Breaking the Wire Trap
American Autowire Highway 22 Install
Chris McDonald - July 25, 2013 10:00 AM
Here are both of the stock glass fuses whether you really only need two protected circuits or not!
Time takes a heavy toll on original wiring as the casing frays around brittle corroding metal.
One wire at a time, the new circuits snake their way back to the fuse panel.
At left is the original socket and wiring. On the right is an original socket with new wiring soldered in place with heat shrink tubing.
The entire instrument panel is easily connected and disconnected for future service via the gauge panel connector kit.
The heart of the Highway 22 Kit. This compact, powerful unit is the all-in-one fuse panel.
We found the perfect spot for our Highway 22 fuse panel tucked away tight on the passenger side of the dash/cowling.
This car still has the stock points, so we added a ballast resistor (part number 500801) to complete our package.
The crimp on the left is a proper connection using the 500649 all-purpose multi-crimp tool. American Autowire stressed the use of proper tools and provides tutorials on YouTube.
This 175 amp MegaFuse and rugged plastic cover give an extra level of protection. The MegaFuse can be purchased at any auto parts store in the event of a failure.
Prior to dressing the harness with tape and split braid wrapping, we give all the systems a final test and insure nothing is binding or rubbing against sharp edges, moving objects, or sources of heat.
The folks at American Autowire have recently celebrated their 25th anniversary of bringing quality automotive wiring solutions to the market.
Automotive wiring has taken many forms and methods, all seeking to put the right amount of electrical current to the final destination.
Wiring decays over time due to moisture, vibration, poor quality repairs, and general usage. And, our classic vehicles were never designed to support the kind of electric features we take for granted on our modern cars. But, how can the complex effort of re-wiring a car be simple and straightforward?
The folks at American Autowire have recently celebrated their 25th anniversary of bringing quality automotive wiring solutions to the market. They produce a variety of universal kits as well as direct replacement units that take advantage of modern technology in a direct fit application. We decided to throw a curve ball and find out just how adaptive their Highway series of universal wiring products can truly be by installing a 22 series in a Nash Metropolitan.
This vehicle represents likely the worst of all possible stock wiring applications as well as the need for updating to more contemporary circuits and accessories desired by any enthusiast that actually wants to use their vehicle on modern roads. This is truly a curve ball because these American Motors products sold by Nash or Hudson dealers were all built in England.
Coming from England means the dreaded Lucas electrics paired up to a positive ground electric system. This vehicle was factory equipped with not one, but TWO total vehicle fuses with no provision for accessory equipment. If you can’t relate to a Lucas electrical system, don’t tune out yet. This was just the jumping off point to find just how capable the Highway 22 harness is for solving our electrical issues.
There is nothing more frustrating to the weekend warrior enthusiast than grinding a pre-planned project to a halt over a long weekend due to that one missing part. The 22 series kit comes with all the basics to bring a project to life from the ignition switch, headlamp switch, connectors, spare parts and more. However, no one project can be summed up in a one-size-fits-all package. It is crucial to evaluate what will be re-used from your stock components, what you have on hand, and what you will need ahead of time. If you are unsure of where to start on your own, a phone call to the complementary tech support will put you on the right path. Accessories such as door jamb switches, alternator plugs, bulk head connectors, neutral safety switch, dash LEDs, ballast resistor, brake switch and more should all be considered and planned when making the initial order.
Bagged and Tagged
We found that American Autowire provides a simple, organized method of bagging each major system to complete the project. Each bag comes with simple instructions and color diagrams to map the process out, one piece at a time. The main system comes with a full specimen wiring diagram that maps the whole vehicle and makes for a handy reference point as you go. With a few notes jotted down, this also now serves as the permanent wire schematic for the whole car, making future service work a breeze!
