Diving into the wide world of wire harnesses can be daunting. There are simply so many variations for a wire harness that the options are truly mind boggling. But, in walks the concept of universal wiring harnesses and, poof, mind blow. So, is there such a thing as a universal wiring harness?
Even in a space as customized as wiring harnesses, there are, indeed, universal wiring harnesses out there. We’ll look at what these curious amalgamations are, what industries use universal harnesses the most often, and where customization still plays a crucial role in the overall design.
What Are Universal Wiring Harnesses?
A universal wiring harness is one that can be used in several different applications that follow the same general set up. Some of the most prevalent universal wiring harnesses are for cars, trucks, and towing. However, because makes and models all can have their own little intricacies, some form of adaptation may be required to make a universal wiring harness fit its intended destination.
Control modules, connection points, grommets, and other hardware are generally designed to handle multiple functions and accommodate different geometries. Therefore, you’ll see universal wiring harnesses with some typical features to make this feat easier. Lead lengths are usually pretty generous and instructions fairly straightforward. As we mentioned, though, there are almost always application-specific peculiarities that will exist and need to be customized. At this point, the question must be asked—If a universal wiring harness has to be customized, is it really universal? We’ll look to answer this head-scratcher next.
Who Makes Universal Wiring Harnesses?
There are many, many manufacturers out there for universal wiring harnesses. A quick internet search is going to return page after page of online retailers. Most of these are going to be automotive wiring harnesses manufacturers. Now, not all universal harnesses are equal, and you need to know where you’re getting the item from.
One of the certifications we maintain is the IATF 16949. This is one of the highest of the highs when it comes to automotive parts quality certifications and is held by only top manufacturers that can truly produce harnesses to spec. While it can seem tempting to go with that on-sale wiring harness online, it may actually cost you more in money, time, and labor if the unit fails prematurely.
Bottom line, even with universal wiring harnesses, you need to do a little comparison shopping to make sure it’s a reputable manufacturer that has demonstrable expertise in the sector you need your harness for.
Industries that Use Universal Wiring Harnesses
One of the most prevalent industries that you’ll find universal wiring harnesses is within the automotive sector. Automotive wiring harnesses are for specific applications where a “plug and play” solution can fit the bill. For example, you’ll see plenty of options for universal audio wiring harnesses for cars on Amazon for specific makes, models, and years. If you’ve ever done a search for a car part, you know that you need to find the right equipment based on the manufacturer’s specs.
There are both OEM options and after-market options that may or may not be up to OEM specs. OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer and is an entity that can produce the exact specs that a manufacturer stipulates. These are usually subjected to higher quality assurance and quality control measures than the off-the-shelf wiring harnesses out there.
Today’s cars have so many advanced components like audio systems, electrical systems, and convenience features. These all require complex wiring harnesses for helping manage the transfer of data, signal, and power throughout the system which is where “universal” can be a bit of a misnomer. You’ll more than likely still need various adapters to fit your unique set-up.
How to Compare Options
As you start looking at different wiring harness options, it’s important to set a framework to level the playing field. We’ll show you a systematic approach to getting the best value from wiring harness manufacturers today:
- Diversity of Options: one of the first things that you should see from a high quality wire harness manufacturer is going to be the diversity of options that they offer. As many applications require so many different individualized components to fit the needs of the project, you want to make sure the manufacturer can demonstrate expertise across multiple product lines. At Meridian, we are proud to make some of the finest quality cable assemblies, wire harnesses, coil cords, molded components, SMA cable assemblies, and other products that our world’s most advanced electronic equipment relies on.
- Customization: the ability to customize cable assemblies and wire harnesses is a big plus for a manufacturer. But customizing takes expertise and tooling capability. Meridian holds both with the ability to deliver the perfect solution that efficiently solves even the most complex tasks at hand. Even though there are universal wiring harnesses, at least conceptually, remember that each harness will typically undergo some form of customization to help it fit within the intended application.
- Industry Experience: it’s hard to put a price on experience as it lends itself to so much value for the client. Your harness manufacturer of choice needs to show many years of experience in different industry sectors. From logistics to corporate governance, lessons learned from experience are invaluable for consistently achieving high levels of quality, efficiency, and reliability with each and every cable or wire harness produced. Meridian is proud to have decades of experience with some of the best and brightest cable engineers in the field today.
- Capability: capability is what a manufacturer does, but a better way to look at it is what they do well. This means full-scale cable design and engineering services, in conjunction with, production, and global logistics.
- First up, you need to have cutting edge design software and brilliant minds to engineer a perfect solution. At Meridian, we offer full-scale design and engineering services from dedicated experts.
- Then you need to be able to prototype and test different iterations to find the best fit. Prototyping is a crucial capability that includes testing everything from different insulation and jacket materials to seeing how sourcing logistics comes together with operations management techniques like just-in-time ordering.
- After that, you need to be able to rely on your extensive tool crib and deep intrinsic knowledge to manage a cost-effective and time-sensitive production schedule. This ensures on-time and on-budget solutions, every time.
- Lastly, you need to see significant investments made in post-production testing. At Meridian, we created an entire Advanced Life Testing Lab where we put our units through an incredible battery of pertinent tests under stringent real-world conditions. This lets our engineers see how each component reacts to environmental factors and other outside forces to guarantee functionality, integrity, and safety with each and every harness that we produce.
- Certification: Last up on the comparison journey is going to be what certifications wiring harness manufacturers hold. Since a lot of universal wiring harnesses are made for the automotive electronic systems, certifications within this arena are fairly important. As we mentioned, we’re proud our quality of product and processes helped us earn the coveted IATF 16949 certification. Others out there that can really set a manufacturer apart include ISO 9001:2015 and UL certification. Both require extremely high levels of quality at every touchpoint in the organization and are internationally recognized.
When you’ve run through the above checklist, you’ll come out the other side with a truly top-notch wiring harness manufacturer who can handle everything from small-batch prototyping to volume manufacturing, from initial design through delivery—anywhere in the world.
Where Custom Wiring Harnesses Come In
Custom wiring harnesses are needed in just about every application. Even in OEM settings, there can be variations between models that require adaptability on-the-fly. Customization is a skill that’s learned from experience. With decades as a leader in wiring harness and cable assembly manufacturing, our team has built this capability into our DNA.
Custom wire harnesses can incorporate so many different unique aspects including specific conductor sizes and colors, stranding sizes, materials, and utilizing UL-certified wires and cables. Our engineers work with our clients to take wire harnesses from concept all the way through volume manufacturing with a project timeline that lets us meet all milestones.
Starting a Wiring Harness Project
At the end of the day, there are many different off-the-shelf wire harnesses and cable assemblies out there. The difference is these can be lower quality and still require significant time and effort to make them fit a system. Our team takes a different approach by delivering a solution that’s perfectly made to efficiently solve the task at hand, and given the intended environment. From custom strain reliefs to overmolding, our capabilities, advanced technology, and team of experts all come together to deliver a solution that works.
If you’re ready to start talking wire harness specs, contact our team however is most convenient. You can call 1-877-806-8667, fill out the online contact form, or email or sales team using the links provided on our contacts page.