Introduction: Wire Identification

Picture of Wire Identification

I'm at the point in my car restoration where the wires have to be laid out. I purchased a harness a couple of years ago, but now the identifying marks are beginning to fade and very difficult to see.

A 3D printer and label maker were the only items I needed to make identifying clips that are very, very easy to see, both now and years from now when I, or someone else, will have to trace them.

Most of these tags will be close to the fuse box, but any that bypass it I'll mark at both ends. The clips are designed for 6mm tape and there are two STL files of it. One is a single clip and the other is a block of 10 so you can make lots of them at once.

Step 1: Making Labels

Picture of Making Labels

Label maker tape is expensive and the makers of the machines want to sell you as much of it as they can. Even with the borders set at the minimum, you'll end up with a huge amount of blank tape before and after your words. We can put their greed to good use and conserve our money at the same time.

There are 2 ways you can print labels for this clip:

1. Buy 6mm (1/4") tape and type the name of a wire on your labelmaker, make 8 spaces and type another name. Then hit print. What comes out will be a label composed of a large space, your name, a smaller space, another name and finally, another large space. Cut the small space between the names in half and thread the end with the large space through the slot in the clip. When the name on the strip gets close to the slot, bend the tape around and stick it to itself. You'll end up with a flag with your name on it. If you keep your names short, you'll have more than enough blank tape to get past the word on the other side. Trim the flag and you're ready for the next one.

2. Or... You could do what I'll be doing. Use 12mm, or 1/2" tape, which is a little more expensive, but label makers are set up to allow multiple lines of copy to be printed across the width of the tape. By typing your 2 names, hitting return, and typing 2 more (don't forget the 8 spaces between them) you'll end up with what looks like what's in the picture. Cut the tape down the middle the long way like I'm doing, and what you'll end up with is two pieces of 6mm tape, each printed with 2 names. In the same length of tape it takes to print one name, you can print two.

If you're going to show the car, or retentive like me, you can have the name show on both sides of each label. The labels are typed and printed the same way, but instead of typing 4 different names, type the same name twice, still putting 8 spaces between them. When the label comes out, cut the tape in half the long way (or not, if you're using 1/4" tape), but NOT cutting the space between the words in half. Each piece of tape you end up with should have a large space, a name, a smaller space, the same name again and another large space (just like you'd do if you're planning on marking both ends of the wire with one sided flags). Thread the tape through the slot half way. With the space between the words wrapped around the slot, line the ends up and stick them together. You'll end up with a flag printed on both sides.

Piece of cake.

Step 2: Tag Your Ride

Picture of Tag Your Ride

The clips fit 14 gauge wire very tightly so they won't slide or fall off. If your wire size becomes small enough that the clips don't stay put, you can reduce the size of the print. I've made the slot 2.6mm long, so there's some room to go smaller without infringing on the width of the tape. Obviously, the same holds true if you want to tag a larger size wire.

If you're working on your car, I sure hope you're enjoying it as much as I am.

Comments

bfk (author)2016-04-25

Thank you very much Mjtrinihobby

Mjtrinihobby (author)2016-04-21

I very much like this. You got my votes.

wilwrk4tls (author)2016-04-19

I normally just am lazy and put the label on the wire- I like your idea, though.

My only concern would be the clips maybe coming off the wires...? Any way maybe to lock them in place?

bfk (author)wilwrk4tls2016-04-20

Hi wilwrk4tls:
There's always a way to lock things in place, but in this case, I'd say it would be overkill. The majority of my wiring harness is 14ga (a little less than 1/8" dia.) When I screw up, it requires the tags to be "peeled" off. I've been unable to pull them off directly without having to bend the wire and pry them off. I have one or two heavier gauge wires for items like the starter motor and these also fit extremely tight. I haven't seen a lighter gauge wire in my setup, but if I come across any and the tags were loose in any way, I'd simply print them in a smaller scale and go on. The lead-in to the clamp portion is gradual and generous so slipping them on is an easy task.

I've looked for wrap-around labels that weren't where I remember putting them. On most, the adhesive had gotten dirty and they had slid somewhere else. I doubt I'll have that problem with these.

Other than for some external bits like the generator, that have lots of wires and no good way of remembering where they go to or come from, most of the clips in my car will be out of the weather at the instrument/light/sensor end and where the wiring could be described as a neat rat's nest

It was constructed in the 1970 British method of never seen, before or since, pieces of cobbled together behind-the-dash electrical engineered mayhem that caused me to give up trying to document the layout via photographs. I have no concerns of their ability to stay put there on my car, and very little about those under the hood. But even if I had, the ease of applying, correcting and seeing everything lined up nice and neat wouldn't be enough to get me to go back to the old method. That being said, mine is a show car. A race car owner may have other priorities, but I'd still have no hesitation in recommending it.

verence (author)2016-04-12

Good tips for the labelling, but why not just put the tape around the wire? No need for the clips.

Yonatan24 (author)verence2016-04-14

Because then you can't use a 3D Printer!

bfk (author)Yonatan242016-04-14

LOL... I checked your page out and you are one heck of a creative person with interesting ideas. I'm going to follow you.

Yonatan24 (author)bfk2016-04-14

***Gulp*** Really?

Thank you very much for your kind words! Your comment definitely made my day!

bfk (author)verence2016-04-13

Good question verence. I used to do that, but trying to wrap tape around one wire in a bunch and adjusting the position was tough, if I was successful at all was too frustrating. I tried zip ties with rectangles, but trying to fit words on them and keep them neat was also a no starter. This is a good compromise as I'm able to thread a tape through the clip without it getting stuck on everything Around it and the length is what it turns out to be. It doesn't slide, but it does pull off with a little force, so I'll be able to move it after, if needed. I've been using these along with some printed wire clips and so far, all has been working out as planned. Adding the tape to the clips and snapping the clips onto the wires has been a great asset, especially when I mark the wrong wire, which I seem to do quite often.

MACKattacksnipe (author)2016-04-13

this is brilliant is this your idea you should patent amd sell

bfk (author)MACKattacksnipe2016-04-13

Thanks for the kind words Mack, but I've patented things my entire career and now I'm much happier coming up with things just for me. I'd rather pass my ideas on than go through the agony of dealing with attorneys and patent examiners.

Nothing's preventing you from manufacturing and selling them yourself though. I'd be happy if someone could profit from my ideas.

bfk (author)bfk2016-04-13

btw... Make sure you do a patent search if you do decide to sell things. I don't do searches anymore because what I come up with isn't being sold. I have no idea if my stuff has been patented by someone else or not. Check first.

verence (author)2016-04-12

Good tips for the labelling, but why not just put the tape around the wire? No need for the clips.

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Bio: Old inventor, reverted back to my 10 year-old self. A shop full of tools, a boat, race car, 3D printer and a beautiful wife who ... More »
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