They’re everywhere. They distribute power to your favorite cordless drill, signal your anti-lock brake system to activate, and even power to the servers in the data center hosting this very website. Connectors may be small components, but they play a big role in ensuring electrical devices and electronic systems work properly.

The average car features more than seven hundred connector assemblies that support thousands of individual connections. Connectors have long played an important role in ensuring reliable power to components like the engine, headlights, brake lights, turn signals, windshield wipers, and entertainment systems. But with every additional connector added to a vehicle, a new potential point for failure arises. When it comes to autonomous and electric vehicles, these failures can result in much bigger issues than just a quiet radio. Today, connectors play a critical role in transmitting a wide range of electronic data control signals that required for safety features like pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot detection – all of which must operate without a hitch. Additionally, as the e-mobility movement kicks into high gear, high current connectors are responsible for transferring power between the battery and the electric motor.

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, safety is of utmost concern to drivers. Ensuring that connectors work reliably is an important step in making that happen.


Connectors must be reliable

Traditional mechanical and hydraulic systems have already started to be replaced with electronically controlled systems like brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire technology. Automotive OEMs must build trust and get buy-in from consumers on this transition. “When it comes to autonomous vehicles, safety is of utmost concern to drivers. Ensuring that connectors work reliably is an important step in making that happen,” says Jeff Wheeler, Automotive Electrical Engineering Manager at Nye Lubricants, a specialty synthetic lubricant manufacturer that became a member of the FUCHS Group in 2020.

From short circuit to continuity loss, connector failure presents a major concern as issues can vary from nuisance to recalls and increased warranty costs to critical safety problems. Therefore, prevent-ing connector failure should be a top priority for design engineers. Vibration, water intrusion, fretting, corrosion and oxidation, and high insertion force are all factors that can lead to connector failure. Luckily, these same issues can all be prevented with specialty connector lubricants (see interview).

Connecting the Future

Nye Lubricants offers a comprehensive range of lubricants designed specifically for connectors and it remains a research focus as industry requirements change. Electric vehicles are shifting the way connector grease is formulated. These vehicles run hotter, last longer, and have more insertion points. Additionally, as technologies like home appliance and industrial automation equipment become “smarter,” they require more sensors and connectors to facilitate the seamless transfer of information. All of these trends must be taken into consideration when developing lubricants to support next-generation technologies.

700 connectors assemblies are installed in an average car – and their number is growing.

Whether in the engine, the battery or the gearshift, whether in the headlights, the windshield wipers, the entertainment systems or in many other components: Connectors are enormously important for the reliable supply of power to these components. An overview.

Nye’s connector lubricants are supported by performance data collected in the ADVT (Application, Development, and Validation Test) laboratory to ensure they are reliable and perform at the highest level. All this data is also made available to customers. “We have also developed test methods and equipment for measuring fretting wear, water resistance, dielectric performance, and more. With our custom test equipment, we can perform qualification tests to ensure that the performance requirements of customer applications are met”, explains Wheeler. “In everything we do, we also leverage our decades of experience.”

Keep Going – How to Protect USB Connectors in Trucks from Fretting Corrosion

Commercial truck fleets are becoming more electrified and digitally connected as the demand for added safety, tracking, and comfort features increases. When working properly, electronic logging systems can help companies manage fleet logistics and minimize downtime. But when connectors fail, these systems cause costly downtime for repairs. A supplier of electronic data logging systems approached Nye after they noticed a high failure rate of their USB connectors due to fretting corrosion caused by micro-movements from vibrations. They needed a grease that ensures connectivity even after ten insertions over a ten-year life cycle. Additionally, it needed to be packaged in such a way that it could easily be dispensed in the field. Nye provided the customer with a sample of its leading connector grease NyoGel® 760G. The customer was also supplied with application testing and pre-validation data that ensured the performance of the product. The grease protects connectors up to 6.7 million fretting cycles compared to unlubricated connectors which fail around 0.5 million cycles. A third-party validation testing verified the fretting and insertion force properties of our grease. Nye helped the supplier determine the appropriate amount of grease for each USB connector and to select different packaging options suitable for field servicing and mass production.

Jeff Wheeler, Automotive Electrical Engineering Manager at Nye Lubricants

3 Questions for…
Jeff Wheeler

1. Connectors have to withstand a lot. In cars, for example, they encounter corrosive gases, fuel, rapid heating and cooling cycles, road grime, vibration. How do lubricants protect connectors against these conditions?

Even in more temperate environments, connector performance will degrade over time. Lubricants act like a sealant. They seal the contact metals and form a protective barrier. Vibrations in particular are a major challenge for connectors – not only in cars, but also in kitchen appliances or washing machines. Such micromovements, which can also be caused by thermal expansion, wear the metal, which then oxidizes. As this oxide layer builds up and increases, the oxide film acts as an insulator between the contacts which increases the resistance resulting in a voltage drop across the terminal and ultimately creates an open circuit, resulting power failure or signal loss. Connector grease reduces this wear and insulates the system from the environment, preventing oxide layers from forming.

2. It’s no secret: water and electricity don’t mix. Connectors in vehicles or other outdoor equipment, however, are exposed to moisture in some form. How does grease prevent moisture-related failures?

Once applied, hydrophobic connector grease acts like a seal, repelling water from the connector sur-face. In addition, connector grease prevents leakage of electrical current in conductive environments such as water to ensure consistent connectivity. Our most popular connector grease, NyoGel® 760G, has been an industry-proven solution for more than 40 years and is specified by leading OEMs such as Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and many others. 

3. Insertion force can become an issue during assembly. How can grease help alleviate these issues?

More connectors mean more assembly points. Connector mating poses problems for assembly workers who plug in connectors and for the connectors themselves. Workers performing repetitive wiring tasks on assembly lines are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal disorders of the hand, wrist and arm. Insertion force can also cause reliability issues. For multipin connectors, misalignment due to a high insertion force can wear or damage contacts, which can negatively impact connectivity. A lubricant significantly reduces the coefficient of friction between the contact surfaces, which eases assembly and protects the contact surfaces for a more solid, efficient connection.