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What is a Wiring Harness?

By Troy Holmes
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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Most automobiles today are full of electronic gadgets. These electronic devices require special wiring throughout the vehicle. This provides electrical power for radios, door locks, door windows, and automotive computer accessories. A wiring harness is a wiring configuration designed for specific wiring devices. This harness provides a single connection point for multiple wires.

Wiring is a complicated process that typically requires training. Most wiring specialists are patient and organized individuals because this is a meticulous, time-consuming job. Most wiring configurations include schematics. These are used as a direction map for connecting the wires with electronic devices. Each electronic device typically has a unique schematic that defines how the connection should be created.

Electrical wiring is typically a configuration mess. Most wiring diagrams include multiple wires. Each wire is color coded to represent a specific electronic feature. The wiring harness simplifies this configuration. It provides one connection point for multiple wiring configurations.

Most alarm systems are connected using a wiring harness. These alarm system are complicated because of the multiple wire configurations. The harness makes this easier because the wires join at one connection point. Without the harness each wire would need to be individually connected to the each wire of the alarm. This manual approach is typically prone to error and takes significantly longer.

An automobile stereo uses a radio wiring harness to connect the speakers, alarms, and the battery of a vehicle. This harness makes installation easier because one connection device interconnects several components. A harness typically includes both male and female connections. These connectors are pressed together and fastened with small safety clips. Without a harness, speaker wire configuration would require soldering, which is typically a messy installation process.

Many aftermarket car stereo systems include special wiring harness kits. These kits are designed to plug into a specific make and model of a vehicle. Using a kit saves valuable time and effort. It provides a method for new stereo systems to be plugged directly into legacy factor wiring of an automobile. This is important for older cars because factor electronic schematics are hard to find.

A wiring harness is used in most electronic ignition systems. This harness enables quick connectivity to starters and other motor starting units. Most starters and coils wires include four wires. These wires are connected with a harness, which includes interconnection devices and safety clips. This provides for more secure connections because they cannot be easily pulled apart without removing the clips.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By kentuckycat — On Jul 31, 2011

@indemnifyme -- Thanks for answering that question. I am not very tech savvy and wiring installation sounds like a complex venture to take. However, if it is possible to learn as you go then it must not be as hard as it seems.

In the past I have thought about installing a stereo in my car but was fearful of messing up the connections and causing damage. However, maybe in the future I will re-consider trying to install the stereo myself.

As far as these installation kits go I have seen them out on the market but know little about them and how reliable they are.

By SZapper — On Jul 30, 2011

@indemnifyme - I think that is really amazing. I'm not very tech savvy and I can't imagine installing anything in my own car!

I am very grateful for wiring harnesses though. I think all the electrical systems in cars are the greatest invention ever. I remember my first car didn't have automatic locks or windows and it was just the worst!

By indemnifyme — On Jul 29, 2011

When I was in college I had several friends that successful installed their own car stereo systems. In fact, I distinctly remember them saying how great it was they could get the wiring harness kit to save time.

Most of my friends that installed their own systems just learned as they went. However, I did actually know someone who did professional speaker installation at an electronics store who did it on his car as well.

By jmc88 — On Jul 29, 2011

After reading this article it sounds fairly complicated to install or fix a wiring harness in a car. However, I have heard of people, who have no professional qualifications, having success with both installation and repair. I wonder if anyone has had any personal experiences dealing with wiring harnesses or if this is simply an internet rumor.

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