that it is suitable for food devices, so it gets a good use by my spouse as well.
Len in Kapunda

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Aussie81Interstate » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:46 pm

Inox is a great product - but is becoming quite expensive... still use it but not as much as the lanoshield :)

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby rgmr250 » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:04 pm

WingAdmin wrote:Dielectric grease is a non-conductor. Applying it to contacts before fastening the contacts will reduce the conductivity of the contacts. Perhaps not by much, but by enough that it may become an issue someday.

I use dielectric grease for connectors that are close to the ground or otherwise exposed to moisture. In those cases, I will assemble the connector dry, then use a small needle to inject the grease in and around the connectors. This seals the air and moisture out to prevent contact oxidation (which is what the grease is for), but does not coat the contacts where they are being pressed together, which is what happens when you apply before assembling.


I've read the same thing - dielectric grease to 'seal' the connection (to help prevent future corrosion), but not on the actual metal contacts. This video, although it's for spark plug boots, goes over the theory generally, as I understand it:



I've used dielectric grease on my dual sport - I have a relay for the LED auxiliary lights, and at some point water got into the relay (I ride on all kinds of wet and muddy trails) , and the lights started cutting out randomly after a while. I dried out the contacts, cleaned them with electrical cleaner, scuffed them to remove any corrosion, then put some dielectric grease down in the base of the male side, and the edges of the female side, to help prevent water from getting in, and have had good luck with it since.

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby flash1942 » Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:59 am

I have used a product for the last 10 years called Deoxit by Caig. I have used it on computer plugs/sockets,on bike connectors and bulb sockets, anywhere there is a connection to be made concerning low voltage (5 to 24 volts). It does a wonderful job of maintaining positive connections anywhere corrosion or oxidation may tend to happen. It's expensive but one small bottle will last for years because a little goes a long way.

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Quick Cal » Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:28 pm

This is really good stuff.
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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Aussie81Interstate » Wed Nov 11, 2015 1:57 am

Thanks for the link on the dielectric grease - now I know the proper use of it - :)

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Re: Cleaning Electrical Connectors

Postby Bluewaterhooker0 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 10:44 pm

I have cleaned electrical contacts on all types of devices from electronics to boats, autos and bikes, for years. I have never had any success using and electrical spray cleaner for anything other than radio tuners and potentiometers. When you have corrosion or oxidation on a piece of metal, abrading it clean is the only method I would use. My preferred tool is what I call a fiberglass cleaning brush. I've was first introduced to them in the late 60's for cleaning the contacts on photographic cameras. I've owned several ever since. They are small, compact, easy to contact exactly what needs to be cleaned, and flexible enough to follow contours of the metal. It's just a small pen-like device, that has retractable or extendable fiberglass bristles, tightly bound by the tool. Highly recommend it for cleaning any surface that is easily reachable. Excellent for cleaning small electrical contacts or connectors, and controllable enough to not damage fine metal pieces.

http://www.amazon.com/Fiberglass-Rust-B ... B003TH5JKW

Regarding dielectric grease. I have used it for years on all types of electrical connections, primarily low voltage and amperage. For high voltage or amperage connections, I have used a product called Noalox, if I remember right. I don't use it that much. I've had one bottle for 20 years. But on low voltage/amperage, I've had no issues and many protected parts using dielectric grease. Here is a good discussion on its use, by a guy who seems to have pretty good credentials.

http://www.w8ji.com/dielectric_grease_v ... grease.htm

So, I clean first with the brush or some other abrading tool, then dielectric grease to keep it that way.

Success with a spray cleaner relies on your operating the device cleaned, through MANY cycles of switching, ect. What you are really doing is scraping the contacts clean by repeated operation of the switch, and washing away the remnants of that cleaning process. There is then, no protective coating on the contacts to prevent future oxidation or corrosion, and you will likely wash away any lubricant that was on the contacts and mechanism, that would have kept it working properly. This leads to another recurring failure in the near future, if it works at all. In some cases, the grease in the switch (especially really old Goldwing switches) may have hardened with age, and is part of the operational problem. But washing away the old grease without replacing it with new, is a short term fix.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it ! :?

One extra comment. One place the fiberglass tool is not necessarily good for is gold plated contacts. I don't mean gold-ish looking contacts, but actual gold plated. You usually only come across these on older electronic connections or high end devices. The brush will actually remove the gold plating, which is there precisely to be corrosion resistant. Then again, any coarse abrasive will remove gold plating. If the gold plating has already been eaten away by something like battery acid or alkali, you have little to lose at that point. The contacts on our bikes are generally brass (look kinda gold), or steel. These clean up great with an abrasive tool (like the above mentioned brush).




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