Throughout the years of my career, I've experienced several instances where a soldered joint caused more chaos rather than a reliable and positive experience. I can accurately remember one instance, because I spent more than two hours trying to troubleshoot and isolate an intermittent remote starter failure.
The vehicle was a second generation Chevrolet Equinox with a Compustar FT-6200-S and BLADE-AL. The installation was done the same year by a part-time colleague. The customer's complaint was that the remote starter would power up and crank, but not actually start the engine. The customer's complaint was easily verified, so in I go.
The install looked OK. Not to my personal expectations, but then again I wasn't the boss at that time. All the wires that out from the remote starter and bypass module were correct, all the wires used integrated to the vehicle were correct, but the vehicle still failed at remote start command. I needed a fresh brain to help me, so I called Staub Electronics Technical Support. After spending some time on the phone verifying all the wiring again, I noticed that when I nudged one of the ECU harnesses a certain way, the vehicle would successfully remote start. After getting off the phone, I started digging.
The harness in question housed the immobilizer wires where the bypass module is installed to open/close the immobilizer circuit during remote start runtime. The wire was correct, but simply because the solder did not penetrate the copper strands deep enough, the connection was only superficial and was not making good contact.
After spending more than two hours trying to figure out the problem with this remote starter, in the end, a bad solder joint caused this situation. Just to remind you, this is only once instance that has taught me that soldering isn't always the best practice.
So you may be asking, "If you don't solder, then how do you make a solid connection?"
One thing is for sure: I do not use T-Taps. T-Taps are splicing connectors that can be purchased to easily tap a lead into a wire. Not only are they ugly, these are meant for low current connections. Since the reliability of remote starter severely depends on solid wire connections, these do not belong anywhere near remote starters. The only time I would actually use one is if an Emergency Parking Brake wire needs to be integrated, but the wire is too short and/or too high to fully access with two "man-hands".
My method of choice to produce solid connections is straight, "twist-and-tape". The technique is all in how the copper strands are connected and insulated with electrical tape. If a wire that I need is not to be cut, about 2 centimeters of insulation is stripped from the wire to expose the stranded copper conductor. Since the conductor is stranded and very flexible, I can split the strands. The new lead is inserted, the split is closed and tightly wrapped with the excess slack of the new lead. The joint is tightly wrapped with electrical tape, the surrounding wires are tightly wrapped with electrical tape and the complete wire loom/harness is taped so that it looks as if I wasn't even there. Any slack of the new lead is taped/zip tied to other wire loom/harnesses to route the wire and ensure that it looks like I wasn't there; that the wire was installed from the factory.
Not soldering does indeed save time and it doesn't make the remote starter 100% permanent, but the experiences that I have encountered have taught me that the time spent on soldering isn't always a benefit. The chance of a solder joint failing is not worth it when I can create a solid connection without solder every time.
Thanks for reading!
Ryan is the founder, owner and operator of Start Solutions. Ryan has more than eight years of industry experience in the field of Automotive Electronics Accessories that he gained from working at Future Shop. He spent eight years as an Automotive Electronics Accessory Technician gaining additional experience in Future Shop's multi-role environment by providing technical support to the sales team, by being a mentor to the sales and management team, by ensuring customer satisfaction, from being the shop manager and from being the Lead Technician.
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