Automotive Wiring Harness

Automotive Wiring Harness: Introduction


An automotive wiring harness is a critical component of any vehicle. It is a complex system of wires, connectors and terminals that transmits power and data across the vehicle. As modern cars become more technologically advanced with the addition of advanced driver-assistance, infotainment and other electronic features, wiring harnesses have become increasingly complex as well.

Design and Layout
The design of a wiring harness is a complex engineering process that involves hours of planning and testing. Engineers first prepare the overall electrical system layout of the vehicle, identifying all electronic control units, sensors, actuators and other electronic devices that need to be interconnected. They then design the optimal routing paths for wiring between different components, ensuring wires do not cross or come in contact with moving parts. Most harnesses feature modularized design where bundles of wires performing similar functions are grouped together for easy identification. Wires carrying high power loads are separated from low power signal carrying wires for noise prevention. Proper labeling and colour coding is also done to simplify identification and repairs.

Harness assemblies often feature protective sleeves, cladding, conduits or wraps to protect wiring from damage, abrasion, heat, liquids and impacts. Careful waterproofing methods like grommets are used to prevent short circuits. Automakers extensively use computer wire routing, electromagnetic interference and other testing software during design to ensure reliability under all operating conditions. Failure analysis simulation tools are also employed to catch potential failure points early in development. This careful planning and testing results in harnesses optimized for size, weight and performance reliability.

The complex design of modern Automotive Wiring Harness requires high precision manufacturing capabilities. Most Tier 1 suppliers producing harnesses employ either the build-to-print or configure-to-order methodology. In build-to-print, wires are manually cut, stripped and crimped as per the design blueprint using automated or manual tools. Configure-to-order involves using programmable wire cutters and terminals to produce custom harnesses as per the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) configuration ordered by OEMs.

State-of-the-art contact application systems such as laser, ultrasonic or modular crimping are commonly used for secure, high conductivity connections. Automatic optical inspection systems check for defects during assembly. Harnesses often pass through machine vision guided routing stations before protective covering application. Suppliers have also integrated robotics for efficiency. Completed harnesses undergo rigorous testing for electrical conductivity, resistance to vibration/impacts, water immersion, temperature cycling and other production line tests. Strict quality checks ensure automotive grade reliability. Precise traceability systems track materials and processes used for each harness.

Importance in modern vehicles
Today’s vehicles contain over 5 kilometers of wiring on average, with premium and luxury models hosting over 10 km of wiring infrastructure. As electrification increases with more focus on ADAS, infotainment and connectivity features, this wiring content is expected to rise further. The carefully designed wiring harness lies at the core of modern vehicle electronics architecture, forming the circulatory system transmitting power and data across all vehicle systems simultaneously.

From engine management to advanced driver assistance features, entertainment and connectivity – the correct functioning of virtually every electronic system in a vehicle depends on the wiring harness infrastructure. They enable seamless communication between dozens of ECUs while withstanding vibration, heat cycles, moisture ingress, impacts and other stresses. Their efficient, complex routing prevents wire abrasions, shorts and EMI issues. As vehicles become smarter with greater electrification and autonomous capabilities, wiring harnesses will remain mission critical in enabling next-gen automotive technologies in a reliable manner. Their design, production and testing will continue to evolve alongside vehicular electronic architectures.

Future Outlook
With Industry 4.0 making inroads into automotive electronics manufacturing as well, wiring harness production is undergoing transformations. Technologies like additive manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, machine learning and augmented reality are enabling more configurable, just-in-time harness assembly optimized for small batch production. Intelligent harness designs with multiple intelligent junction boxes are helping reduce weight and complexity. Advanced materials like flat ribbon cables and fiber optic wiring are gaining popularity for weight savings, higher data bandwidths and EMI resistance. Integrated diagnostics, prognostics and self-healing capabilities will enhance future harness reliability.

As increasing electrification leads to more electrical components and distributed power architectures, smart digital wiring may replace physical wiring harnesses to an extent using technologies like TSN/Ethernet. Over-the-air software updates will help modify vehicle wiring configurations remotely. With such exciting advancements on the anvil, the humble but mission critical automotive wiring harness continues its evolution journey alongside increasing vehicle electronics and autonomous capabilities. It will remain the backbone enabling reliable power and data transmission within smart, connected vehicles.

Evolving manufacturing and design technologies will help address this while enhancing harness reliability further. As vehicles progress towards increased electrification and autonomy, automotive wiring harnesses will remain at the core enabling smooth and reliable vehicle functioning.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it