An improperly wired vehicle may not only be unreliable, but it could pose a dangerous fire hazard. The company understands and makes provisions to insure the installer is capable of making quality wire splices by supplying “practice” terminal ends with each kit. Quality crimping tools are costly and rarely found in the average weekend warrior’s tool kit. American Autowire sells the OEM Multi-Crimp tool, or will supply them on a rental basis to make sure your project is done right. They’ve posted tutorials on their youTube.
All fuse panels are not created equal! We selected the Highway 22 (also comes in a 15) kit due to the uniqueness of the Metropolitan. The 22 is really overkill for this application, but more is better in the event of future accessory application. It is always easier to “not use” all the circuits than to try to add one at a later date. This system has the multi-function fuse panel measuring 7½ inches high by 4½ inches wide by31/8 inches high as a standalone unit. It utilizes a “screw down” locking system where each wire is brought to the fuse panel and attached with a scientifically proven vibration-proof connection. The fuse panel has the flashers, relays, circuit breakers, fuses, and main connections all in one. This gives the installer complete freedom in designing and constructing a wire harness that best meets the needs of the specific vehicle.
Space is a premium on a car like the Metropolitan. The real genius behind the standalone fuse panel doesn’t really shine until you are standing on your head under the dash, fuse panel in hand. Since the installer is in control of when and where the wires are connected to the fuse block, it can initially be fitted and installed prior to connecting any wires. Bringing the wires to the fuse panel makes for an ultra-clean and organized installation. The kit also comes with a high quality mini-screwdriver, perfectly matched to the locking ports on the fuse block. The locking plate side also has a unique feature, as the input points are color coded to the matching circuit wire. Speaking of fuses, the system has ultimate protection through a 175 amp MegaFuse that stands guard as the ultimate defense against a massive system short.
The individual wires share common color coding to the fuse panel, as well as labels every few inches. This isn’t unique, but is a welcome industry norm that seriously puts a dent in silly mistakes. We opted to start at the furthest point from the fuse panel, which happens to be the headlamps. Not being bound by a bundle of wires from the panel out makes for virtually effortless wire sorting and routing, one circuit at a time.
As with any electrical system, there are several alternatives to each circuit. The headlight bag included all the connectors and instructions for various methods.
Making the Connection
The 22 kit also comes with extra terminal ends of various sorts and solderless connectors. These little bits are worth their weight in gold, as each wire comes to a terminal end and seeks a permanent home. The 22 also comes with various OEM-style junction connectors that can be attached to a GM steering column or other application as needed. In our case, there was ample wiring and connectors to modify the harness to revive the turn signal circuits. Heat shrink tube and ample zip ties are included to properly seal and route the bundles free from moisture and sharp moving parts. While the company can supply many of the most popular lamp sockets, there are times that the originals may need to be used. We were able to solder the new harness to our half-century old sockets to create good-as-new connections. A little time, patience, and attention to detail goes a long way in this respect. The supplied terminal ends make final connection of the starter, gauges, and other standard connections a literal “snap.”
Wrapping it all up
At some point in the process, the battery has to be connected and juice has to start flowing. It is one of the bright spots along the way to bringing an old pile of bolts back to life. This is when the enthusiast finds out if all the conversion and modifications pay off in dividends. We converted the Metropolitan from positive to negative ground. This does not change the direction the starter or any other permanent magnet part rotates, but it does clear the way for more powerful modern charging systems and other electronic components that require negative ground. We were able to easily upgrade to a CS130 alternator, modern stereo with iPod interface, and had room for future circuits that aren’t even known at this point in time.
No matter what type of old classic you are striving to bring back to life, there is an American Autowire harness to fit your need. All the horsepower, deep glossy paint, plush interior, and bright trim won’t do anything if the current can’t flow through the wires. Thanks to the quality, ingenuity, and flexibility of the Highway 22, our Metropolitan will be putting the current through the wires well into the future with room to grow!
Who knows what type of accessories we’ll be plugging into our machines in another five, 10, or 15 years … but one thing we do know is our harness will be up to the task!
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