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Ground Cables Connection Mod

9981 Views 40 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  cincinsight
Hi All.
Welcome to the Ground Connection Mod:
’05’s in the garage now, 11 miles on her and I’m doing the mod’s to bring her up to speed. While doing the ground connections I realized I never posted this one, although I had helped many an insighter with this issue. This is something I would fix whether your having an issue or not. Well, here goes…
Back when I had my ’00 Red 5 spd w/AC Insight I went thru a period where recalibrations were becoming more frequent to the point where I’d have 1 or 2 a day. Didn’t know much about insights back then (I’m finding I know less now) but I knew to go bother the dealer (who knew even less) and get turned away “can’t find anything wrong, no trouble codes”.
I did know that I’d had to replace the 12v battery when it was less than 2 years old and wondered if there was a correlation. My current battery was just over a year old. Just for the hell of it went to KMART and got a battery and replaced mine. Recalibrations went back to 1 every day or two. As I used to be a dealer mechanic (back when they fixed cars) I remembered that ground connection issues could cause some unusual symptoms. A bad ground usually wants to be found, a poor ground may need to be chased to get caught.
Got out my SM and looked up the grounds under the hood. Obviously the car has grounds everywhere, I stayed under the hood where contamination would be more prevalent. There’s a ground connection for the 12v battery and two engine ground cables at the left front of the engine compartment near the air filter housing (see pics). Also, one more for the EPS (electric power steering), under the 12v battery box, didn’t bother with that one.
What I noticed at first was that we have copper cables with aluminum crimped ends bolted to aluminum with a steel bolt (electrolysis). What really got may attention was the paint had never been removed from the contact surfaces (now livid). Although this may be acceptable for a regular vehicle I would not expect this practice to be utilized on a hybrid. As I expected, using all the tricks of the trade, I almost couldn’t get the bolts out. A non-mechanic type wouldn’t have had a chance. The ground cable for the 12v battery was the worst. Sanded and filed all the connections (including the bracket for one of the cables, air filter housing mounts to it). Sprayed all with lubricated contact cleaner (Radio Shack) and put all back together with new bolts (Ace Hardware).
Don’t take this as a fix all, recalibrations can be caused by a number of things. This fixed mine though, they went back to one every month or two, which I could live with. I no longer replace my 12v battery every year or two either. And with the paint there all the electrolysis will occur at the very worst place, the threads (there’s that word again!) of the bolts. Good Luck, Jack
You can see the pics at:
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What I noticed at first was that we have copper cables with aluminum crimped ends bolted to aluminum with a steel bolt (electrolysis). [/quote

Congratulations on the purchase of your 2005. It's nice to see so many Insight owners purchasing a second or even a third car. It says a lot about the car and owner loyalty.

FWIW, major automotive manufactures use ferrous bolts and fasteners electroplated with a tin-zinc alloy to prevent corrosion whenever fastening parts to an aluminum body panel, casting, or forging. The tin-zinc alloy offers excellent corrosion resistance in this appliction. The electroplated bolts are also dipped in what is known as a chromate solution that gives them a dull yellowish brown or yellowish green appearance.

Years ago ferrous bolts and other fasteners were plated with cadmium to achieve corrosion resistance whenever attaching a ferrous fastener to aluminum. By the 1970's cadmium was considered somewhat toxic (not so much to the end user, but to the environment in general) and other electroplated finishes were developed to replace cadmium whenever possible. For automotive applications the tin-zinc alloy has won out. FWIW the aircraft industry still uses cadmium in most aluminum joining applications.

In some ways the tin-zinc alloy is superior to cadmium in that it is ductile, a good electrical conductor, and easily solderable. For a threaded aluminum electrical connection (such as the Insight ground strap) it is often the practice to make the bolt/insert clearances tight. This allows the electroplated bolt to "scrape" the female aluminum threads on the way in, thereby removing any aluminum oxide (which is a very poor electrical conductor) from the electrical connection. The ductile tin-zinc alloy fully "fills" the threads and in doing so prevents further oxidation of the aluminum and hopefully assuring good electrical conductivity. However the tight fit also makes it harder to remove the bolt, but not normally as difficult as you described.

If your bolt had any corrosion on it, I would reccomend taking the Insight in on warranty and ask to have the bolt replaced. Have fun with your new car.
Randall wrote:

Something I don't understand is why a major automotive manufacturer would depend on stripping threads in aluminum for a ground connection.
Randall, I can't and won't argue with that. :) I really don't like to see self tapping screws used for grounding connections either. Honda did weld a tab on the chassis (for the battery cable) to increase thickness to give the threads something to grab to, but I do prefer an "interference" fit that I described earlier, as it gives excellent electrical conductivity via the threads, and in addition, is likely to have better conductivity at a later date if the bolt has to be removed and replaced, as is often the case.

Apparently there has been a problem with grounding on a certain number of Insights, and its good that Jack has addressed the problem with his grounding mod. I believe your method of chasing the threads with a tap to clean them up was a great idea, and using Mike's suggestion of NoOx is essential.

Back in the early 90's I worked with a design company that converted several brand new vehicles to electric power. In the process a lot of aluminum was used to save weight, and often 12-volt ground connections had to be made directly to the aluminum. In making the ground connections either stainless steel or tin-zinc plated fasteners were used, along with a product called NOALOX (with suspended zinc) to dress the threads before assembly. To my knowledge there was never a problem when connections were done in such a manner.

FWIW, a zinc plated ferrous fastener should never be used to join anything to aluminum. Corrosion begins almost immediately, and the corrosion causes hydrogen embrittlement which can cause Grade 8 bolts to break without any warning.

Also, Mike, I recently downloaded the MIMA Waiver of Liability and hope to have it in the mail tomorrow morning. I'm really looking forward to having MIMA on my Insight. Thanks for all the hard work you've put into the developement of the project.[/b]
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