Lotus Elan

Quality Bullet-Connector Crimping Tool Recommendation

PostPost by: jbeach » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:26 pm

Dear Elan Community,

Today I dive into the replacement of the rear, cockpit, and engine wiring harnesses. It appears most of the connections are the bullet-type (not spade), so I will want a good-quality crimping tool close at hand. I realize a truly professional tool will be expensive, but for me the extra investment is usually worth it, so I am ready to bite the bullet (pun intended) and buy the best I can afford.

Do you have any recommendations as to what manufacturer and where I can purchase? I would prefer to buy within the U.S., but during my restoration I have made a number of satisfactory U.K., Australia, etc. purchases when circumstances called for that.

Best regards and thanks,

-John
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PostPost by: elan_fan » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:48 pm

Hi John,

This is the tool for lucas bullets, it puts 2 dimples in.

https://www.ripca.com/nl_en/assembly-ma ... teker.html

Best regards
Mark
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PostPost by: SENC » Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:39 am

John - Ray at RD Enterprises sells one. If you want to give one a try before buying, I'm happy to loan you mine. Just message me.
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PostPost by: jbeach » Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:02 am

Thanks, Mark. If I cannot locate one in the U. S., I’ll definitely get that one. Less expensive than I was expecting!

Henry, thanks so much for your offer. I may take you up on it. I’m going to check with Ray and see about price and availability.

Cheers,

-John
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:45 am

Bullet crimps are hard to achieve.

The original 'Lucas' crimp was a hexagon crimp on the base and the middle of the bullet, and required the tool to be matched to the specific bullet and size of wire used to achieve a good gas-tight crimp. Easy to achieve in a production environment, difficult to achieve at home with a general purpose tool and bullets of unknown parentage.

If the bullet comes off the wire with a good tug, then you don't have a decent crimp and all you are doing is saving up problems for later. My own approach is to solder bullets, not original, but reliable.

The green / brown wire on the picture below shows a standard Lucas hexagon bullet crimp.

https://www.accessnorton.com/NortonCommando/lucas-bullet-connectors-vs-japanese-style-bullet-connectors-2016.20844/#lg=thread-20844&slide=1
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:05 am

Andy8421 wrote:Bullet crimps are hard to achieve.

The original 'Lucas' crimp was a hexagon crimp on the base and the middle of the bullet, and required the tool to be matched to the specific bullet and size of wire used to achieve a good gas-tight crimp. Easy to achieve in a production environment, difficult to achieve at home with a general purpose tool and bullets of unknown parentage.

If the bullet comes off the wire with a good tug, then you don't have a decent crimp and all you are doing is saving up problems for later. My own approach is to solder bullets, not original, but reliable.

The green / brown wire on the picture below shows a standard Lucas hexagon bullet crimp.

https://www.accessnorton.com/NortonCommando/lucas-bullet-connectors-vs-japanese-style-bullet-connectors-2016.20844/#lg=thread-20844&slide=1


Great points Andy,
My concern when soldering the bullets is the wicking of molten solder up with wire and creating a section of hard wire. The eventual failure mode is the wire breaks at the solder from vibration and movement. I've been using the crimper and testing each bullet for pull out. I practiced making the crimps on scraps of wire before I tried repairing for real. The key is there are two crimps, one on the bare wire on the barrel of the bullet and another on the end of bullet over the insulation.

I found several broken wires and cold solder joints in my harness from earlier repairs. YMMV
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PostPost by: steve lyle » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:42 am

This is the tool I've used on my Elan and MGB: https://www.ebay.com/i/401828879086?chn ... poQAvD_BwE

The key is to use the right size bullets - they're sized to the wire they fit. Try to crimp a bullet intended for 12 gauge wire to an 18 gauge wire, and the bullet just slides off.

British Wiring https://www.britishwiring.com/ is a good source for bullets.
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:59 am

StressCraxx wrote:Great points Andy,
My concern when soldering the bullets is the wicking of molten solder up with wire and creating a section of hard wire. The eventual failure mode is the wire breaks at the solder from vibration and movement. I've been using the crimper and testing each bullet for pull out. I practiced making the crimps on scraps of wire before I tried repairing for real. The key is there are two crimps, one on the bare wire on the barrel of the bullet and another on the end of bullet over the insulation.

I found several broken wires and cold solder joints in my harness from earlier repairs. YMMV


All good points. A lot of the problems come from trying to repair an old loom where water has traveled up the cable from capillary action, and corroded the wire. Stripping more insulation just reveals more green coloured copper. Soldering really needs clean wire to work, and there is tendency to hold the iron on the cable in a desperate attempt to get the solder to 'take' on old wire, cooking the insulation and letting the solder wick up the few clean strands. I have found tinning the wire and bullet first and using a large hot iron that only needs to touch the bullet or wire briefly is the way to go.

Scraping each strand with a scalpel can work to salvage an old cable, but is a fiddle and all the bending and scraping weakens the strands.

The above is true also for crimped connectors - using corroded wire is not a recipe for longevity.
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PostPost by: lotusfan » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:19 pm

Andy talks a lot of sense, particularly about tinning the bullet and the end of the wire before final assembly.

Personally, if I want to replace a bullet or add to a bulletted assembly I will solder not crimp. For repairs what I have done in the past is to unsolder bullets from old looms, clean them up and then drill through the remaining solder to provide space for the new wire. I am not sure when Lucas started crimping rather than soldering bullets but it may have been early 1970's.

Whether you crimp or solder your bullets you need a quality bullet insertion tool for final assembly. RD Enterprises in US have TOOL-BPLIER $45.00 which is also available in the UK and is the best I have seen.
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PostPost by: derek uk » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:09 pm

When you've done, insert the bullets into the blocks with some silicone grease to keep them from corroding again. Easier to get out again too if needed. I don't know about Elans but they are the bane of MGB owners lives!
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PostPost by: jbeach » Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:37 pm

Thanks, everyone!

I have a few takeaways from this discussion.

First, don't try to solder the bullet terminals on.

Second, get a good bullet terminal crimping tool. Ray at RDent informs me the ratchet-style tool he sells is out of stock and, he believes, out of production. After a search, I found three in stock at Classic British Spares in Lancaster California, and ordered one (better move fast if you want one of the remaining 2!). I also ordered two assortment boxes of snap connectors and bullets from British Wiring. I should now have everything I need to finish this job.

As always, thanks for your quick responses and for sharing your knowledge!

-John
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PostPost by: sveris » Fri Aug 07, 2020 4:13 pm

John,

Did Ray happen to mention whether or not he still stocks the individual bullet connectors and the assortment? I have the tool he used to sell, and it’s the only way to go.

Steve in Ohio
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PostPost by: derek uk » Fri Aug 07, 2020 4:24 pm

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PostPost by: rolbydo » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:30 am

I got mine from carbuilder also, and it works fine.
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PostPost by: jbeach » Fri Aug 14, 2020 7:19 pm

Ray does list the assortment kit and individual bullet terminals on his website, so I assume he has them in stock. Because I was already purchasing some other items from British Wiring, I purchased a couple of assortment kits from them. In hindsight, however, I wish I had purchased the kit from Ray, as his comes in a nice box with individual bins.

For what it is worth, I am having a hard time distinguishing between the smallest (for 9-strand wire) and next-smallest (for 14-strand wire) bullet terminals. I assume the tiny hole in the end of the terminal is slightly larger for the 14-strand, but for the, life of me, I cannot tell the difference!
I am making progress, though, and it feels good!

I'm certain I will have another question for you all, momentarily...

Cheers,

-John
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